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For The Home

Revamped Spec Home

Author: Roberta Landman
Issue: October, 2012, Page 78
Photos by Michael Woodall

This dramatic backyard pool, designed by Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest Kirk Bianchi, features two vanishing edges: one near the house that is flush with the deck, and another that flows over the pool’s rear wall and into a curving slot.



Full of Possibilities, a Revitalized House Becomes an Inviting Family Home

With a little poetic license, one might say this former Arizona spec house wooed a couple into staying put.

Having sold their previous home, they bought the Paradise Valley residence with the firm intention of living there only temporarily, while they planned to build on a lot they had already purchased.

As they were dreaming of moving elsewhere, they did a few “cosmetic” fixes to bring the house to their comfort level. And then, gradually keying into the property’s many possibilities, they decided to stay on and call it home. Interior designer Karen Long, who worked her magic there, has as good an explanation as any as to how this came about: “The house kind of adopted them,” she says with a smile. “It just lent itself to their lifestyle.”

The one-time spec property had much to like. In a setting that steps up and down a hillside, there was plenty of room for the couple’s three children to spread out in their own lower-level quarters; a dedicated home theater held the promise of family fun; a deep backyard was perfect for creating a more lavish pool area, and even adding a bocce ball court; and there were views galore—Camelback Mountain practically on their doorstep and a distant Mummy Mountain grabbing attention out back.

While the house was only two years old when the family became its first inhabitants, its ambience was far different from what the homeowners desired, says the wife. “It was very dark.” The objective of the remodel that ensued was to remove heavy Mediterranean features but keep the architectural integrity of the home intact, notes the interior designer. “We replaced most of the Mediterranean influences with a more California, West Coast yet eclectic flavor, while blending in a Modern and edgy look.”

Crossing over a water-and-fire feature, this travertine-clad stairway “bridge” to the home’s entry was conceived by landscape designer Morgan Holt, a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest.
Interiors are now light and airy, with a tailored Contemporary sensibility. A unified color palette of tans and champagne hues punched up with black accents is seen in rooms filled with sleek custom furnishings and luxurious-but-serviceable fabrics. Dark flooring was replaced with pale Crema Marfil marble, which in certain areas is highlighted with black granite accents.

“The clients were excited to include the elegant finishes you see throughout the house, yet it was very important that the home felt both comfortable and inviting for family and friends,” Long points out. Adds the homeowner: “I wanted people to come in and want to stay.” And that is what has transpired, she says, in both the made-over interior of the house and on its exceptional grounds.

Today, fully renovated outdoor spaces with a resortlike atmosphere are defined by enchanting water elements. Making a dramatic statement at the front of the house—and set under a new travertine pedestrian “bridge”—one such feature resembles a streamlet that gushes from behind huge boulders. At times lit up with flames, it is but one of many surprises that await a visitor to this no-longer-temporary home.



When the great room’s motorized glass doors are open, this space and the adjacent pool patio can function as a single entertaining area. The room contains a sectional in “a family-friendly” fabric and other Contemporary furnishings of interior designer Karen Long’s design.
The man of the house, a wine collector, had input in the design of this glass-enclosed wine-storage wall, which holds 2,000 bottles. The two-sided feature, which replaced a small wine cellar, can be seen from the bar on one side and the dining room on the other.


Patio furniture was custom-designed in collaboration with the lady of the house, says Long. Above the stone console, a painting drops down into a niche in the wall to reveal a TV. The iron-railed stairway (background) leads to other outdoor amenities on the sloping property.
Under jewel-like pendant lights, a U-shaped bar serves the great room (right) and a nearby lounge area.


Under a circular stepped ceiling, this lounge area was brightened with a lighter paint color, Crema Marfil marble flooring and new windows. Originally several feet off the floor, the old windows had “obstructed much of the view, so we added more width and lowered the windows to the floor, giving them more height and maximizing their spectacular view,” explains interior designer Karen Long. With leather back pillows, and upholstered in a soft hexagonal-pattern fabric, a grouping of Long-designed chairs invites conversation.
Gutted during the home’s renovation, the kitchen features dark wood cabinets, a stainless steel range backsplash, a massive wood and stainless-banded range hood, and Absolute Black granite countertops. Adding contrast, the large island has a light quartz top that is visually enhanced with a black underlining. Drum pendants provide task lighting.


With its fine interplay of materials, the powder room is a study in elegant simplicity. The floating vanity has an under-lit agate top and a black vessel sink. The custom cabinet base has a pillowed effect. Drop pendant sconces are made of glass and crystals.

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