Subscribe Today
Give a Gift
Customer Service

Phoenix Home and Garden
Subscribe Today!
For the HomeFor the GardenFood & EntertainingResourcesArticle Archive
For The Home

Right Place, Right House

Author: Rebecca L. Rhoades
Issue: October, 2017, Page 106
Photos by Steven Meckler

Homeowners Lisa and Mark Brown wanted to give their traditional production home a more contemporary aesthetic, so landscape and interior designer Kathryn Prideaux enclosed the front patio, creating a private courtyard, and added raised plant beds filled with linear plantings of graphic-shaped desert flora. The beds and stair risers are clad in a tile that mimics rusted steel.
One Couple’s Search for a Perfect Retirement Retreat Starts With a Mountain-View Lot and Ends With a Customized Production Home

Location, location, location.” The phrase is the mantra of real estate agents around the world. But for Lisa and Mark Brown, it’s also what inspired them to purchase their new home in a resort community north of Tucson. The couple—he had recently retired from owning a plant nursery, and she is a landscape designer who is able to work remotely—were looking for a place with a more soothing way of life, and the neighborhood’s many amenities and idyllic setting in the shadows of the Santa Catalina Mountains had everything they wanted.

An eye-catching row of rusted steel tubes, each topped with a single Agave americana, stands guard inside the front courtyard. “They’re like art for the garden,” says Lisa
“Northern California isn’t a relaxing place to retire. We looked in Phoenix, Tucson and Green Valley, but we just fell in love with this area,” says Lisa. “We also wanted an active adult community. We like the sense of sociability they offer. And this one is relatively new; everyone else was moving in too, so we knew we’d be making friends.” Finally, the home they selected—a 3,000-square-foot model on a prime lot that backs up to state land—offers unobstructed scenic vistas. “We looked all around, and we chose this particular plot because of those mountains. Not many of the houses here have this view,” notes Mark.

One thing they didn’t want, however, was a basic production house, which is typically what is offered in a planned community. “We were coming from having a semicustomized home in California, and we knew that’s what we wanted here as well,” Lisa adds.

Located just inside the front entrance, Lisa’s office also serves as an extra guest room. The sofa converts to a queen-size bed, and the custom wall unit features pull-out cabinets that can be used as nightstands.
While looking for ideas for their home and garden, Lisa came across the landscape work of Kathryn Prideaux and immediately was taken with her modern Southwest aesthetic. Although the Browns both had extensive plant and garden design knowledge, they weren’t familiar with the arid environs and desert flora of Arizona, so Lisa knew they needed some help on that end. What she didn’t realize at the time was that Prideaux, a landscape designer, is also an interior designer. The two immediately clicked. “I was just looking online, and I must have Googled her business name and got her phone number. That was the best thing that could have happened,” recalls Lisa.

Prideaux, who jumped at the chance of designing both the indoor and outdoor spaces, began working on the interiors first, as all of the custom details had to be reviewed and approved by the builder. “If you look at the model, it doesn’t look anything like the house we have now,” says Lisa with a laugh. Adds the designer, “We did drawings of all the things we wanted, and the builders pretty much ended up creating a custom house.”

A stepped walkway, flanked by an array of desert-friendly plants, leads from the street to the front courtyard, adding to the home’s modern yet inviting appeal.
Some of the personalized touches are subtle, including custom flooring, tilework and cabinetry throughout; flat, nontextured walls; and sharp instead of rounded corners. Others were a bit more involved. For example, what was originally planned to be a powder room off the front entrance was transformed into a full bath that’s ideal for guests who may end up sleeping in Lisa’s office, which easily converts into a third bedroom thanks to a queen-size sleeper sofa and custom cabinets that do double-duty as bedside tables. “Since we were going to use my office as another bedroom, we really wanted a full bath. We measured the area provided on the floorplan, and it had the exact dimensions as the bathroom for the dedicated guest bedroom.” A large linen closet was taken out to make way for a shower, and the builder added floating cabinets for storage.

Custom touches abound in the living room, including the sofas, entertainment unit, nontextured wall finish and a painting by Tucson artist Tanje Eltze. Lisa and Mark chose to accent the muted color palette with touches of orange.
The master suite also got some much-needed but practical updates. In the bath, the homeowners chose to forgo a large corner tub, which allowed for more space for a custom vanity with double sinks and floor-to-ceiling storage. “We don’t use bathtubs,” notes the wife. A chandelier comprising 35 glass globes adds drama to the clean-lined space.

But it’s the master closet that elicits the most “wows” from guests. “It the space everyone is jealous of,” notes Prideaux. Custom floor-to-ceiling cabinets and hanging racks allows for multiple levels of clothes storage. Pull-down rods offer easy access to hanging items. Another show-stopping chandelier holds center court. Made of white fabric mesh and wire, it floats in the space like a giant crystalline cloud.

The home model the Browns selected includes an outdoor room off the front courtyard. The square firebox is custom-designed, and the mantle is made from a reclaimed barnwood beam. Prideaux also incorporated the rusted steel-look tiles found throughout the landscape into the cozy space.
In the center of the house is the large kitchen, which opens to a dining nook, morning room and the great room. “It’s one of the main areas where we wanted something unique,” notes Lisa. In the model, the cooking space rested against a wall, with a range hood flanked by short upper cabinets. “The cabinets had space above them, and they were just popped on the wall,” she adds. “I said, ‘No, we can do better than that.’”

