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A Pinterest-Perfect Evolution

A plan for rich browns and old-world touches gives way to crisp lines, open spaces and soft, subtle hues in a family-friendly abode.

By Katherine Adomaitis | Photography by Garrett Cook

When Jen and Brad Dunlap began thinking about building a custom home North Scottsdale, they initially thought they might go with a more traditional, Mediterranean-influenced style for the 5-acre site, which has clear views of the city below and Pinnacle Peak to the north. But after sketching out floor plans and saving online images of architectural and interior details, the design began to evolve.

“This is the house that Pinterest built,” says Jen with a laugh, recalling the creative process with a talented team that included builder Tom LaBlonde and interior designer Julie Hallmark. Before long, a turret-style entry and rounded forms disappeared in favor of angular lines, window openings grew larger, and rustic clay tiles were replaced by a crisp standing-seam metal roof. The initial plan of a darker, more enclosed ambiance transformed into an airy, contemporary setting for the couple and their two teenage children, as well as a teen nephew and three pooches.

The Dunlaps’ path to the 8,000-square-foot main house, complete with two 1,000-square-foot guest casitas, began several years ago when they wanted to move to a high-desert locale from their previous North Phoenix residence. “Brad loves the Desert Highlands area,” explains Jen of her husband. “He golfs there and enjoys the views. We were surprised that there was still land nearby and that we could purchase a lot.”

When it came time to realize their dream abode, LaBlonde and Hallmark were obvious choices. The builder had worked on Brad’s first house when he was single and built another for the Dunlaps after they were married. Hallmark had also collaborated on one of the couple’s previous residences.

“Even though the style evolved, we knew we wanted a house with an open floor plan, lots of windows, an indoor-outdoor connection and plenty of space for entertaining,” says Jen. “We always have friends and family over, and we host Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.”

Their new house checks all of the boxes. Visitors find their way to the auto court through a porte-cochere, which links the main residence to a one-bedroom casita and single-car garage. Six more garage spaces and a detached, two-bedroom guest retreat are tucked to one side of the main house.

Inside, a gracious entry leads to the open living room, kitchen and bar area, while a formal dining room and butler’s pantry are adjacent to the kitchen. A spacious master suite is located just beyond, while a theater and children’s wing—which includes a game room, study and their own laundry—anchor the opposite side of the home.

1. Pale hues envelop the daughter’s bedroom, where interior designer Julie Hallmark created a custom swing using a small daybed. For visual interest, she accented the upholstered bed and headboard with textured linens and faux fur pillows and throw. 2. An art-filled hallway with a groin-vaulted ceiling links the dining room to the entry and game room beyond. 3. A corner bar in the game room is a place to enjoy snacks and have a view of the home’s front landscape. 4. A small den in the children’s wing has a midcentury modern look, thanks to the simple lines of the furniture and the wall art, including a large leather and metal-frame ottoman, starburst mirror and tubular chandelier. 5. Deep tones and comfortable furnishings invite visitors to linger in the two-bedroom guest house, which has a full kitchen and a sitting area.

Hallmark created backdrops, custom details and furnishings that suited her clients. “Jen doesn’t like a lot of color,” she explains, “so we used a lot of beige, taupe, cream, white and black in the setting. She also likes a bit of glamour, so we incorporated that element of her personality here.”

“We wanted a house with an open floor plan, lots of windows, an indoor-outdoor connection and plenty of space for entertaining.”

—Jen Dunlap, homeowner

Framed by walnut beams, the living room and sitting area open onto a large patio that includes an outdoor bar and seating area.

The interior designer suggested pale limestone flooring for much of the public areas and warmed spaces such as the dining room and bedrooms with walnut underfoot. She imagined rich walnut cabinetry for the kitchen (as well as for throughout the house) as an organic counterpoint for the generously sized quartzite island and the adjacent, dramatic bar. Pale walls, subtly finished with a narrow reveal at the bottom in lieu of baseboard, keep the focus on the views, art, furniture and accessories.

Ceilings were an important architectural detail for Hallmark. She suggested bold walnut beams for the kitchen and living room to add weight to the soaring height, a coffered ceiling to bring a sense of intimacy to the dining room and a groin vault for a formal touch to two hallways leading from the entry. “When you have big rooms or high ceilings, people and furniture tend to look lost in the spaces if you don’t create some interest in the ceilings,” Hallmark explains. “It helps to bring everything down to a human scale.” She added further interest by designing numerous custom chandeliers and pendants, which add a touch of sparkle and glamour to each room.

Hallmark’s other details include installing a backlit, stonelike panel for the powder room, which adds an elegant glow to the small space; designing a soaring metal range hood for the kitchen and working with Jen to create the ultimate walk-in closet that stores not only clothes and shoes, but features three showcase areas where she can display her wedding dress, a designer bag collection and sentimental family heirlooms, including hats belonging to her great-great-grandmother.

