Artwork Abounds in a Contemporary Paradise Valley Abode
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.”
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.
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.
Architect: Doug Bergbower, Bergbower Designs, Peoria, (480) 225-6284. Interior designer: Debra Warner, Studio W Design, Scottsdale, studiow-design.com.
LIVING ROOM—Rug: Floor Styles, Scottsdale, floorstyles.com. Light fixture (“Wireflow” by Vibia): Lightform, Scottsdale, lightformlighting.com. Painting above fireplace (“Brahms’ Sonata for Piano and Cello,” by Max Hammond): Bonner David Galleries, Scottsdale, bonnerdavid.com.
DINING ROOM—Light fixture (“Wireflow” by Vibia): lightformlighting.com. Rug: floorstyles.com. Sculpture on table (“A Way to Go” by Norbert Shamuyaria): bonnerdavid.com.
OFFICE—Rug (by Dash & Albert): Design Surfaces, Scottsdale, designsurfacesllc.com. Saarinen side table (by Knoll): Goodmans Interiors, Phoenix, goodmans.com.
KITCHEN— Cabinetry: Affinity Kitchens, Scottsdale, affinitykitchens.com. Main kitchen countertops: silestoneusa.com. Back kitchen countertops (Neolith in Iron Frost Satin): The Stone Collection, Phoenix, thestonecollection.com. Backsplash in main and back kitchens (Bergamot Silk Glass by Sonoma Tilemakers): Craftsman Court Ceramics, Scottsdale, craftsmancourt.com. Light fixture: lightformlighting.com. Appliances: mieleusa.com. Sink (by Franke) and faucets (by Graff): Studio 41, Scottsdale, shopstudio41.com.
MASTER BATH—Cabinetry: affinitykitchens.com.