back to top
Homepage / Interior Design  / Inside a Luxurious Industrial-Chic Brownstone in Downtown Phoenix

Inside a Luxurious Industrial-Chic Brownstone in Downtown Phoenix

The Chateau on Central consists of 22 residences, and its brownstone facade, complete with steeples and turrets, belies the industrial style of the residence inside.
One of the reasons Brian and Stephanie Stillman wanted the kitchen on the top floor was to enjoy views of the cityscape off the patio. A gas grill set on concrete cantilevered shelving and outdoor furnishings make dining outdoors a breeze.

A couple with young children trade in their sprawling Scottsdale residence for a contemporary five-story brownstone in downtown Phoenix.

By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Austin Baker

Going vertical is not for everyone, but for Brian and Stephanie Stillman and their two daughters, it was the right decision. They were living in a Tuscan-style house north of the city with a pool and a half-acre yard. Then, due to circumstances in their lives, they needed to be closer to downtown. The couple wasn’t looking to buy a loft, but when they couldn’t find a lot to build on, they decided to shift gears. That’s when they came upon an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

“When my husband first showed me our five-story loft at Chateau on Central, it was completely gutted and in its most raw state. It was just a shell of brick, concrete and steel,” Stephanie recalls. “I thought he was crazy, especially with two young kids. But we were both drawn to the natural materials and came to realize that we could do whatever we wanted with the place.” And what they wanted was something completely different from anything they ever had—minimalistic with a heavy industrial vibe. “I sought something that was unlike anything else, different than the repetitive new builds that we are seeing developed around the Valley,”
Brian says. 

Located within walking distance of the Heard Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum and right off Central Avenue, the gated community with the brownstone-style facade opened the Stillmans up to an urban lifestyle they hadn’t experienced before. “The dining, art and cultural events are a big draw, as are the local farmers market and nearby park to walk our dog. We’re also much closer to the airport,” Brian points out.

Working closely with architect Steven E. Frome, builder Eric Capranica and interior designer Hank Arens, the couple had a strong sense of what they were looking for. “Brian and Stephanie wanted to keep as much of the existing building materials exposed within the spaces and preserve the open- concept and high ceilings,” notes Frome. While they wanted it to be family-friendly, they also desired an edgy look where every space felt unique. “Brian and Stephanie had a Pinterest board with lots of photos, and they did plenty of research online,” Arens remembers. Stephanie also drew inspiration from an aunt’s New York City apartment with its loftlike feel.

1. “We originally planned on hiring an artist to create the graffiti wall, then Hank Arens, our interior designer, found this great wallpaper that looks amazingly real,” Brian Stillman recalls. Multilevel custom pendants hang over the stairwell. 2. “The main open stair levels, railings, landings and stair vault set off the home and enhance the industrial feel,” says builder Eric Capranica. With its rounded steel handrails and concrete steps, the stairs are reminiscent of those found in a 1920s office building. 3. A view from the fifth-floor kitchen to the stairway landing showcases graffiti wallpaper and a pair of ceramic pots. 4. Mixing old with new, Arens chose a reproduction metal-and-glass cabinet filled with silver serving ware, as its main furnishings while preserving the original brick walls. 5. A big fan of Harry Potter, Zoey Stillman got her dream bedroom with a four-poster bed, Harry Potter bedding, a crystal chandelier and sheer overhead netting to give the illusion of a curtain. 6. Each of the two girls has her own bathroom identical to the other. “The idea was to create a clean, fresh space with whimsical floor tiles,” Arens points out.

The layout of the long, narrow 5,300 square-foot loft goes like this: A guest room, full bath and patio are all below grade. The next floor is the garage, main entry, a courtyard, Brian’s office and a half-bath. The middle floor has the master suite with an open-concept bathroom, a laundry and a large covered patio. On the fourth floor are the children’s bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, and a playroom and crafts area. The top floor contains the kitchen, great room, dining room, powder room and a spacious outdoor deck.

