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For The Home

Southwest With a Twist

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: February, 2018, Page 102
Photography by Garrett Cook

Situated on a hillside in Wickenburg, this contemporary Southwest-style residence was designed by architect Timothy Brown using traditional adobe construction. A protective timber frame porch encloses the house while providing outdoor living areas that flow into the natural terrain. Tiered gabions mimic the rustic countryside and serve as retaining walls.
A New Adobe Home Traces Its Design Roots Back to Original Arizona Architecture With an Unexpected Global Vibe

Designing a home from afar is never easy—and if you’re an engineer with a mind for details and you want to know exactly where every beam, stick of furniture or plant should go even before breaking ground, it can be downright challenging. For Tony Azzinaro, building a winter residence in Wickenburg for him and his fiancée, Kathy Lindsay, while living out of the country took a leap of faith and a talented crew of design professionals to bring the pieces of the puzzle together.

The structural character of the house is evident in the living room, where adobe brick columns support concrete beams and adobe brick walls rise up to a ceiling of rough-sawn Douglas fir. The office area is located behind the wooden cabinet, which originally was a Javanese rice bin but was converted into an entertainment center.
Looking to downsize and simplify their lives, the couple had originally intended to build what they called a “bunkhouse,” a place to stay when they got off the road from their RV travels. But as fate would have it, they found a hillside lot in the quaint town about an hour northwest of Phoenix with 360-degree views of undisturbed desert, access to jeep trails and a setting unlike anything they had ever experienced before.

“I had lived near Wickenburg for a few years beginning in 2002 and fell in love with Arizona,” Tony says. Kathy, too, was drawn to the desert’s natural beauty, open vistas and rustic architecture. Raised in urban environments—Tony in New Jersey and Kathy in Toronto, Canada—each was familiar with studio, co-op and condo living, and they wanted to keep their new house small—no more than 2,000 square feet. Both were also clear that they wanted an adobe home with authentic Southwest flavor.

The concept was a collaborative effort between the homeowners and architect, Timothy Brown, who is highly experienced in adobe architecture as well as energy-efficient design elements. He initially came up with seven concepts. The couple chose “a contemporary Arizona adobe-style home with traditional features that included nichos, vigas and exposed adobe brick walls,” says Brown. But what makes it untraditional is that the residence is square in shape and it encompasses only two rooms: a bathroom and a single large living/kitchen/sleeping area.

Homeowners Tony Azzinaro and Kathy Lindsay say their goal was to build an old-school Southwest adobe that was big enough to live in comfortably but small enough for them to downsize and simplify their lives.
“Essentially, this is one big space with no interior walls,” explains interior designer Kacie Lilley, who worked on the project with her partner, Stacy Scharf. “The home has four massive interior structural columns constructed from adobe bricks, which visually create an interior division from one area to the next.” There are nine distinct areas, including two “bedrooms,” which have Murphy beds and curtains that can be pulled together to enclose the areas for privacy.

Brown refers to the home’s style as “original Arizona architecture,” and he explained to the couple that his preferred method of working with traditional adobe building methods would give them the old-school look they were going for. “It brings to heart the clients’ love of the Sonoran Southwest,” he says. Constructed of handmade 18-inch-thick stabilized exposed adobe walls, the home is built with Douglas fir and large exposed concrete beams. “Our house has a classic clerestory design, which opens up the living room to a 17-foot-high ceiling so we don’t feel boxed in,” notes Tony. “Even though we have an open concept, the columns provide a division from area to area.”

The solid adobe block wall defines the office/sitting area. Tony bought the teak daybed in Java, Indonesia, and added cushions and pillows covered in batik fabric, also from Java. The couple designed two side tables, which they had handcrafted in Cave Creek. The lamps are Javanese pottery topped with copper lampshades.
For their part, Lilley and Scharf were tasked with selecting the interior materials, the color palette and providing furniture layouts for all the spaces. “Kacie and Stacy agreed to accept our crazy ideas and work on a tight budget,” jokes Tony. Sticking with colors inherent to the Southwest, the duo added fabrics in shades of blues, reds and earth tones; a handful of new furnishings; and acid-washed stained concrete flooring.

Tony bought much of the furniture and accessories while living in Asia and Africa, and the items’ global appeal offers a distinctive flavor that still suits the Southwest architecture. “Kathy and I thought the pieces would be a very cool contrast with the mud bricks and timbers,” he remarks. “We also wanted to mingle some Western influence in the interior and exterior—sort of a cowboy and Indonesian approach.” A collection of masks handmade by the Goro tribe of West Africa adorn the walls throughout the house, adding pops of color to the adobe bricks yet still retaining an organic touch.

