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For The Home

Living Large

Author: John Roark
Issue: May, 2017, Page 100
Photos by Scott Sandler

The lot required excavating 16’ into the mountain and terracing the hillside to allow for windows on the home’s northern elevation. Features traditionally found in backyards, such as the pool, patios and outdoor entertaining areas, are located in the front yard.
Downsizing Doesn’t Equal Downgrading for One Paradise Valley Couple

Living in the house in which they had raised their family, a Paradise Valley couple found themselves with too much space and upkeep that had become burdensome. “We lived differently when our kids were there,” says the husband. “We loved that house, but there were rooms we never even went into anymore. It was time to downsize.”

The homeowners desired a dramatic arrival experience, which was carefully planned from the lot’s retaining wall to the front door. Gray limestone harmonizes with stucco, providing a stately accent for the two-story glass entry.
The original plan was to find a home that suited their needs, but after visiting a mountainside lot with a view that spanned Camelback Mountain and the Tempe corridor, the husband and wife decided to build. They agreed that a smaller footprint was imperative and favored a floor plan that would enable ease of living while giving guests and visiting family convenience and privacy. Early in the planning process, they learned they would soon be first-time grandparents, and creating a place where grandkids would feel at home and be safe both inside and out became of prime importance.

The lot presented challenges for the design/build team, including excavating 16 feet into the side of the mountain and creating a swale to divert rainwater around the structure and help manage water runoff. Opening the house’s northern elevation was also essential to achieve the couple’s desire for an interior that capitalized on natural light.

“The home sits on a steep south-facing hillside, so determining how to get light from the mountainside was going to be interesting,” says Lindsay Cullum-Colwell, the project’s chief architect. “We solved the problem by creating terracing on the backside, which enabled us to add windows. As a result, you’re getting natural light from both the front and the back.”

A bridge connecting the master suite to the main living areas crosses the home’s 25-foot-high atrium. A variety of surfaces were considered for the focal point wall. Textured plaster adds an industrial accent the wife wanted, without the coldness—or expense—of concrete.
As the house was being framed, the homeowners visited often to observe the progress. During a routine walk-through, they noticed a need for modification. In the second-floor great room, the fireplace and entertainment center had been planned for the east wall, which would effectively block an additional opportunity to showcase the lot’s most prized asset: the view. The plan was revised, moving the fireplace to the opposite wall and adding a corner window, which is now one of the husband’s favorite features.

“If I was counseling someone who’s building a house, I’d say frame it and then stop, come in and walk around,” says the husband. “Some things are hard to see until you’re inside the three-dimensional space. Change orders can be expensive, but there are some things you just have to do. If we hadn’t added that window it would have been a completely different room.”

Because the north side of the house is embedded in rock, the pool and outdoor entertaining areas had to be incorporated into the home’s front elevation, which also includes the entryway and garage.

An atrium gives the home a dramatic entry. Open-tread stairs and glass-paneled railings add industrial accents and enhance the airiness of the stairwell. A matching gate can be inserted for the safety of the couple’s toddler-age grandchildren.
“The pool and patio would traditionally be in a backyard,” says landscape designer Jim Lucas. “This lot gave us an opportunity to make the front feel open and take advantage of the views—but also to provide privacy because of its location and exposure. We tried to maximize the sense of flow to the front door for that dramatic moment of arrival.”

Lucas divided the expanse into a variety of separate seating areas adjacent to the negative-edge pool and spa, integrating limestone paving, artificial turf, fire features, planters and garden beds. A mix of succulents, including blue elf aloe, blue glow agave, and giant hesperaloe (hesperaloe funifera), provide color and structure. Because the couple did not want trees blocking the views, sculptural totem pole cacti (Pachycereus schottii f. monstrosus) were brought in to add height.

The kitchen’s marble-topped pastry table serves as a hub for casual dining, entertaining and working. Bright pops of color delight the eye and provide continuity between rooms.
The husband appreciates how the landscape almost takes care of itself. “I didn’t realize I was spending so much time on maintenance at our previous house,” he says. “I think that anyone who is transitioning into a low- or no-maintenance home will be pleasantly surprised.”

The property’s configuration maximized the abundance of natural light and gave the wife the opportunity to have fun with the airy interiors. Drawn to such bright “coastal” colors as blues, greens, corals and whites, she was excited to bring her vision to life. The design team employed a neutral earth-tone palette for hard surfaces­­—flooring, cabinetry and countertops—which serves as a backdrop for unexpected pops of bright hues found in artwork, furniture and accessories. “It’s kind of like putting together a movie,” says the project’s lead interior designer, Tony Sutton, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner. “You have the main actors, and then you have the supporting cast, which plays a very important role. Their job is to make main features look better.”

