A Midcentury Townhome Goes from Drab to Fresh and Airy
A Phoenix couple makes the leap from family home to easy townhouse living without giving up style.
By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Scott Sandler
When Beth and Pat Moroney contemplated downsizing from their gracious Arcadia home, they faced the burning questions others in the same situation have dealt with: Where would they go? Would they like it as much as the house where they raised a family? Could it be stylish? And, most important, what would the children think?
But the Moroneys—she’s an interior designer, he’s a retired builder—jumped through the downsizing hoops with elan. The result of their search and renovation efforts is a fresh, airy townhouse re-imagined within the classic ’60s-era Villa d’Este community in downtown Scottsdale.
“Our kids said, ‘What are you doing?’ when we told them we wanted to move into a townhouse,” recalls Beth of their smaller-is-better journey. “They thought that we should never leave our previous home, which we designed and built, and is where they grew up.” Adds Pat, “After our kids left, the dog was the only one who used the pool. Beth and I basically lived in the kitchen, the TV room and the master bedroom. It seemed ridiculous to hang onto all that space.”
Not wanting to spend their golden years rattling around a big house, the couple began their search—with parameters. They didn’t want to stray too far from their Arcadia roots and looked for something that had the same green, leafy vibe. The new place had to be cozy, easy to maintain, yet large enough to host gatherings of family and friends.
While they crisscrossed their old neighborhood and the surrounding area with a fine-toothed MLS listing, they stumbled across Villa d’Este, a hidden gem of a community within walking distance to Scottsdale’s shops and restaurants, created in 1966 by developer Del Trailor—also known for his Golden Keys homes. It was designed by Haver, Nunn and Jensen—a firm helmed by noted architect Ralph Haver. The 30 townhomes were done in an Italianate style, marked by wrought-iron details, arched openings and dentil-patterned coping. The homes rarely came on the market.
“There was one for sale,” Pat explains, “and the previous owner had bought it, stripped the interior down to the studs and then decided not to finish the renovation.” He and Beth fell in love with the mature development and the potential that the 2,600-square-foot, three-bedroom townhome yielded.
With Beth in charge of the interior design, the two decided to hire a contractor to bring the project to drywall stage. “It’s hard to find those front-end trades, now that I’m no longer active in the business,” Pat explains. But their mission remained on point—to lighten and brighten the interior.
“Even with everything already ripped out, the interior was dark,” Beth explains. “The staircase to the second-floor guest bedroom was enclosed, and the living room had small arched windows and a set of French doors to the back patio. The galley-style kitchen was walled off from the living room.”
The Moroneys embarked on a 10-month-long construction project that involved raising the roof in parts of the house, enclosing an outdoor walkway to create a new entry, opening the kitchen to what became the great room, and adding new windows and glass walls. The couple also reconfigured the master bedroom to expand closet space and removed a not-so-great master bedroom addition, which had likely been used as a sitting area. The enclosure around the staircase was torn away, and a new floating stairway made with I-beams and oak slabs was installed, overlooking the two-story volume of the great room.
After putting in French oak flooring and whitewashing the walls, Beth opted for the drama of midnight blue cabinetry in the open kitchen, sparked with brass lighting and plumbing fixtures and pale marble countertops. “With all the white walls and the daylight from the new windows, white cabinetry would have been too bland for the space,” she explains. “We needed some contrast.”
Beth was able to bring in furnishings from their previous residence, mixing in a few new pieces and some vintage finds to keep the visuals interesting. In the living area, white slipcovered seating is grounded by a wood coffee table and a midcentury modern-style credenza. An antique farm table from the Moroneys’ old house is still the gathering spot for big family dinners, while morning coffee is enjoyed in the breakfast area on a vintage settee parked by a classic Saarinen table. Tucked under the new staircase is a reading niche—installed in a void where the original wet bar once stood— which is populated by an Eames chair and ottoman and adjacent to bookshelves.
The couple also updated the townhome’s outdoor spaces, adding limestone paving and a low garden wall to the front yard, to create a small patio off a downstairs bedroom, now used as the home office. In the back, they ripped off a patio overhang, adding an outdoor fireplace, barbecue and more limestone paving. Sour orange and ficus hedges provide privacy, while white iceberg roses bring a touch of Arcadia-style landscaping to the new digs.
Now that the project has been completed, Beth and Pat have been enjoying the many benefits of the smaller-is-better lifestyle. Even their yellow Lab has adjusted to the new surroundings, trading her once-daily dips in the pool for extra walks around the neighborhood. “We’re loving this lock-and-leave lifestyle,” Beth says, “and our kids love the new place. We had a wedding rehearsal dinner here for about 50 people—indoors and out—and it all worked perfectly.”
Interior designer: Beth Moroney, M4 Design.
Interior designer: Beth Moroney, M4 Design, Scottsdale, m4-design.com. Builder: CCM Contracting, Phoenix, (602) 367-7700.
Love seat and chairs: On the Veranda, Phoenix, ontheveranda.net.
Doors and windows: Sierra Pacific, sierrapacificwindows.com. Staircase (custom): fabricated by Ironic Metalworks, Tempe, ironicmetalworks.com. Sofa and chairs: ciscohome.net. Eames chair and ottoman: Modern Manor, Phoenix, modernmanorphx.com. Coffee table: rh.com. Credenza and dining chairs: dwr.com. Upholstered bench: Brady Gray, Scottsdale, bradygrayhome.com.
Cabinetry: ADART Design, Surprise, (623) 229-3671. Countertops: Stone Collection, Phoenix, thestonecollection.com; Cactus Stone and Tile, Phoenix, cactustile.com. Backsplash: Tina Alexander Tile and Design, Scottsdale, (480) 991-0595. Barstools: dwr.com. Island pendants and kitchen wall lights: waterworks.com.
Saarinen dining table: dwr.com. Chairs: Modern Manor, Phoenix, modernmanorphx.com. Vintage settee: Phoenix Lamp and Antiques, Phoenix, phxlamps.com. Pendant: rwguild.com.
Bed: ciscohome.net. Nightstands: westelm.com. Dresser: Phoenix Lamp and Antiques, Phoenix, phxlamps.com. Sconces and ceiling fan: Circa Lighting, Scottsdale, circalighting.com.