Prideaux eliminated the upper cabinets from the plan, added a tall backsplash of quartz and framed out the entire area with deep-hued millwork that matches the custom cabinetry. A simple open shelf, finished with a set of matching open-work sculptures, runs the length of wall, allowing the stone’s leathered finish and elegant pattern to shine. A large island topped with Quartzite and a wall of ceiling-height cabinets that surround the refrigerator and double ovens enhance the room’s luxurious feel.

Sliding glass doors open the dining room to the outdoor room and courtyard, creating an ideal spot for year-round entertaining. The dining table is custom, and the artwork is by Eltze.
A muted color palette of taupes, browns and orange; natural materials; and dark woods on furnishings and millwork tie all of the rooms together and create a serene setting that is elegant and comfortable. “I knew I wanted to go neutral,” says Lisa. “And the orange gives the space that pop of color that was needed. It’s warm, so it works well with the desert.”

With the house complete, Prideaux and the Browns were finally able to concentrate on the yard. “We wanted outdoor living,” says Lisa, with Mark adding, “That’s why we came here.” High on their wishlist were an outdoor kitchen, ramada, firepit, pool, spa and some artificial turf for their two miniature goldendoodles, Mocha and Abby, to play on. Prideaux was able to add all that and more to the relatively small lot—all while adhering to the standards of the homeowners association.

Lisa acknowledges that while their HOA was very accommodating and easy to work with, she and Mark did have to make a few adjustments to their initial design choices. For example, the use of rusted steel, a popular element in modern design, is forbidden, so Prideaux had to get creative. In the front yard, on raised plant beds and stair risers, she instead added tile that mimicked the reddish oxidation of rusted metal. She also incorporated the tile on the firepit and backsplash of the outdoor kitchen in the backyard. And the ramada, while made of steel beams, is coated in a rust-colored electrostatic paint. “In the long run, it’s probably better that we didn’t go with natural steel because now we don’t have to worry about any staining,” notes Lisa.

A succulent bowl is a simple way to bring fun and texture to a space. This one rests on a table on the back patio.
Linear plantings of boldly shaped desert-friendly plants, such as Moroccan mound, lady’s-slippers, San Pedro cacti and agaves, underline the overall contemporary feel of the home. In both the front patio and backyard, rows of steel tubular planters filled with Agave americanas, “are like art in the garden,” says Lisa. On the outer edges of the backyard, Prideaux went with a more natural look, complete with boulders, two sizes of groundcover rock and a plethora of drought-tolerant plants, including hersperaloe, gopher plants, Mexican bird of paradise, ocotillo and euphorbias. “We used so many great specimen plants,” Prideaux says. “I keep the plants toward the house more contemporary in shape and positionand then as you go away from the house, I like it to get more natural. In this particular case, the lot line was really close, but it still works great because of the Browns and their love of plants.”

The custom kitchen exemplifies that one-of-a-kind focal point the homeowners desired. Upper cabinets were removed, allowing the dramatic backsplash to shine. The cooking area is set in a dark wood frame that matches the custom cabinetry. A large island offers additional seating and plenty of prep and dining space. Above it are handblown glass pendants by John Pomp.
She continues, “One thing to point out about this home is that both inside and out are fairly low maintenance. Lisa and Mark love to travel, and they can be gone for months at a time, so it was important to create something they could leave and know would be all right.”

For the time being, however, the Browns are enjoying life at home. “We love to come outside and watch the sun set. It’s just so pretty. And when there’s lightning over the mountains, it is amazing,” says Lisa. “We love our lot, we love our house, we love Kathryn. I don’t think we’d make a different decision if we had to do it all over again.”

Two years after moving in, Lisa and Mark are enjoying living in their customized home. “We think it turned out great,” says Lisa.

The kitchen opens up to a breakfast nook and morning room. Prideaux used shades of taupe, brown and orange throughout the entire house for a calm, cohesive look that doesn’t distract from the desert views outside, and clean-lined furnishings in matching hues and wood tones add a modern sensibility. The art in the morning room is by Eltze.
Covered in luxurious linens, the bed is the only furniture the Browns brought with them from their California home.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: Another eye-catching chandelier is found in the master bath.

The sumptuous master suite is fit for a resort. The closet (opposite) “is the space everyone is jealous of,” notes Prideaux.The high ceiling allows for copious clothes storage space, while the custom fabric mesh and wire chandelier adds drama and glam to the private room.

The long, rectangular pool—separated from the spa by a walkway of raised steppingstones—allows for unobstructed views from the main living spaces and back patio.

Outdoor living was the No. 1 reason the Browns wanted to move to Arizona; the breathtaking vistas of the Santa Catalina Mountains solidified their decision and played an important role in choosing the location of their home. Keeping sightlines in mind when designing, Prideaux placed the steel ramada, outdoor kitchen and firepit on the eastern edge of the yard, just beyond the master bedroom windows.
Subscribe Today!