Breaking New Ground
A Valley couple step outside of their comfort zone and find style and purpose in modern architecture.
By Katherine Adomaitis | Photography by Garrett Cook
Like many homeowners, Robert Meyers and his wife, Lisa, had grown comfortably accustomed to the look and feel of their house. So it was only natural that when they decided to build a new home, they thought that they wanted to create another variation on the Tuscan style they knew and loved. They purchased a lot on the back side of the McDowell Mountains with panoramic views of Fountain Hills and Four Peaks and hired architect Jon Bernhard and interior designer Tony Sutton to shape the project.
But Bernhard is best known for his soaring, contemporary residential designs, and Sutton, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner who is facile in a number of styles, had long since moved on from the heavy carved woods and rustic surfaces that characterize the look that reigned supreme in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Nonetheless, Bernhard gamely came up with an old-world motif for the new residence. In a moment of clarity, though, the couple concluded that their Tuscan time was over. “It was like the same old, same old. We realized we were just trying to rebuild our old house,” recalls Lisa. Adds Robert, “We asked Jon what he would do instead for that site, and he showed us a hand-drawn rendering of a modern structure that wowed both of us. He totally got it right.”
The couple requested a few changes to what would ultimately become a four-bedroom 8,200-square-foot showstopper that includes features for every member of the family. “Robert and Lisa wanted a lap pool for their daughters, who are both swimmers, and the pool needed to be visible from the main rooms of the house so the parents could watch the girls as they swam,” Bernhard explains. “The house also had to have a large garage for Robert’s car collection, RV storage and plenty of indoor-outdoor space for entertaining the Meyers’ extensive group of family and friends.”
In order to fit all of the programming onto the relatively small, sloped site, Bernhard placed the negative-edge 75-foot-long lap pool perpendicular to the back of the house, with the water’s edge coming right up to the great room’s threshold, and reaching out over the desert in a flat, reflective plane. This allowed him to tuck the garage, RV parking and an office into a lower level. On the main floor, the kitchen, dining and living areas of the great room are flanked by two wings, one of which comprises the master suite; the other houses secondary bedrooms.
Stepped-back stone-clad masses define the house as it rises out of its desert setting. Metal-clad roof overhangs—which Bernhard dubbed “eyebrows”—appear to float, sheltering from the sun large expanses of glass walls that are strategically placed to capture views while still protecting privacy.
A metal pergola shades the home’s entry, which includes a water feature. In back, the house opens to a patio that wraps around the pool and includes outdoor dining and living areas.
Sutton’s design team chose stylish, durable finishes for the interiors, such as streamlined espresso-hued custom cabinetry for the kitchen and porcelain tile flooring throughout. Simple, modern furnishings; contemporary light fixtures; and sleek accessories add polish to the interior. “This house is really all about the architecture,” explains Sutton. “You don’t have to make up for anything with excessive ornamentation or accoutrements. We used a lot of organic elements and materials, though, to keep the indoor spaces warm and welcoming.”
“This house is really all about the architecture. You don’t have to make up for anything with excessive ornamentation or accoutrements.”
—Tony Sutton, interior designer
A series of floating walnut ceiling panels in the kitchen, living area and dining room, designed by Bernhard, not only add unexpected interest above but also contain recessed high hats and reflective lighting. In the dining room, Sutton added a slate accent wall, which provides a textural juxtaposition to the glass-fronted wine closet. Custom millwork in the living room elegantly frames both the TV and a linear fireplace, solving the eternal dilemma of which focal point to look at.
Since their home’s completion, Lisa and Robert have made full use of its many special touches and spaces, hosting numerous parties and dinners. When Robert needs a distraction from work, he walks over to a golf simulator that takes up one end of his office. In the morning, a coffee bar awaits both of them in their bedroom and, at night, they watch TV on a drop-down screen in the master suite’s sitting area. And for those summer days when it’s simply too hot to get out of the pool, a swim-up bar and a TV that rises out of the pool deck make life easy.
With their days of Tuscan decor in the rearview mirror, the Meyers have realized that modern design really does suit them well.
Architect: Jon Bernhard, Swaback Architects + Planners. Builder: Robert Meyers, Integra Homes at the Rim. Interior Designer: Tony Sutton, Est Est Inc.
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