1. A standing-seam metal roof and squared-off masses give the home’s front elevation a contemporary appeal. Desert cobblestone details link the home to its Sonoran site. 2. Leather armchairs and a circular cocktail table create an intimate conversation grouping between the living room and the bar. 3. A steel-framed front door and windows flood the entry with natural illumination and bounce light off the metallic details of the two custom consoles. The airy space separates the main living areas and master suite from a theater and children’s wing. 4. A quartzite-topped bar between the living room and kitchen was part of the homeowners’ request for areas in which to entertain. 5. A circular chandelier and a three-sided fireplace add a touch of glamour to the kitchen table.

When furnishing the interiors, the Dunlaps started with a clean slate. “Our previous house was very Tuscan,” says Jen. “Lots of brown leather when it came to furniture. It was beautiful but didn’t fit here. We brought very little to this house.” Hallmark put together pieces that were comfortable and able to withstand the wear-and-tear of family life, yet also stylish and sleekly contemporary. In the living room, she designed a pair of custom sofas, finished in a soft gray fabric, that invite deep relaxation while watching TV by the linear fireplace. Four leather chairs and a circular coffee table make up a small conversation grouping between the living room and kitchen—a grouping that Jen admits she thought was extraneous in the beginning but now finds that the family uses it on a daily basis.

Completed last year, the gracious abode is already well-lived-in and well-loved.

In the dining room, a custom walnut table, set on polished nickel legs, is encircled by eight dark blue velvet chairs. The room is embellished with a pair of beaded chandeliers and heavy draperies. “A formal dining room is like a little black dress,” says Hallmark. “You don’t always use it, but you have it when you need it.”

In the master bedroom, a curvy, contemporary spin on a sleigh bed; a tufted bench; and a crystal-and-gold chandelier create a more formal, glamorous look than is seen in the rest of the house. “I wanted even more glitz in the master suite,” Jen admits with a smile. “Julie had to reign me in. But the best part of this room is the view of city lights we have from the bed at night.”

To keep views of the outdoors just as beautiful during the day, the Dunlaps worked with landscape designer Tom Schroeder and landscape architect Greg Flanagan, who suggested a palette of plantings that includes mature ironwood trees, mesquites, yellow bells, ruellia, lantana, verbena, red yucca and several types of cacti. “They wanted a yard that was low maintenance and had some color,” says Schroeder, “but the plants also had to be frost-hardy and javelina-proof.”

The back of the house includes a deep patio, shaded by a cantilevered overhang, as well as a roof deck. “The deck is the best spot to view the storms roll in from the West Valley,” says LaBlonde. “It’s better than watching fireworks.” The shady overhang shelters an outdoor kitchen and dining area, a bar and seating groupings, and provides access to the negative-edge pool. Below the pool and patio, two more terraced levels have room, respectively, for an in-ground trampoline—used by their gymnast daughter—and a putting green for Brad. Synthetic turf keeps the water usage low.

1. The formal dining room is anchored at one end by a wine closet and has a luxurious ambiance, thanks to velvet-upholstered chairs, beaded chandeliers and elegant draperies. 2. Custom walnut cabinetry and a metal hood flank a backlit quartzite backsplash above the range. 3. Mercury glass pendants spotlight a raised end of the kitchen island, complete with a multisided waterfall quartzite countertop, where guests congregate during parties. 4. Marble flooring and an antique mirrored wall provide a backdrop for the master bedroom’s sleek soaking tub. A tall vanity mirror and a floor-to-ceiling wall mirror behind the tub reflect light and create a sense of openness. Dark cabinetry anchors the calm, monochromatic scheme. 5. An illuminated, agate-like wall by Italian artist Alex Turco is a dramatic touch in the powder room.

“This house took on a life of its own.”

—Julie Hallmark, interior designer

Completed last year, the gracious abode is already well-lived-in and well-loved. Family dinners happen almost every night at the kitchen island or adjacent round table. Gatherings and parties have been hosted. Out-of-town family members and golf buddies have spent weekends in the casitas. The teens populate the game room, theater and pool. The dogs trot everywhere, including their dog run off the spacious laundry room.

“This house took on a life of its own,” says Hallmark, referencing the home’s evolution from Mediterranean to contemporary. But the statement also holds true of its completed form—a dignified dwelling that is alive with the vision, passions and energy of a busy family.

For more information, see Sources.

1. Walnut flooring and a fireplace warm the master bedroom, which has clear views of the city through the corner windows. A tiered square chandelier brings a bit of sparkle to the serene space. 2. A deep overhang shelters part of the pool patio at the back of the house. Square planters and beds complement the architecture’s straight lines, while soft greenery adds an organic note. 3. Outdoor spaces were also designed for entertaining. A large bar, complete with plenty of seating, offers prime viewing for sports and movies on two TVs, while sofas and chairs are perfect for animated conversations over appetizers and cocktails. 4. The game room is decidedly modern but furnished in pieces meant to withstand family life that includes teens and dogs. A nine-panel wall hanging breaks up the large wall without overpowering the room, while a triptych of street art adds a pop of color. 5. Shuttered windows and plush bedding in a guest bedroom invite lazy mornings and sleeping late. Hallmark kept the room’s palette soft and neutral for a welcoming feel. 6. A patio off the two-bedroom guest house offers views of the desert and city lights.


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