Inside a Luxurious Industrial-Chic Brownstone in Downtown Phoenix
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,”
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.
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.
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.”
Architect: Steven E. Frome, SefDesign LLC. Builders: Eric Capranica and Lori Capranica, Solera General Contracting Inc. Interior designer: Hank Arens, Hank Arens Designs.
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