A Couple’s Chandler Home is an Ode to Their European Travels
Old-World aesthetics bring new life to a 1970s Chandler home.
By Ben Ikenson | Photography by Art Holeman
Jill and Steve Sciarappo are self-described Phoenix Home & Garden magazine addicts with “years of issues” on their shelves.
The stash came in handy a few years back when the couple renovated their Tuscan-style ranch home in Chandler. The acre-and-a-half lot was transformed from a ’70s-era, 2,400-square-foot dwelling into a 6,100-square-foot Italian country villa masterpiece.
“Believe it or not, the first thing we were going for was functionality,” Jill says. “With our oldest of three daughters going into her freshman year of high school, we knew we had several ‘teenage years’ ahead of us, so we wanted to create a beautiful, family-friendly house that the kids and their friends could use and be comfortable in.”
Originally from southeastern Arizona, Jill met New Jersey native Steve Sciarappo in 1997, when they were each on assignment for the same tech company in Toronto. The couple married in Canada before moving back to the United States in 1998 to the Phoenix area, where they rented an apartment while searching for a home to buy. Ideally, they wanted a place with at least an acre of property within five miles of their workplace. “We preferred to have the intense Arizona sun at our backs on the way to work and on the way home,” Jill says.
As Jill recalls, Steve really wanted a brand-new tract home. The couple was prepared to sign a contract when Jill happened to be walking their dog one April evening in 1999 and passed a for-sale sign in her favorite neighborhood. “We bought it the next day,” she says. “The home was the oldest, smallest, cheapest house in the neighborhood. It was untouched since 1974—a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home with white carpets, mirrored wallpaper, weird low arches and only one working burner on the avocado-
Over the years, the couple grew their family—and ran out of room. Their remodel journey started in 2005 with a focus on adding much-needed space and changing the front elevation. Inspired by their magazine collection and resource guide, they approached architect Mark Candelaria to turn their vision into reality. “When we met Mark, we just knew,” she says. “He drew a rendering of what the front of our house should look like and my heart swelled because it was so beautiful.”
But it wasn’t until 2015 that the real transformation began. The Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest-winning architect certainly had his work cut out for him during the 14-month-long renovation.
“We design things very mathematically so that all of the various components are centered and aligned perfectly,” Candelaria says. “The existing structure wasn’t really done that way at all, so the biggest challenge was creating a sense of order to the spaces within the home.”
But the final result speaks for itself: The dwelling is now an extravaganza of both dramatic and pragmatic spaces with plenty of classic Old-World stylistic elements: archways, crown molding, trusswork, marble and hardwood flooring, and countless other details.
“I’m naturally drawn to creating shapes and forms and design elements that were lodged into my subconscious during my travels,” the architect says.
The kitchen, with its cathedral-inspired, brick-lined, groin-vault ceiling is a special point of pride for both architect and his clients. “It was a kind of humdrum box of a room,” Candelaria says. “We transformed it into a temple.”
“I’m naturally drawn to creating shapes and forms and design elements that were lodged into my subconscious during my travels.”
—Mark Candelaria, architect
And a practical temple at that—the space features two dishwashers and a marble island that seats more than four. This was important to Jill, who remembers having to stand after making dinner as everyone else sat and ate. Now, the kitchen pulls double duty: “It can look so beautiful one night, and the next, it’s a workhorse, hosting an 18th birthday cake cookoff. It’s the most functional kitchen ever, and we wouldn’t change a thing about it.”
Additionally, the couple knew the stairway should be dramatic and elegant—particularly for prom pictures, Jill quips. While vacationing in the Old City of Jerusalem, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she noticed the staircases built to access the various shrines. “I took a picture of the beautiful iron work, and that’s what was used to design our staircase.”
As for the pitch-perfect indoor space, interior designer and fellow Master of the Southwest Isabel Dellinger Candelaria became involved during construction.
“Our design aesthetic is mixing old and new, which translates into timelessness,” Dellinger Candelaria explains. “Capturing Jill and Steve’s look was easy, and they made it fun.”
The designer took their inspirations and applied them to the spaces by keeping the palette fresh and livable; not too dark; and classic. In the powder room, for example, she revamped one of the couple’s old dressers into the vanity base. She also incorporated Jill’s collection of traditional art throughout to provide detailed interest and color.
“We really didn’t want anything trendy,” adds Jill, who was closely involved, even while traveling. “I’d send photos from my trips and say, ‘Can we do this?’” For example, the floors in the pantry and the east side balcony were inspired by things she saw in Europe that are more than a century old and still look timeless.
Yet another significant facet to the home’s metamorphosis is the landscaping. Overseeing these efforts, landscape designer Jeff Berghoff evaluated the existing vegetation, keeping specific mature trees while adding new ones. He also introduced a planting palette of sour orange hedge for privacy around the back wall, iceberg roses, lavender and dwarf ollie.
“We looked at ways to create transitions throughout the spaces that were seamless,” Berghoff says. “We were able to incorporate the existing pool into the flow of the new landscape, building off the existing hardscape to create different areas for entertaining. The biggest thing we did was change the circulation to make it easier for the family to make use of the different spaces.”
“Each year, our yard gets better,” Jill says. “The roses continue to fill in, the vines are growing and the sour orange trees along the wall are standing tall.”
Nearly four full years since the renovation, the Sciarappos have no regrets. In fact, when the pandemic hit and the couple were required to work remotely, Jill remembers walking from the hall into the great room, feeling so grateful to get to work from her newly refreshed space.
Evidently, hoarding all those Phoenix Home & Garden magazines paid off. Now, the Sciarappos have an issue featuring their own dream home to add to the collection on the shelf.
Architect: Mark Candelaria, Candelaria Design Associates. Interior designer: Isabel Dellinger Candelaria, Earth and Images. Landscape designer Jeff Berghoff, Berghoff Design Group