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Master of the Southwest Interior Designer Paula Den Boer

Author: Susan Regan
Issue: March, 2012, Page 86
Photos by Christiaan Blok

Paula Den Boer

Interior Designer Paula Den Boer’s Astute Attention to Clients’ Wishes Is Key to Her Personalized Approach


A few things you should know about Paula Den Boer: She loves to travel, the influences of which can be seen in her work; a wife and mother of five children—family is a top priority; and she has an indelible passion for interior design.

“I’ve always been surrounded by design. It’s something that has always been with me,” she explains. Her father was an accomplished kitchen and cabinetry designer in Chicago, and as a young girl Den Boer spent many hours with him, observing his designing technique. “My earliest memory of my dad is sitting on his lap while he sat at a drafting table working on kitchens,” she recalls. Throughout her teenage years, she worked at her father’s company and later attended college in California, earning a degree in interior design from University of California, Los Angeles.

In 1977, a move to Arizona prompted Den Boer to dive headfirst into the local design scene—she opened her own studio in Scottsdale the following year and gained a toehold by creating model homes for builders. From there, she segued into custom residences and commercial projects. A few of the locales in which she has worked include France, Switzerland and Mexico, and stateside in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado.

Over the years, the firm—Ashley P. Designs—has grown and now is composed of a team of design professionals. The emphasis remains on quality and personalized service, with Den Boer designing each project. “The interaction between designer and client becomes very personal,” she comments. “I love my clients and remain friends with almost all of them.”

This focus on individualized design is a cornerstone of Den Boer’s philosophy. Architect Lee Hutchison, AIA, a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest who has worked with her on numerous projects, emphasizes this adaptability as well as her artful style and resourcefulness. “I have found Paula to be very versatile in her approach to the variety of styles that she is challenged with while working with our clients,” he comments. “By the end of each project, they are very enthusiastic about the results of her efforts.”

While Den Boer is well-versed in numerous styles—from Mexican and Spanish Colonial to Contemporary and Old World—she says that the Southwest’s role in the industry has changed since her early days as a designer. “We have taught the rest of the world what true Southwest is. It’s having the exterior live with the interior. You can have a formal home with a relaxed atmosphere,” she reflects.

The courtyard of this modern-day take on the Tuscan farmhouse featured on these pages boasts an antique fountain and a seating area with a natural stone-clad fireplace. Natural stone also covers the facade of the north Scottsdale home’s entry.
One of the ways she captures this ambience is by being involved in a home’s design from the outset. “I love working with architects and builders on job sites,” Den Boer states. “It’s a designer’s responsibility to respect an architect’s vision of a home and incorporate what the homeowners want for the interiors. When a designer, architect and builder are all in sync, there’s a synergy that makes a great home.”

“Paula is a great team member,” says builder Bob Gurley. “She can translate a client’s vision into workable details. She is flexible and accessible. Whenever she is needed at the job site, she can be there right away. Builders and subcontractors appreciate working with Paula because she is always timely and can make quick decisions.”

This Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest says that one of the most satisfying aspects of her work is experiencing clients’ reactions when their residences are complete. “It’s very self-fulfilling to see the joy in someone else’s eyes when they see the finished project. We turn a house into a home, and that’s a fine line.”

Interior designer Paula Den Boer was faced with a challenging space in this nook off the entry courtyard. It sits between the guest casita and main house, with a window in the master bath overlooking the space. To establish visual interest yet block views into the bathroom, she devised a secret garden with a gated entry, antique stone trough water feature, and tiled backsplash. “I like mystique,” Den Boer comments. “I wanted people to say, ‘Wow! What’s around that corner?’”

The homeowners wanted a “warm and extremely inviting” great room with an open yet intimate feel and space to entertain, says Paula Den Boer. To achieve this, she employed one of her design mantras: “You always need to have areas where you can sit down and have a conversation,” she explains. Reclaimed pine flooring, a Venetian plaster wall finish, the use of natural stone and shades of gold, terra cotta and tan create a warm, neutral palette.
An antique stone trough from Turkey set on an old iron stand doubles as a sink in the pool cabana’s small bathroom. Custom brass faucetry made to look old and high wainscoting with a tile border add to the charm.

Clockwise from top left: Paula Den Boer’s interpretation of a modern Tuscan kitchen includes the use of alder wood cabinetry, tumbled-marble flooring, granite countertops and a travertine farmhouse sink. The designer continued the rustic look of the brick ceiling by incorporating a brick inset into the stovetop mantel. The backsplash is formed of terra-cotta tiles with a decorative tile band. • Paula Den Boer says that the homeowners had specific ideas about what they wanted for the interiors. “We definitely worked as a team with Paula,” notes the lady of the house. “She understood the design aesthetic we were looking for and translated that throughout our home.” To achieve the simple, serene ambience desired for the master bedroom, Den Boer used mainly cream and light-colored hues. She also chose to add carpeting and opted for raffia window treatments, which diffuse sunlight streaming through the large window. • A floating, under-lit onyx vanity with a backlit onyx and iron apron makes an eye-catching statement in the powder room. “I wanted this space to be elegant and totally different from anything else,” says Den Boer. To underscore the look, she had the walls treated with a waxed Venetian plaster finish with a pearl-color over-coat and topped the vanity with a bronze vessel sink. • A scrolling cantera crown with a shell motif accents a small raised fireplace opposite the bed.
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