A Small Corner of Paradise
A modern ranch dwelling with a unique subterranean living space blends into its charming suburban setting.
By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Joshua Caldwell and Garrett Cook
Rick Andreen and his wife, Shellie, have enjoyed living in the highly desirable neighborhood of Arcadia since 1997. While they loved their large home, they were looking to downsize. They found themselves drawn to what appeared to be an abandoned Mediterranean-style abode that they would drive by every day. “It was a blight on the street. The outside was painted pink, and it was in bad shape with colonies of Africanized bees residing in its walls,” Rick recalls. But the home was on a corner lot with access to bike lanes and pedestrian pathways and within walking distance to Old Town Scottsdale. “One day, we saw a construction fence pop up, so we decided to ask the owners if they’d be willing to sell, and they said, ‘Yes.’”
As the owner of a real estate investment, design and development firm and former president of a large homebuilding company, Rick is no stranger to the construction process and served as the project’s architectural designer and general contractor. “Shellie and I didn’t want our place to be trendy but instead feel modern and updated,” he says. “The goal was to have the exterior fit within the ranch-house style of historic Arcadia by using traditional materials, such as stucco, brick, concrete and cobblestone, which weather well in Arizona’s hot, dry climate.” The Andreens also wanted their new house to display architectural features suitable to the locale, including a hip roof, low-slung gables and front and rear covered porches and patios.
Also important for Rick and Shellie was making sure that all areas of the 4,600-square-foot, single-story five-bedroom home were utilized and functional. “Our house supports a family of two adults and four children, and we have the flexibility to turn off a large zone of the home when our three adult kids are not here,” notes Rick. To get the space they needed and keep cooling costs down, the couple installed a basement 12 feet below ground that encompasses a guest room with an en suite bathroom, an entertaining space and a powder room. “By building down into the earth instead of up, we were able to take advantage of a naturally cooler environment.” The 1,100-square-foot-basement is accessed via a grand staircase illuminated by a skylight, and large window wells provide additional natural light.
The main level is bright and cheery with white walls, vaulted ceilings and large banks of windows. To bring their personality into the house and create a serene, timeless and comfortable atmosphere, Rick and Shellie collaborated with interior designer Alisha Taylor. “We worked with Alisha on two previous projects and found her style to be unique and trendsetting but with a classic edge that made the investment in our furnishings worth the extra expense of high-end custom products,” says Shellie.
Taylor notes, “The main living area—the kitchen and adjacent family room—is designed to have the feeling that it is bigger than it really is. We worked with finishes, proper beam layout and just the right light fixtures to truly capture the architectural appeal of the vaulted ceiling that runs continuously through the space and so beautifully balances the cozy, comfortable vibe below.”
The home’s blue, black, white and gray color scheme is partnered with natural warm woods in the flooring and furniture. “In order to blend Rick’s requests for modern touches and Shellie’s desire for a relaxing yet classic interior, we incorporated a careful balance of materials and textures. Sleek metal details are used on the stove hood and fireplace mantel, and soft textures and layers were infused in the new furnishings,” Taylor explains. “Getting the scale and dimension for each piece was key to making sure every room felt properly outfitted and proportional.”
Just as much attention was paid to the gardens and exterior living spaces. Throughout the grounds, sour orange trees, vines, ornamental grasses, roses and annuals that are allowed to flourish without a lot of manicuring present a “wild cottage” feel, notes landscape architect Russell Greey, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner. “Rick designed the house to sit up a bit on the lot with old-school-style steps that lead to the elevated front porch. Because the residence is located on a busier street, we were able to create privacy near the road with a retaining wall, wooden fence and levels of plantings to screen the road. The fence doesn’t hide the landscape but instead acts as a safety barrier and creates another layer to the garden.” A tall fireplace brings an additional element to the front yard and serves as a backdrop for a secluded sitting area.
Collaborating with Rick, who wanted a swimming pool that wouldn’t take up too much of the yard, Greey came up with the idea for a petite pool that’s perfect for a quick dip on a hot summer day but that also does double duty as an oversized water feature, complete with a water wall on one side. “The backyard is fairly small, and corner lots can lead to constraints in design, so we tried to be as efficient with space as possible,” the landscape architect explains. “By positioning the pool on one side of the yard, we avoided dividing the expanse into two. This leaves more room for a grassy activity area and makes the yard live larger than it really is.”
With its clean architectural style downplayed to fit into the neighborhood without standing out, the Andreens’ home offers a calming presence both inside and out. Taylor concludes, “With tailored, contemporary touches rooted in clean classic design, this house depicts Rick and Shellie’s lifestyle, their personalities and how beautifully a home can be when blending the styles of the two people who live here.”
Architectural designer and general contractor: Rick Andreen, Andreen Group. Interior Designer: Alisha Taylor, Alisha Taylor Interiors. Landscape Architect: Russell Greey, Greey|Pickett.
For more information, see Sources.