1-2. To soften the master bedroom, the interior designer created a statement bed surround using peony-print wallpaper that climbs the wall and covers a concrete framed-out ceiling. A leather platform bed, traditional armchairs and a soft-patterned rug combine into a feminine space that even Brian appreciates. 3. A sleek soaking tub is illuminated by a circular metal-and-crystal globe light in the master bathroom, creating a stand-alone ambiance. 4. A cantilevered concrete shelf serves as the base for a floating vanity in the master bath, where pendants mimic the look of Edison bulbs. For additional light, the room opens to a Juliet balcony. Glass vases add to the modern feel. 5. A floor-to-ceiling glass doorway serves as the entry to the master bedroom.

Many of the walls are the original red brick, although some were lightened with whitewash. Ceilings range from 12 feet to 22 feet high and all of the levels are connected by an open metal staircase and an elevator. There are very few doors and almost no hallways. Developed to code using commercial-grade materials, including brick, steel and concrete—Brian says the loft is built like a fort—noise from traffic or the next-door neighbors can’t be heard. And while there is no yard, there are two Juliet balconies, two patios and plenty of windows to make the indoor/outdoor connection.

Although Stephanie loved the factorylike ambiance, as the renovation progressed she was worried that the interiors would feel cold. To offset the sterile setting, Arens and his senior designer, Laura Finsterwald, chose a mostly neutral palette for the walls and floors to allow the furnishings, art and fabrics to stand out. One of the more feminine transformations took place in the master bedroom. “We created a dramatic wall and ceiling feature that wraps behind and over the bed and is accented with a bold peony-print wallpaper with a deep-blue background,” Arens says. Paired with a modern bed and traditional armchairs, it is as unexpected as the mix of styles.

While it seems like every room in the house is a standout, the top floor is a perfect example of what this home is all about. Featuring a full chef’s kitchen adjacent to the great room, dining area and patio, its ceiling was left completely exposed to showcase the conduit, piping and electrical. Industrial-style cabinetry and modern furnishings share space with family heirlooms and a vintage-looking sofa. And for something unexpected, a black-and-white vintage-style powder room. “We wanted to blend the old with the new to give the home a collected look,” Arens explains.

When Stephanie asked her daughters how they liked living in their new digs, 9-year-old Zoey said she loves having her own floor but misses the big backyard from the old house. Six-year-old Pyper adores riding in the elevator. “We were surprised at how well we’ve adapted,” Brian remarks. “Going minimalistic meant getting creative with storage and we did a lot of purging,” Stephanie adds. “I still can’t believe how much we don’t miss those things.”

1. Suspended over a cantilevered quartz counter in this masculine powder room, a circular metal piece conceived by Arens mimics a mirror frame. An African mask on a stand and a piece of contemporary art reflect Brian’s design aesthetic. 2. “We wanted a wood wall somewhere in the house, and I didn’t want traditional built-ins for my office, so Hank used wood-like vinyl planks for the back wall and designed a closet for supplies,” Brian remarks. The room features an industrial version of a crank-style draftsman table, vintage metal and copper pendants from a commercial warehouse and a globe bar from Florence, Italy, passed down from his parents. The painting, titled “Hand Off,” is by Herb Schultz. To the left are framed vintage currencies Brian collected from around the world. 3. Just off the kitchen, the great room opens to the main patio. 4. With its exposed conduit ceiling and red and white-washed brick, the kitchen is designed with everything a cook needs. Rolling metal doors to the right open to the pantry while dishware is displayed on open shelving hung with copper piping that flanks a steel and copper range hood. Repurposed wine bottles with copper banding serve as pendants. “The leather bar stools look like baseball mitts and complement the concrete island,” notes Arens. 5. Cactus art designs by the interior designer adhere to a band of gray magnetic paint on the wall of the girls’ playroom/crafts space, for  which they helped pick out the colors.

Architect: Steven E. Frome, SefDesign LLC. Builders: Eric Capranica and Lori Capranica, Solera General Contracting Inc. Interior designer: Hank Arens, Hank Arens Designs.

For more information, see Sources.


Sign up for the Phoenix Home & Garden Newsletter

Stay up to date with everything Phoenix Home & Garden!

Our newsletter subscribers will have early access to things like:

  • Upcoming Events & Pre-Sales
  • Special Promotions
  • Exclusive Giveaways!