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For The Home

Embracing the Natural World

Author: Terri Feder
Issue: April, 2013, Page 84
Photos by Michael Woodall

Artist Mayme Kratz’s resin “trees”—filled with organic materials from indigenous Arizona plants and trees, including mesquite pods—add shards of color to the indoor garden of this home’s foyer. A slumped-glass panel serves as a semi-transparent wall between the entryway and the kitchen and dining spaces on the other side. Strips of black granite accent the bamboo passageway.



A Desert Contemporary Home Maximizes Indoor-Outdoor Living

It’s all about indoor-outdoor living at this 5,000 square-foot desert retreat in north Scottsdale, where free-flowing interiors open to a wraparound terrace and peaceful perspectives of garden greenery and the desert beyond.

Eleven years ago, the snowbird owners of this residence looked at the nearly 2-acre property and spotted the view that sealed the deal—a far-reaching, unobstructed panorama of the desert with mountains silhouetted in the distance and sparkling city lights by night. “We stood where the front door is now and looked south and really loved the long, open vista,” recall the homeowners.

The couple engaged architect Doug Fredrikson, AIA, and his then project architect, Mark Tate, AIA, to design their new winter getaway. Thus began a three-year design/build process on the main residence. The lady of the house, who formerly owned an art gallery in Chicago and has a deep-seated interest in architecture and design, had definitive ideas about how the home should look and work. “It’s just the two of us, and we wanted to be able to look out from the master bedroom and pretty much see the whole space,” she explains.

With an abundance of indigenous ledgestone, travertine flooring, a 16-foot-high alder ceiling, a rusted steel-clad fireplace and sliding glass wall, the great room is an ode to fine craftsmanship. The home’s streamlined personality is apparent in the living room’s tailored sofa and matching armchairs.
The couple also wanted to make the most of Arizona’s temperate winter climate by ensuring that interior rooms were designed to open to the terrace and expand into larger, continuous entertainment areas. Finally, they wished to see verdant vistas not only when looking out from the home but also when walking through it. Consequently, exterior spaces had to be carefully considered during the design phase, and landscape architect Donna Winters was brought in early to collaborate.

To help realize the couple’s vision, Tate incorporated myriad floor-to-ceiling glass walls, some sliding. The latter link key interior public spaces—the living and dining rooms—with the natural world outside.

In the living room, to further integrate the indoors with the outdoors, swiveling armchairs were placed next to the sliding glass wall. When the wall is open, the homeowners can simply turn the chairs toward the terrace and incorporate them into the patio seating. Using the same color scheme in both areas further melts away any sense of a threshold or division.

In the home’s recently expanded dining room, two glass walls open to a new covered outdoor living room designed by Tate. Now the couple can dine alfresco any time of year and enjoy a much-needed shaded patio space. “The addition was mostly prompted by the fact that we didn’t get enough shade in other areas of the terrace. We decided to create a covered outside area that would also be a living room,” notes the lady of the house. A fireplace, fire pit and heaters in the ceiling take away the chill when temperatures drop.

Cushioned outdoor seating in colors echoing those used in the great room allows the two spaces to mesh into one harmonious area. A collaboration by the architects, builder, pool installer and landscape architect, the negative-edge pool offers both recreation and visual interest, directing the eye toward the desert.
To create the “unobstructed view” inside the home that the owners desired, Tate integrated transparent slumped-glass wall panels between the foyer and the master bedroom as well as the foyer and kitchen/dining areas. The slumped glass allows light to flow through but distorts the view enough to create a barrier. The architect also altered ceiling and floor elevations to further define individual spaces. And to bring the natural world inside the house, an interior garden was incorporated into the foyer. Flanked on one side by a bamboo passageway, which serves as the home’s main path of circulation, the inner garden is home to myriad plants and colorful resin “trees” by artist Mayme Kratz.

Adding to the indoor-outdoor theme are natural materials and finishes, including indigenous ledgestone, travertine and slate flooring, alder wood ceilings, copper ceiling details, and rusted steel, which was used to clad the living room’s three-way fireplace. Says architect Mark Tate of the home’s organic character, “We did select materials that had a very natural feel, but the deeper truth is the way in which those materials were crafted into something special. The individual craftspeople who put that house together did so as a labor of love and that very special quality elevates the design to something far greater than the sum of its parts.”

Landscaped garden areas and an abundance of artwork put the icing on this desert retreat.

The recently expanded dining room/breakfast nook features a cushioned banco and a dining table for more formal gatherings. Upholstered chairs in velvety fabrics add color to the otherwise neutral palette. On the wall, red glass feathers by Montréal glass artist John Paul Robinson gracefully swirl. A linear chandelier echos the shape of the table. The red porcelain vase was purchased in Turkey.

Thanks to abundant glass, the garden appears to be part of the bathing experience in the alabaster-laden master bathroom. The circular ottoman is dressed in terry cloth.
Massings of golden barrel cacti and horsetail reeds, along with lacy tree canopies, captivate visitors’ attention in the entry courtyard. The same black granite inlays found in the interior bamboo passageway line this exterior path, which leads to a slumped-glass front door.


Landscape architect Donna Winters designed the garden with a water feature that appears to be part of the site’s cracked bedrock. Such riparian plants as horsetail reed sprout from the rocks’ crevices. Autumn-blend flagstone was used to create broken stepping stones, making the scene feel less choreographed and more a part of the natural terrain.
A grouping of blue glow agaves and San Pedro cacti illustrates that fewer plant varieties can be as dramatic as variety-laden arrangements.


With its two curving terraces, overflowing waters and massive concrete vessels inspired by a Frank Lloyd Wright design, the pool provides a strong focal point. Boulders were craned into the area to integrate with the pool’s steps and the
deck above.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: With its floating fireplace, flat-screen TV, cushioned seating and ceiling accented with copper poles, the outdoor living room is enjoyed year-round. The open design of the terrace fencing ensures unobstructed desert views. The homeowners say it’s the perfect place to watch the sun set. • Pillows in a striped fabric add panache and comfort to the fire pit’s banco. Cantilevered overhangs on the home help shade expansive windows below. • The alfresco patio kitchen makes for easy poolside grilling and dining. The copper and steel of the dining table repeat the metal finishes used in and on the house. • The curving banco of the fire pit echoes the lines of the pool. Rebar fencing blends effortlessly with the natural surroundings.

Architect Mark Tate’s Pool Design Tips
Pools tend to be more often used for lounging than swimming. Incorporate underwater decks and benches, beach entries and platforms, along with deep-water areas to create a variety of pool uses for all ages.

A pool should reflect the home’s architecture. Organic-shaped pools work best with more traditional-themed architecture, while geometric-shaped ones are best for Modern or Contemporary styles.

Pools are a great way to create an ambiance for entertaining, reflective relaxation or energetic exercise. Try to incorporate colored lighting, fire and water features and landscaping that engender mood.
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