The bar, which is adjacent to the great room, provides an additional area for guests to gather. Cylindrical pendant lights echo the circular pattern seen in the  tiles on the bar’s facing.
The floor plan is significantly smaller than the couple’s previous residence. “There was so much wasted space in our old house,” says the wife. “Maybe it comes with age, but it’s not just not a priority anymore. I see these huge houses being built and I think, you don’t need that! Been there, done that, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

At approximately 340 square feet, the master suite is roughly half the size of the couple’s previous bedroom. “One of the things I always look at is how to make a space better,” says Sutton. “To give the illusion of more height, we created a rhythm of soffits in the ceiling between the structural trusses. LED tape light gives soft, indirect lighting, resulting in a nice glow and a relaxing, calming effect.” To create the impression of a larger bathroom, interior designers Elaine Alexander and Bianca Olsson chose mirrored doors for storage areas. “They open the room so that you’re not looking at solid expanses of wood,” says Olsson. “They play with the light, and they’re functional.” Because space is limited, the bathroom has a frosted glass barn door, which provides privacy and bounces additional light into what could have been a dark hallway.

Bold floral wallpaper livens up what could have been an unremarkable powder room. “I like a little bit of an element of surprise, in a tasteful way,” says the wife.

A geometric accent pattern on the draperies helps define the periphery of the dining room, making the space feel larger, while a metallic-embellished floating soffit adds intimacy. Outdoors, a glass sculpture picks up the vibrant blue hue found in the home’s interior color palette.
Furnishings in the great room and adjacent veranda feature a mixture of textures, including shagreen, hammered metal, faux leather, linen and velvet, are functional, comfortable and practical. The balcony’s ceiling includes a series of recessed heaters and misters around the perimeter, enabling year-round indoor-outdoor entertaining.
On the opposite side of the home, the couple’s main living area is accessible via a bridge that crosses the sunny entrance atrium. The spacious kitchen features a large island and a white marble-topped French pastry table that includes electrical outlets and USB ports at both ends. “I absolutely love this space,” says the wife, who saw a similar table at a local restaurant. “We eat here, it’s ideal for entertaining, and I can sit here with my laptop and charge my phone.”

Colors and surfaces in the kitchen were carefully considered. “We used a very neutral color palette,” stresses Sutton. “The coffered ceiling is off-white, while the walls are gray and the cabinets are a combination of white and gray. The contrast of the ceiling helps you see the full volume of the space in a way that’s refreshing and enticing.”

The couple wanted to showcase both the house and the incomparable views. Artificial turf and limestone pavers add interest to the lot’s expansive front yard, which includes two fire features and a variety of areas for relaxing.
The great room was built for comfort and entertaining. Paramount to the homeowners was ease of livability. “We didn’t want it to look like a model home,” says the husband. “I want to be able to put my feet up on the coffee table. We don’t want to be telling our grandchildren, ‘Don’t touch that! Stay off that!’” Furniture that is situated around the fireplace is comfortable and welcoming. Pops of vibrant color bring cohesiveness to the rooms. Bright persimmon, turquoise and chartreuse found in the great room accessories are echoed in bar stools, balcony accents and dining room furnishings and draperies.

The home’s ground level includes two guest suites with easy pool accessibility, and the wife’s favorite place, the laundry and craft center. “For a room that has no windows—which was a concern of mine—this is one of the best spots in the house,” she marvels. “I can watch a movie while doing laundry, and we’ve got plenty of space to spread out, get creative and do crafts with the grandkids.” For added convenience, the space features a laundry shoot from the second-floor master suite closet.

“Many of our decisions were based on our grandchildren,” says the wife. The negative-edge pool, which offers panoramic views of Camelback Mountain’s north side, includes a Baja shelf that is perfectly proportioned for young ones.
Being involved in every aspect of the project provided valuable learning moments for the homeowners. “We are not professional home builders. We just know what we like,” says the husband. “We relied on the pros—not to just say ‘yes’ to what we asked for but also to show us options that went beyond what we proposed.”

Lucas believes the couple’s willingness to be receptive benefited the entire team. “They did a fantastic job of listening to the people around them, staying disciplined to what they wanted but also being amenable to working through the process for a beautiful final product. This house is a work of art.”

A floating wall adds visual interest to the master suite and separates the bedroom from the bathroom. The clean lines of the small-scale fireplace complement the room rather than dominate it. Mirrored storage adds depth.

The master bathroom is ideally sized for two with his-and-hers vanities. Mirrored storage maximizes natural light. A frosted glass barn door provides privacy and bounces additional light into the hallway.
An outdoor shower off the master bathroom is an open-air oasis that the homeowners enjoy during warm weather.


Incorporating darker hues of the blues, greens and corals used throughout the house, the husband’s office was built for relaxation. Creature comforts include treasured sports keepsakes and a balcony telescope.
The laundry and craft center is a favorite area for the wife, who helped design the cabinetry to maximize convenience. A chute from the master suite’s closet streamlines laundry chores. The oversized table is perfect for holiday gift-wrapping and for getting creative with grandkids.

“I think the design team was surprised by some of my color choices,” says the wife. In the guest suite, the unconventional pairing of turquoise and chartreuse results in a cheerful ambiance. Whimsical artwork is poised to delight young visitors.

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