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Artwork Abounds in a Contemporary Paradise Valley Abode

Homeowner Marianne Mallia’s vintage 1963 Corvette split-window coupe fits the picture of the contemporary home with strong nods to midcentury modernism. Saguaros, organ pipe, specimen cacti and seasonal flowering plants grace the yard. Mummy Mountain rises behind.

A midcentury-inspired masterpiece doubles as resort-style residence and art gallery.

By Ben Ikenson | Photography by Michael Woodall

Some places are built to showcase art. Others are artworks unto themselves. The home of Marianne Mallia and Jim Carmichael—a stunning, 6,100-square-foot contemporary, single-story structure set on a rugged pie-shaped acre lot in Paradise Valley—is both. 

“Our previous home was wonderful and in a desirable subdivision but didn’t provide enough room for our growing art collection,” Marianne says. “And Jim wanted more of a desert feel to the landscape, so we decided to take the plunge and find something with more wall space, land and sense of place.”

In doing so, they would be adding a masterful brushstroke to an extraordinary biographical canvas. 

In the 1960s, Jim and Marianne were high school sweethearts in Davenport, Iowa. After college, she pursued a career in science and medical writing in Houston. Jim stayed to help with his father’s electrical contracting business and build homes before moving to Phoenix in the late 1990s, working in construction and landscaping. Each had been married before they reconnected at a high school reunion in 2014. A long-distance romance ensued until Marianne relocated to Arizona the following year. Both were longtime avid art enthusiasts; together, they had a remarkable, expanding collection. 

“Honestly, we probably have every style of art and medium represented—pieces bought from galleries, auctions, even estate sales,” Marianne explains.

It was their collection that significantly informed the new home design.

“Basically, we wanted everything displayed in our house to be a piece of art, and a home with clean lines to complement the art—inside and out.”

The couple purchased the property in 2019, knowing the existing abode needed to be replaced. 

“The house placement was decent and offered a large masonry hearth just inside the entry, but remodels and additions had taken their toll, so all but the original slab was removed,” says architect Doug Bergbower, who produced design plans for the new structure. “I kept the centrally located hearth in the new plan and opened it to both living room and den for transparency.”

1. Separated from the kitchen by walls to showcase art, the dining room features “Signs of Life” by Brazilian artist Gabriela Giroletti, and “Benedictine,” a mixed-media collage. On the dining table is a sculpture titled “A Way to Go” by Shona artist Norbert Shamuyaria. 2. The library includes the painting “Romantic Interlude” by Montana artist Lane Timothy. The space offers a “wonderful place to read and reflect,” Marianne says. 3. Homeowner Jim Carmichael’s “two-kitchen” vision (front and back) makes for easy entertaining, with prep occurring in the back kitchen, where a turquoise-studded cow skull adds eclectic interest. 4. “I love white, and Jim loves a contrast, so our dual bathrooms are white and dark gray,” Marianne says. Here, counter-to-ceiling glass tiles and mirrors define the space, along with a painting by Phoenix artist Geoffrey Gersten.

One of the main architectural features is a honed-finish, 2-foot-thick concrete masonry block wall, which extends from outside the front of the home and “draws the eye through the full-height glazed entrance and back patio across the pool and to the mountains beyond,” Bergbower states.

For the architect, a major design challenge was striking a balance between an abundant use of glass and sufficient wall space for art. All rooms have at least one floor-to-ceiling window, yet the interior affords plenty of wall surface and a wide hallway that serves as a kind of “open-feel” gallery.

“The hallway wall doesn’t extend to the ceiling to maintain an open characteristic for lighting and art display,” Bergbower says.

The totality of the design delivered precisely what the clients wanted. With strong stylistic nods to midcentury modernism and a private-resort vibe, the home comprises a master suite with two separate master baths and a pair of en suite guest rooms; a chef-inspired kitchen and another “back kitchen,” especially practical for meal prepping while entertaining guests; a dining room, library and media room, and multipurpose space; and four-car garage. All but one room include outdoor patios with furnishings that complement the interior spaces and extend living spaces to the outdoors.

