Architecture Of Rustic Design


Gino Ater's art surrounds him -- literally -- from the opal ring on his finger to his cabin.

The jeweler, home-remodeler and jack-of-all trades, sits easy in his skin.


Gino Ater lounges in one of the chairs he made while Rodger gets ready to play dead at his feet.

"I haven't had TV for six years. When I first moved up here, I drank my morning coffee and listened to the traffic report on I-17," Ater said.

He lived in a 1947 Chevy school bus while he built the cabin that became his dream home during the process.

"The cabin is always a work in progress," he said.

When Ater lost 160 trees to the bark beetle invasion, (some 150-years-old with four-foot diameter trunks) a friend with a sawmill cut the slabs, which Ater then made into window sills, mantles, tables, chairs and staircases for his clients and his home.

What was once "old junk" is now "architectural salvage," Ater said.

Cases in point are: two doors that came from the old Phoenix train station and the color-streaked floor of his cabin is wood from an old basketball court.

On the seating side of Ater's kitchen bar, Yosemite Sam straddles a rocket made of tile.


The staircase winds to the second floor loft with a view of a year-round spring where bears come to drink.

"You've gotta stay in kidville as much as possible. Yosemite is just a great big ring," Ater said.

The rock tumbler he used as a young boy growing up in Tempe led him to art classes at Tempe High in the early 1970s.

Ater found designing and making jewelry all-consuming.

"When other teachers called to see if I was in the art room, I would lie," Ater said.

Picture jasper is one of Ater's favorite stones.

"When it's a chunk of rock, you can barely tell it's anything. Then you crack it open and there's a house, a bird flying, trees ... there's a whole little world in there. You're in Hobbit-land."

He likes unusual shapes and cuts in his stones, such as opposed bar that gives a striking play of light in two directions.

Sometimes, he will add mesquite, zebra and snake hardwoods to a piece of jewelry for their variety of color.


His and hers custom, swivel, barstools (at right). Ater constructed them of pine burl, manzanita and juniper.

He went on to college as an art major. When his "wild behavior" ruled out graduation as an art major, Ater went to work making "high end" jewelry for Ed Marshall.

Tired of working 10-hour days, Ater bought houses and set to work remodeling them for resale and as rentals.

"Sadly, it is easier to make money off of construction than art," he said.

Yet, if Ater had not remodeled an old adobe house in Tempe, he might not have met the man who sold him his mountain property.

Since Ater moved to the Rim Country in 1993, he cannot imagine living any other place.


Stone and semi-precious gem inlay on tables is similar to making jewelry, but on a larger scale, for Gino Ater.

His remodeling clients and real estate business as "The Cabin Hunter" consume his time; but his New Year's resolution was to get back into making jewelry and Ater is determined to make the resolution a reality.

RESUME -- Gino Ater

Medium: rustic furniture, jewelry

Philosophy: "He found out the secret of life was to have fun." ~ Orson Bean

Advice to beginning artists: Keep swingin' ‘til you hit.

Hometown: Born in Ohio, grew up in Tempe.

Why the Rim Country? I had camped in Payson as a kid. I lived down the street from Maynard Mead back in my wild days. In 1985 I had the opportunity to buy property here. I did, then moved eight years later.

Upcoming project: The restoration of the old Mead homestead.


Food: a very traditional Japanese sushi bar

Vacation spot: Any remote beach location

Movie: The Wizard of Oz

Music: Gypsy jazz, Django Reinhardt, Brian Setzer and pretty much any blues

Hobbies: His 1947 Cadillac is all that remains of "vintage car disease."

Latest good read: Water for the Elephants

Points of contact: The Cabin Hunter at (928) 478-4534 or e-mail

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