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For The Home

Home Design: A Rustic Hillside Retreat

Author: Roberta Landman
Issue: April, 2011, Page 64
Photography by Christiaan Blok

An early-19th-century juniper wine cellar door from Spain serves as an entry gate to the stone-walled courtyard of this Tucson-area home.


Choose to ignore a nearby forest of saguaro cacti, and this Tucson-area home might appear to be ensconced in Italy’s Tuscan region, rather than the Arizona desert.

Nestled between massive boulder outcroppings, the stone-encrusted Tuscan Farmhouse-style residence was planned with both indoor and outdoor living in mind. Indoors, the decor speaks of Old World charm; outdoors, the setting invites with multiple patios and a virtual fantasyland of water features.

 The homeowner says that she and her husband had not been to Tuscany but loved pictures they had seen of Tuscan-inspired homes designed by architect Allen F. Tafoya. So, along with Tafoya, a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest, they assembled a design team composed of builder Dan Couturier, interior designers Rondi Kilen, ASID, and the late Dennis Johnson, and waterscape expert Steve Oliver. 

While suitable to the topography of Tuscany, this type of architecture—with its separate structures—also fits well with the desert site’s boulder-restricted landscape, Tafoya points out. In Tuscany’s hilly and mountainous terrain, for example, farms could not always have homes and outbuildings linked together in a single flat footprint, and sometimes were set apart from each other. From a distance, the buildings often appear as a village.

“These separated structures are one of the elements contributing to the charm of Tuscany,” the architect comments. On the Arizona site, a detached building was a solution for working around “two incredible rock knolls.”

Walls of the foyer and elsewhere in the home are plastered in a custom hue that interior designer Rondi Kilen dubbed Tuscan Yellow. An ornate painted chandelier hangs from the ceiling, while down below, antique French pavers lead through an arched hallway to the great room beyond. How the low barrel-vault ceiling of this passageway “breaks into” the higher-ceilinged great room is reminiscent of Tuscan architecture, says the home’s architect, Allen F. Tafoya. The painting is by Scott Wallis.
  The structure that is separate from the main house serves as the master suite. To get to this destination, one must walk outside, over a footbridge and past water features designed by Oliver, also a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest. Going outside to reach this “retreat” is delightful, says the homeowner, adding that the main-house bedrooms are designed especially for guests.

 Comfort and understated elegance grace interiors in all quarters of this home. Stone fireplaces indoors and out offer both physical and aesthetic warmth. Beamed ceilings lend Old World ambience, as do reclaimed wood and antique paver flooring.
The outdoor setting inspired the residence’s interiors, according to Kilen. “When we were here the first time, I walked outside and took photos of moss on the rocks and the colors of desert plants—their orangey yellows and sagey greens.” These hues are seen in rugs and in upholstery fabrics on comfy over-stuffed pieces.
Having the outdoors play a role inside the home is in keeping with its strong indoor/outdoor concept, as is a stroll past water features on the way to the master bedroom, indicates the home-owner. Instead of a pool dominating the setting, a spa/pond combination was a captivating choice; it sends water down to another pond and also feeds man-made springs on either side of the house.

“We came from decades of living in Ohio, and never got the hang of a pool,” the homeowner says. “We wanted a little place where we could dip our feet and walk around a bit. It is so much fun.” 


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