Masks from West Africa can be found hanging throughout the house. “They were made by the Goro tribe of Côte d’Ivoire, and each mask includes an assemblage of characters that tell a unique story,” Tony explains. This one was gifted to him by a chief in Niger to keep him safe during his travels in the Sahara.
The couple, who has amassed many hand-carved teak furnishings from the island of Java, and collectibles from all over the world, also loves a good bargain. “We found these great Indonesian batik curtains for our dining room at a local thrift store,” Kathy recalls. “They cost us six dollars a panel and had never been used.” Kitchen cabinetry is DIY from a big-box retailer, and Tony swears by it, saying, “This is the fourth kitchen I’ve built with these cabinets. We like to mix authentic with great finds—it’s called spending money smartly.”

Site placement of the house was important to the couple, as well. “The flow of the home was set into the steep hillside in order to preserve the experience of the expansive views of the lot and to create as little disturbance to the natural terrain as possible,” Brown explains. “Tim has a very organic approach to the design process,” adds Tony. “He will ‘bend’ a design principal to fit the actual site, making the home fit with as little disruption as possible.” Brown, he notes, camped out on the property for several nights to get a sense of sunrise and sunset, prevailing breezes and how to maximize views on the property.

The living room, which is located in the middle of the open-concept house, serves as the central divider for the rest of the “rooms.” The master bedroom, for instance, is located directly behind the open velvet curtains, while the dining area is situated in the far right corner, just to the left of the kitchen. For added Southwest appeal and ease of maintenance, the designers selected faux leather sofas, and fabrics with an Old West design were used to cover the pillows.
The architect notes, “From the porch, the view draws you out into the natural terrain, trails and amenities,” including two large patios for dining and cooking, a pool with a lounging ramada and an enormous RV structure covered in latillas that perfectly suits the style of the house.

One of the most innovative and unique elements on the property—the pool cabana or “cabana-tainer”—actually is an old refrigerated container that Tony bought in California. On the outside, it looks like something that might hold a temporary office on a construction site. Now refurbished, the receptacle is home on one half to a beautifully tiled bathroom with a Day of the Dead theme. On the other half, a motorized door that doubles as siding, lowers to reveal a 17-foot-long entertainment bar and mini dance floor. “The bar was procured from a mineral shop in Jerome and spent considerable time in a soda fountain shop west of St. Louis, Missouri,” Tony reminisces.

An antique parlor stove serves as the home’s primary heating source. The refurbished unit burns three fuels: gas, coal and wood. According to the homeowners, the design of the teak and buffalo hide chairs was based on Indonesian planter chairs used by the Dutch on their spice and coffee plantations. The masks are from West Africa.
Now that the couple has time to cherish their new digs, there’s a good chance that Kathy and Tony will start to feel like the Southwest is their new favorite home away from home.

Notes Brown, “Tony and Kathy’s love of the region brought them here, and I think that together we have achieved a home for them to enjoy not only as a winter residence as they take advantage of Arizona’s outdoor lifestyle but also throughout the spring and into the excitement of the monsoon season.”

One of Tony’s favorite rooms is the kitchen. “I set out to design the ultimate galley kitchen,” he notes. Built with a spacious breakfast bar with a granite top, it features a professional-grade range hood and bar stools that were reupholstered to match the sofa cushions. When the center windows are open, they serve as a pass-through to an alfresco dining space.


This hand-carved Indonesian dining set is Asmat tribal in design. The batik curtain panels were found at a local thrift store.
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A panel in the master bedroom area, situated between two narrow closets, pulls down to reveal a queen-size Murphy bed. The handmade Indonesian ikat is attached so it can stay safely in place, even when the panel is down. The interior designers used the textile to determine the rest of the color scheme for the space. Pottery, baskets and artifacts are from Indonesia and West Africa.
The couple worked closely with tile designer Kristi Black on the vanity countertops and Mexican tile mirrors, which pull out to reveal towel storage.


Architect Timothy Brown designed the shape of the bathroom, which from the outside looks like a pill box buried in the hill, to soften the lines of the roof. “It also provides space for deep cabinets indoors, as we are storage-challenged,” Tony says. A beach pebble theme used for a massive concrete radial shower looks as though a pebble stream bed runs up the wall.
A mudcloth throw and pillows covered in Indonesian fabric add global flair to the Murphy bed.
The house was designed so that breezes flowing up the patio’s sloped roof can continue through clerestory windows that, when open, allow for excellent air circulation throughout the home’s interiors.


Guests visiting the couple’s home get a sweet surprise when the pool cabana wall is pulled down to reveal an antique tile bar from Jerome, complete with dance floor.

On this southwest-facing patio, wood beams with interconnected joinery support rusted metal roofs that define sitting and dining areas. The Western-style setting includes a floor-to-ceiling dual-sided fireplace that allows for views from the desert beyond to be enjoyed. The skulls and antlers were found during Kathy’s junkets into the surrounding terrain.

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