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2013 Master of the Southwest Terry Kilbane - Architect

Author: Terri Feder
Issue: March, 2013, Page 102
Photos by Michael Woodall

Architect Terry Kilbane, AIA, stands amid the stone columns and copper railings leading to the guest house of a Scottsdale home he describes as “Desert Contemporary.”



Terry Kilbane designs homes that eclipse time and blend effortlessly into their natural environs

He’s an understated man. Although he’s worked as an architect for more than 30 years, he doesn’t have a huge office; doesn’t live in a grandiose home; and avoids attending industry events. Instead, he prefers the solitude of the woods, fishing, a cold beer on a hot day and spending time with his family, including wife Julie, daughter Melissa, son and colleague Justin and his two grandchildren. And while the man himself may be humble, the homes he designs are the stuff of dreams. Meet award-winning architect Terry Kilbane, AIA, one of Phoenix Home & Garden’s 2013 Masters of the Southwest.

Some people search their entire lives to discover their calling; others seem born to theirs. Kilbane, who makes his home in Scottsdale, is of the latter ilk. “Growing up, I drew with a pencil constantly and saw things three-dimensionally. Looking down on paper, instead of seeing a flat image, I could see what something could be. Even today, I don’t see a silhouette of a mountain; instead, I see the three dimensions of it,” the architect acknowledges.

Raised in Colorado, Kilbane graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Architectural School. His penchant for drawing combined with the area’s natural beauty made for a powerful combination. When asked what has had the greatest influence on his architecture, he responds without hesitation, “Nature; I have always been and will always be enthralled by the outdoors. Even today, I find several hours per week to spend in pure nature, that is, a place where there are no people or man-made structures.”

This nearly 11,000 sq. ft. home, which architect Terry Kilbane designed, is exactly one football field long and is comprised strictly of indigenous stone, metal and glass. Bermed, or set, into the hillside, the structure seems a natural extension of the landscape.
It follows that Kilbane’s houses are not typically found on flat city streets in urban sprawls. Look up at the mountains, out into the desert or even on a tropical island—that is where you will find this architect’s designs nestled into their sites. “There is nothing more important than the architectural response to the site itself. The development of nature within architecture is purely a matter of the use of indigenous material and perfect proportional design. Envision a mountain range that tapers down from the highest peak within its own natural set of materials; the same goes for my designs,” he explains.

According to clients Leslie and Jeff Gould, “He’s a natural genius at figuring out how a design will work on the land and he does it very quickly. We met with Terry at the site and he had a design ready for us in about two days. He’s an artist but he also understands value.”

Interior designer and fellow Master of the Southwest Susie Hersker, ASID, has worked with Kilbane on numerous projects. She remarks, “He always designs the home to maximize views and take advantage of what each setting has to offer. Sometimes he will add a window in an unusual place to reveal the top of a saguaro or a great rock formation. I also appreciate the attention he pays to ceiling details and design. Every ceiling in his homes is special, utilizing unique materials.”

When pressed to name an architect whose work he admires, Kilbane replies that he avoids studying the work of others. “I try to keep myself underexposed. I don’t want to be influenced by others. Most important to me is not to be labeled with any specific architectural style, but rather to be known for creating original, timeless architecture in any location.”

These days, Kilbane and his son, Justin, who also is a talented architect, can be found toiling on what Kilbane describes as one of his “crown jewels”—a spectacular residence set on an awe-inspiring site in the canyon lands of Sedona, Arizona. He continues “architecturing,” referring to architecture as a verb. “I want to work for a long time. Being an architect is a growing process; you have to keep practicing. And if things go well, you get to a point where people allow you total freedom to express your design.”

For Kilbane, it’s safe to say that things are going well.

Evidence of the architect’s attention to detail begins at the entrance. From the geometric tilework, to the thick Douglas fir beams overhead, to the front door, every inch has been carefully contemplated.

Angled alder beams add warmth and make a unique architectural statement in the home’s great room. “We take ceilings very seriously. Each one is like a piece of art,” says Terry Kilbane. A vertical black ledgestone fireplace with built-in television screens takes center stage. The angular shape of the sofa table surround, which is made of Pau Ferro wood, is echoed in the area rug below—both were designed by interior designer Susie Hersker, ASID. Hand-carved, copperized cabinets provide handsome storage. Colorful artwork adds pop to the otherwise neutral space. A floor-to-ceiling glass wall offers an expansive view of the valley below.
A backlit onyx wet bar overlooks the great room, providing the perfect perch for sipping and dining. Above it is an alder wood ceiling banded with copper.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: This expansive patio, replete with an angular infinity-edge reflecting pool and spa, was designed to face due south, allowing winter sunshine to flood it and the home’s interior and creating the feel of one continuous living area. Visual interest rules the scene in the varying column heights, myriad angles, intricate copper detailing of a second-story patio railing, and the black metal fascia, which is meant to develop a horizontal theme. Built-in radiant heat in the ceiling overhangs makes the patio a toasty sanctuary throughout the year. • Honed limestone covers the floor and countertops of the home’s master bath, which is built into the hillside. The fireplace and tub skirt are faced with honey onyx. Listelles of amber glass add a simple decorative detail. A fireplace, whose firebox is made of sheet bronze, adds drama and warmth to this underground lair. • While physically connected to the main residence, the casita is far enough away to give guests their privacy. Dry-stacked tan and black ledgestone on the home’s exterior was utilized for its strength, durability and as a blending element. “There’s a lot of tan, gray and black in the desert,“ explains Terry Kilbane. Copper is used for the exterior sconces and is handwoven in the architect’s signature basket-weave design, which adorns the garage door. • With its own kitchen and great room—the latter boasting a black stone and woven-copper fireplace wall, cozy conversation area and beamed ceilings—the guest casita offers ample space for visitors to relax.
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