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For The Home

A Toast to Tuscany

Author: Catherine Hobbs
Issue: November, 2004, Page 144
Photos by Dominique Vorillon

A winding stream flows beneath walkways and leads to a lagoon-style pool. Desert plantings and boulders echo the
surrounding landscape.


Dreams of living in an Italian villa come true

Judging by this home’s facade, one might guess it to be a century old. That is the impression homeowners Dennis and Ro-maine Markel hoped to create with their Tuscan-inspired Scottsdale residence, winner of a 2000 Gold Nugget Grand Award at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, and one of two Extreme Dream Homes being featured on Phoenix Home & Garden’s 2004 Palette of Homes tour.

“The house occupies this hilly lot in a very natural, secluded way,” Dennis ex-plains. “It blends with the desert and its surroundings, and accents the desert, rather than the desert accenting the house.”

According to builder Dan Couturier, considerable emphasis was placed on exterior materials, and the homeowners came prepared with numerous photographs of what they liked, including stonework. “We made about 26 sample mixes of stone to get it right,” says architect James Hann.

A combination of three different stones from separate quarries was used for walls, along with washed and stained color-integrated stucco. Among the finer details, the Markels requested that grout between stones be smeared as they had seen overseas, rather than wiped clean.

Trailing ivy now winds its way among carefully selected stones, adding texture and character while accenting the villa’s wire-brushed cedar-framed windows and various roof levels.

Stonework dominates the exterior of Dennis and Romaine Markel’s home. Smeared grout, cedar-framed windows and weathered stucco walls are among carefully chosen exterior details.
The feeling that you’re someplace special continues through the front door and out the back of this 6,000-square-foot retreat, which looks onto a golf course. “We oriented the house so that there is a solid entryway, to create a sense of arrival and some surprise when you open the door,” explains Hann. “We made sure the primary focus was looking down the fairway with Pinnacle Peak in the background.”

From aged wood-beam ceilings and stone archways to beautifully framed fairway and mountain views, there are wonderful sights to behold inside. The sunken living room benefits from large picture windows. Underfoot, reclaimed oak floors run through main areas of the house. Adjacent to the living room are high arching stone pillars surrounding a player piano. Small ceiling-level windows lend a castlelike air to the spot.

“The Markels wanted their house to look like this old Italian village, something that had been there a really long time,” says interior designer Paula Berg. “They had a vision that drove everybody around them. And now you truly feel like you’re in a different part of the world in their home.”

Adding to the overall charm of the residence are its many levels—here, a couple of steps up, and there, a couple of steps down. These slight differences in height help define each space.

Situated up from the main living area, the master suite is accessed through a gallery hall accented by faux-finished niches. Just past Dennis’ office is the bedroom, sunken into a space with panoramic views. Created especially for Romaine, a reading nook with banco seating and small windows lies tucked at one end of the master wing.

On the opposite side of the house, the focus is on entertaining. The wine cellar’s reclaimed iron grille door beckons from the bottom of stone stairs. The cellar sits in close proximity to the butler’s pantry, an artfully lit walk-through with tile murals and a kezako (terra-cotta strip) brick barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Contemporary artwork adds a splash of color to the traditionally Tuscan sunken living room. A special treatment was used on wood ceiling trusses to give them an aged look. Fairway views are captured through a large picture window. The painting over the fireplace is by Antanio Dojer.
A guest bedroom and suite complete with sitting area and fireplace are a short flight of stairs up from the kitchen. According to interior designer Gail Mattice, who also had a hand in design decisions, the paintings in the hallway leading to the guest rooms were based on photographs taken by a friend of Romaine while traveling in Italy. “Romaine wanted to bring color in and to make it look more Tuscan,” recalls Mattice. Shades of fuchsia and magenta are infused in the home’s bedding, chenille draperies and kitchen and living area furnishings.

“It’s difficult to work with color inside a home in the desert,” Romaine comments. “I love the strong, bold, bright fabrics in the furniture and window treatments in our home. I wanted to keep this home as authentic in Tuscan theme as possible, while blending in desert elements.”

 A free-standing guest house is situated across from the pool. The view from its front door is of the villa’s back patio, a perspective that emphasizes the property’s Old World charm. The landscaping, by Donna Winters of Enchanted Garden, was featured in the April 2004 issue of Phoenix Home & Garden.

“It’s very comfortable, inviting and cozy,” Romaine says. “I look forward to returning home each time we travel.”

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: A wood band  and ironwork highlight the dining room’s
ceiling.  Tapestry chairs in warm tones and a prominent chandelier also vie for attention. • The kitchen has reclaimed wood flooring. Skylights brighten the center island. • An upholstered bed in the master bedroom faces expansive views of the back yard and beyond. A painting by Elizbieta J. Osiak exudes a mood of reflection. • A scrolled iron bed is the centerpiece for one of two guest rooms.

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