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For The Home

Spanish Colonial Home

Author: Terri Feder
Issue: February, 2013, Page 76
Photos by Karen Shell

A simple pool surrounded by grass interspersed with reclaimed stone pavers can be seen from adjacent outdoor sitting areas on a covered patio at the back of the house.



A Simplified Spanish Colonial Design Emanates Authenticity and Timeless Beauty

“Simplicity is beauty and beauty is simplicity, nothing more, nothing less.”–Oscar Wilde.

The best designed houses have a story to tell and beckon visitors to linger. This 4,000 square-foot Spanish Colonial tucked in the hills of D.C. Ranch entreats one to stay, and, though it whispers, has much to say.

When architectural designer André Hicken and builder/contractor Rick Padilla first met the Michelets—Kim, John and their two children—whose home they would spend two years designing and constructing, the family wanted a 5,000 square-foot, light-filled home with a guest casita and bonus room for the kids. But according to Hicken, that was “before the real-estate market fell off a cliff.”

The project was later downsized and the casita and bonus room eliminated, with the owners opting to accommodate guests by “double programming” other spaces. “By trimming the size of the project, and through careful and creative use of both reclaimed and fine, authentic materials, we created a home high on style that filled the Michelets’ needs, while also being responsive to current market trends,” explains Hicken.

Among the most creative contributors was Kim Michelet, who has an eye for design and a knack for finding high-end, reclaimed materials in unexpected places. “Kim found a truckload of red tile from Europe in squares, rectangles and deco pieces,” recalls Hicken. The beautiful, crack-resistant tile—normally ultra pricey—became more affordable when purchased in a large quantity of random shapes. The architect promptly separated the tiles by type, counted their numbers, set the various piles into patterns and found meaningful places for them inside and out. “Wherever there is a thick-arched wall inside the home, you will find a border of reclaimed terra-cotta square tiles on the floor to balance the weight,” he explains.

Terra-cotta steps lead to a multi-arched entrance. Stacked clay roof tiles in a five-color blend lend Spanish Colonial authenticity to the home and create a cornice detail on the entry tower.
The initial challenge was the lot itself, long vacant due to additional setback and height requirements, and views of homes with architecture not conforming to D.C. Ranch guidelines. But where there were obstacles, the team found solutions—some after much pondering; others serendipitous “gifts.” “This lot was considered an undesirable, non-view lot,” comments Hicken. So, he began by focusing on the siting of the home—the process of placing it and any secondary structures onto the lot to see what position worked best to maximize views and exposure. By orienting the main house on a 45-degree axis and creating a secondary structure comprised of a third garage bay, view tower and game ramada, Hicken simultaneously screened the view of homes whose styles clashed while showcasing the desert.

Along with determining the best flow of interior spaces, the architect was also involved in selecting finish materials; designing, scaling and placing doors and windows; and choosing and/or designing light fixtures and other adornments, such as the corbels on the great room fireplace. Helping with fabrics, furniture placement and other design details were Terry Helland, an interior designer and friend, and Larry Lake of Lawrence Lake Interiors.

Today, the Michelets are happily ensconced in their Spanish-style villa that Hicken describes as “a timeless, quality home, unique in its design, responsive to its site and reflective of the people who live in it.”

A patio off the great room offers cozy outdoor living and a place for the family’s Shih Tzus—Sunny and Angel—to hang out.

One end of the great room is anchored by a fireplace with antique stone corbels that support its mantle and an antique grille. A Moroccan-style mirror on the mantle leans against the wall. This seating area, with its rich-brown velvet chairs, leather sofa and ottoman, is designated for more formal entertaining. The arched niches contain wood shelving designed to create a library feel. A custom-made wrought-iron chandelier hangs overhead—one of two in this space.
The great room’s second seating area, which is used for more casual gatherings, was cast in an ivory palette with mostly linen textiles. The large cabinet was custom designed and scaled specifically to ground this side of the room. The Juliet balcony with its arched doors is a popular perch for the couple’s two children and their friends. A spiral topiary and other greenery and candles add that certain je ne sais quoi.


Anchored by a custom-made furniture-style island composed of reclaimed wood with a leather-finished Crema Marfil marble countertop, the kitchen boasts glazed ivory cabinets and a backsplash of hand-painted terra-cotta tiles. A custom wrought-iron chandelier provides ambient light and an old French limestone lintel serves as a mantel above the kitchen range.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: The wrought-iron railing for the home’s “stair tower,” as André Hicken refers to it, was inspired by one that he and homeowner Kim Michelet saw in one of many Spanish architecture books they poured over. Remarks Hicken of the railing, “I wanted the spindles to turn underneath the step; this gives you maximum space on each step.” The antique tapestry hanging on the wall has been in the family for years. • The homeowners opted to keep the master closet open with their possessions neatly stowed behind furniture-style custom cabinetry—a move that resulted in a natural-light-infused dressing suite. An ottoman centered below an iron chandelier offers a place to put on shoes and accessories. • A classic white slipper tub sits in a sculpted window nook that looks out to a grove of palo verde trees. Rugged concrete tile in a grid pattern dresses up the floor. In this exquisite scene, it is easy to see what architect André Hicken means by “editing a space to clarity.” • The master bedroom has a raised fireplace with a limestone surround and ornate iron grille. On the bed is a hand-painted silk coverlet. In the corner, an embossed leather chair and an old framed opera poster offer finishing touches.

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