1. In the living area, the home’s central feature—the honed-finish concrete masonry block wall— provides the backdrop for simple, midcentury-style furnishings. The white block was selected to increase the prominence of the wall, while providing texture and interest to contrast with the smooth finishes of the walls and ceiling. Above the fireplace is “Brahms’ Sonata for Piano and Cello,” by artist Max Hammond. 2. Guests are greeted at the front entrance by a water feature with a sculptural piece made from an I-beam by artist Randy Berkley, titled “Working Man.” 3. Midcentury design is found throughout the home. Off the library is Marianne’s office, where midcentury chairs and a tulip table mingle with contemporary art: another Max Hammond piece, “Unintended,” and a nod to Marianne’s Texas background by Utah artist Gary Ernest Smith. 4. The kitchens were designed with built-in cabinetry that would not pull focus from the couple’s art. Shown are two brightly colored paintings by Sedona artist Claudia Hartley and a Shona sculpture by Peter Gwisa. Scottsdale potter Nicholas Bernard’s vessels add color indoors and out. 5. A view to the backyard pool from the kitchen and one of the owners’ favorite Shona pieces: “Generational Advice” by Agnes Nyanhongo; and a whimsical painting by New York artist Hunt Slonem called “Bear.” The minimalist light fixture ensures that art is the focal point of the room.

Impressive, functional details abound, largely because Jim, a veteran homebuilder, emerged from retirement to oversee construction. “I knew what we wanted, and the build was a labor of love,” he says.

Jim’s involvement also helped facilitate the interior design because he was “very in-tune with the details and retaining design intent throughout the construction,” says interior designer Debra Warner.  

Warner stepped in after the architectural design and stylistic direction had been established. “We determined the preferred approach to the interior would be one that incorporated select elements of midcentury design with contemporary, architectural features planned for the house,” she says. 

Among the challenges Warner faced: selecting appropriate light fixtures to fill the spaces in rooms with high ceilings. “We didn’t want to impede the window views or take away from the surrounding artwork on the walls,” she explains. “The use of fixtures by a Barcelona-based company were the perfect solution to provide visual interest without detracting from the art or the views outside.”

And, finally, regarding the exterior, Jim tapped into his past professional landscaping experience to complete the picture-perfect property. His crew salvaged and relocated many existing plants; added 24 trees, more than 400 new plants and 30 tons of boulders; and produced a flowering desert landscape with native plants, including saguaros and other rarer specimen cacti.

“We like to think of the exterior space as an extension of our home—and believe it is as gratifying to behold as the pieces in our art collection,” Jim concludes.

And indeed, altogether, the end result is, in itself, a masterpiece.

1. The exterior is angled to add architectural interest and avoid the western sun. 2. The house looks directly at Camelback Mountain to the south with doors that open fully during temperate Arizona weather. On the patio, a salvaged midcentury tea cart holds Marianne’s mini cactus collection, and whimsical art pieces and pottery accent white quartz bedrock that was culled from the property.

Architect: Doug Bergbower, Bergbower Designs, Peoria, (480) 225-6284. Interior designer: Debra Warner, Studio W Design, Scottsdale,
LIVING ROOM—Rug: Floor Styles, Scottsdale, Light fixture (“Wireflow” by Vibia): Lightform, Scottsdale, Painting above fireplace (“Brahms’ Sonata for Piano and Cello,” by Max Hammond): Bonner David Galleries, Scottsdale,
DINING ROOM—Light fixture (“Wireflow” by Vibia): Rug: Sculpture on table (“A Way to Go” by Norbert Shamuyaria):
OFFICE—Rug (by Dash & Albert): Design Surfaces, Scottsdale, Saarinen side table (by Knoll): Goodmans Interiors, Phoenix,
KITCHEN— Cabinetry: Affinity Kitchens, Scottsdale, Main kitchen countertops: Back kitchen countertops (Neolith in Iron Frost Satin): The Stone Collection, Phoenix, Backsplash in main and back kitchens (Bergamot Silk Glass by Sonoma Tilemakers): Craftsman Court Ceramics, Scottsdale, Light fixture: Appliances: Sink (by Franke) and faucets (by Graff): Studio 41, Scottsdale,
MASTER BATH—Cabinetry:


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