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3 Common Reader Questions Answered by Local Design Pros

Your architecture, building, interior design and landscape questions answered by Valley pros.

Rooted in tradition, not trends, “timeless” architecture combines traditional form with current technology and lasting materials.; Photo by Mark Boisclaire


Michael Higgins, Higgins Architects

Timeless” seems to be a term I hear a lot, but what exactly does that mean?
The word “timeless” seems to be overused these days, especially as it relates to architecture. I think a lot of architects use the term, but people don’t usually know what this means, and it is used interchangeably for a lot of things. To me, timeless architecture is rooted in tradition but used in a modern way, with current technology and buildings that respond to their context with appropriate, lasting materials. In the hot-rod world, there is a classification known as “resto mod,” which is for the car lover who wants modern handling, dependability, current music and sound, safety enhancements and, most of all, reliability. To me, timeless means looking back on our designs over the last 30 years and seeing if they look as good today as they did when they were built. Longevity and styles that are not trendy or in fashion at the moment are supporting qualities.

When I started my own firm, we had a lot of clients who loved historical homes but didn’t want all the problems that are common to old structures, such as energy inefficiency with old air conditioning, insulating systems and electrical systems that were out of date. My clients tend to be sentimental and romantic. They want the charm and scale of an old home, but they want it to function as a modern home with all the efficiencies and conveniences.

This living room transitioned from outdated Tuscan to sleek contemporary by resurfacing the fireplace with slabs of stone.; Photo by Mark Lipczynski

Interior Designer

Lynda Martin, Camelback Interior Design
How can I update my home’s Tuscan interior architecture without doing a complete remodel?
Tuscan interiors, so prevalent in the late 1990s and early 2000s, included heavily troweled stucco, dark, overly ornate detailing and, frequently, hollow drywall fireplace surrounds with multiple niches and recessed areas. Everything made rooms feel much smaller than they were. To breathe new life into these spaces, my advice is to replace the heavy texture with clean drywall, leaving the areas clean-lined and free of heavy details.

Removing the fireplace surround and replacing it with smooth drywall, a plaster finish resembling limestone or solid slabs of stone will give you open space to place artwork. Your space will be updated and transformed and feel roomier, with a much lighter, cleaner aesthetic.

Pond Designers

Paul and Barbi Holdeman, The Pond Gnome
We would love to add a koi pond to our backyard, but does it get too hot for the fish to survive here in the desert?
The short answer is that it does not, assuming that your pond is built with adequate cover from the sun and has plenty of aeration. There is a plethora of ways to provide shade and extra air that the koi will need in order to be happy and healthy during the hottest summer months. Waterlilies can provide great shade in the water, as do many of the taller aquatic marginal plants. Building caves within the pond not only provides shade, but can also serve as an escape from predators, such as herons and raccoons.

As for aeration, most koi ponds will incorporate a waterfall or stream into the design, which is a great way to mix oxygen into the water. Air pumps can also be used to blow bubbles on the floor of the pond to keep the water moving and gathering oxygen at the surface. The key to oxygenating pond water is to move the water at night when oxygen levels are at their lowest. Many pond owners will put their waterfall on a timer that shuts the pumps down after dark.  This is a mistake because photosynthesis steals oxygen from the water during the night and adds it back in during the daylight hours. Therefore, moving the water is most important to your pond pets between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

With proper design and plantings, an Arizona pond makes a happy year-round home for koi.; Photo by Melissa Valladares

Pond depth is a subject of great debate within pond-keeper circles. We manage more than 200 ponds that are less than 2 feet deep. Given plenty of square footage, as well as structure within the pond—and lots of lush aquatic plants—these ponds are perfectly healthy environments for koi. Ponds built with minimal structure and cover for the fish should be closer to 4 feet deep. Make sure you know and understand the codes within your city/town jurisdiction when it comes to pond construction and safety requirements.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to ask an architect, builder, interior designer or other professional? Send us your questions at ‌phgmag.‌com/ask-‌the-experts.


Architect: Michael Higgins, AIA, Higgins Architects, Scottsdale,
Interior designer: Lynda Martin, ASID, Camelback Interior Design, Phoenix,
Pond designers: Pond Gnome, Phoenix,


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