Inns Magazine Issue 3 Vol. 18 Fall Escapes 2014 - Page 23

he Tucson estate of cosmetic mogul Merle Norman

had seen better days when local architect Diana

Osborne acquired it in 2004. Purchased from

Merle’s longtime personal assistant who inherited it upon her passing in 1972, Diana could see its ‘good bones’ and had a vision of its potential. The six-year process of restoring the ranch house and the original guesthouse resulted in the creation of an eight room Bed & Breakfast Inn.

Managing from its inception is Pattie Bell who has been honing her innkeeping skills since the early 1990’s and met Diana very serendipitously. Having recently returned to Tucson, she was looking for her next adventure when she heard about the possibility of the property being developed into an inn. She reached out to Diana and, as they say, the rest is history. Pattie says “If Diana had not come along to restore the property it may have been leveled and replaced with town homes. She really saved and preserved it and is a true steward of the property.”

The charm of El Rancho Merlita is a combination of the history, the preservation and its quiet atmosphere. The guestrooms are all individually designed and decorated, from the Merle Norman Suite ­­- which was her actual bedroom - to Arroyo Bonito, which sports a hammered copper and nickel whirlpool tub that any cowboy would love to soak in.

Dining is a sublime experience and can range from a big Ranch House buffet to personalized breakfasts. Entrées rotate between the sweet and savory, with guest favorites including Chilaquiles (layered Mexican style eggs with cheese and tortillas), Blueberry Blue Cornmeal Pancakes or Pumpkin Waffles served with Prickly Pear Syrup. You don’t want to sleep through breakfast!

This retreat has become a popular romance destination for couples, with lots of nooks and crannies for privacy and cozy campfires. Situated away from the road and on the edge of town, it is buffered by three and a half acres of natural desert. No wonder Merle Norman loved it here, and now the rest of the world can experience the peacefulness of it all too!

The Inns at El Rancho Merlita

1924 North Corte El Rancho Merlita

Tucson, Arizona

888-218-8418 / 520-495-0071

Former Cosmetic Mogul’s Retreat Becomes

By Mary Hughes

The Inns at

El Rancho Merlita


Inns E-Magazine / Fall 2014