A 1990s Adobe Gets a Crisp, Contemporary Update
A 1990s adobe-style home gets a crisp update.
By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Scott Sandler
In ancient times (the mid-1980s to 1990s), an architectural style swept the Valley. It was a modernized riff on classic Pueblo Revival architecture—a revival of a revival, if you will—marked by sculpted adobe walls, uneven parapets and rambling floor plans, detailed with vigas, latillas, niches, Saltillo tile floors, flagstone patios and multiple fireplaces. Architectural designer and Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest Lash McDaniel was at the fore of the movement and known for his organic, tactile approach to the style, which he made at once traditional, yet new.
When a circa-1991 McDaniel-designed residence came on the market in a North Scottsdale golf community, a New Jersey couple looking to make Arizona their permanent home jumped at the chance to buy. “We loved the community, and we loved the house,” says the husband. “But the interior was very traditional, very Southwest and a little closed off. We knew we were going to renovate.”
Through their real estate agent, the couple—who have grown children and are retired—found builder Joe Mierau. “I saw immediately that this wasn’t just going to be about replacing the tile flooring and ripping out the old kitchen cabinetry,” says Mierau, recalling his assessment of the 4,600-square-foot, four-bedroom abode. “To make this contemporary, we were looking at all new surfaces, removing walls and opening things up. We needed an interior designer on the project.”
Mierau reached out to Tony Sutton—also a Master of the Southwest—whose talents included not only furnishings and finishes, but also interior architecture and the ability to meld traditional with modern. “We wanted to keep that regional Southwest style that Lash did so well,” said Sutton, explaining the approach, “but to keep it more subtle, blending in contemporary elements for a fresh look.”
Likening the renovation to working within a puzzle, Mierau and Sutton gutted the house. The kitchen and dining room swapped places, allowing the cooking space to have a cockpit-like location overlooking the front entry for more natural light and views, while the dining room—now sans walls—found a new home in the space between the living and family rooms. A staircase leading from the living room up to the kitchen and dining room was reworked with glass railings, and a heavy plastered staircase from the family room to guest bedrooms was replaced with a show-stopping set of steps, made with glass, oak and steel. The family room’s new floor-to-ceiling windows helped expand desert and mountain views. Out went the rustic tile flooring and heavily carved fireplaces, in went porcelain tile floors and sleek hearths that add drama.
Says the husband, “The project took on a life of its own once the walls started coming down. We started seeing all of the possibilities.”
“We left no stone unturned,” agreed Sutton. “The new look with fewer walls gets even more light into the interior, thanks to Lash McDaniel’s use of big windows and the new ones we added. The house really has good framework and great touches, like, for example, the entry, which does not reveal the entire floor plan at once.”
“It’s still a regional look, but more subtle. This design was all about the unexpected solution, the surprise.”
—TONY SUTTON, interior designer
Sutton and Mierau pointed out a few of the renovation’s special details, including the living room’s original wood beams updated with a patinated silver hue and the master bathroom’s vanities, clad in backlit quartzite, which adds a glamorous glow. The kitchen, Sutton noted, is compact but efficient, its scale heightened through the use of dramatically patterned granite countertops and backsplash.
When it came to furnishings, Sutton heeded the owners’ request for a contemporary, yet comfortable look with plenty of gathering places for entertaining. In the living room, two deep sofas anchor a conversation area in front of the leathered granite-clad fireplace, which is open on three sides. A game table nearby offers an alternative eating area to the more formal dining room, up a half flight of steps. The family room’s custom sectional is the centerpiece of another lounging and conversation area in front of a steel-clad fireplace. To one side of the fireplace, a high-top wood slab community table was positioned to take advantage of the nearby bar—tucked into what was once a hallway—and the floor-to-ceiling window views.
Sutton and Mierau also made the backyard more friendly for gatherings. The pool was expanded into an L shape, and patios were stretched out, creating more space for furnishings and a new fire pit. Patio overhangs were also raised to allow for bigger vistas from inside the house. Additional plantings gave both the front and back landscapes a lusher look.
After 16 months of dust, drilling and hammering, the owners were able to move in and enjoy the fruits of the renovation. While the original Pueblo Revival-revival elements are still apparent, the home now has a crisper appeal. “There are so many great features in the house,” says the husband. “We’ve been able to entertain a lot and have friends stay with us. Nobody wants to leave. It’s a happy house.”
Original architectural designer: Lash McDaniel, Lash McDaniel Studio, Phoenix, (480) 297-7116. Renovation interior designer: Tony Sutton, Est Est, Inc., Scottsdale, estestinc.com. Renovation builder: Joe Mierau, JCM Builders, Scottsdale, jcmbuild.com.
LIVING ROOM—Sofas: kelvingiormani.com. Lounge chairs: kravet.com. Coffee table: dakotajackson.com. Game table: arteriorshome.com. Game chairs: artisticframe.com. Light fixtures: Hinkley’s Lighting, Scottsdale, hinkleyslighting.com.
ENTRY—Mirror: Art Solutions & Installations, Scottsdale, azartsolutions.com. Console: andrewpearsonglass.com.
KITCHEN—Cabinetry: F1 Cabinets & Furniture, Phoenix, f1cabinets.us. Countertops: The Stone Collection, Phoenix, thestonecollection.com. Appliances: subzero-wolf.com. Barstools: artisticframe.com.
PATIOS—Furniture: palecek.com; kubeimport.com; urbiaimports.com. Plantings: Resortscapes, Inc., Carefree, (480) 250-7708.
DINING ROOM—Table: michaeltrentcoates.com. Chairs: artisticframe.com. Buffet: bocadolobo.com. Buffet top: Fine Line Fabricating, Phoenix, finelinefabricating.com. Light fixture: hinkleyslighting.com.
FAMILY ROOM—Sectional (custom): design by estestinc.com; fabricated by European Custom Upholstery, Phoenix, europeancustomupholsteryaz.com. Coffee table and high-top table: (custom): design by estestinc.com; fabricated by Ironwood Mills, Phoenix, ironwoodmills.com. Swivel chairs: Alexander Sinclair, Scottsdale, alexandersinclairshowroom.com.
MASTER BEDROOM—Bed and bench: planumfurniture.com. Console: palecek.com. Recliners: moroniusa.com. Nightstands: oldbiscaynedesigns.com. Light fixtures: Hinkley’s Lighting, Scottsdale, hinkleyslighting.com.