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California Classic

Old-world Spanish motifs mixed with Mediterranean influences transform a dated Scottsdale ranch house into a Santa Barbara-style beauty.

By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Chris Loomis

It’s hard to associate the low-slung 1970s ranch house that used to sit on this Scottsdale horse property with the completely renovated two-story charmer that stands in its place. But for homeowners Michael Brown and Angela Carmitchel, the reimagined residence is the perfect combination of old and new that melds their love for traditional Santa Barbara-style architecture with a casual, family-focused lifestyle.

The couple has strong ties to the coastal California town and go back whenever possible. “Mike and I lived there at the beginning of our relationship,” says Angela, who attended the University of California Santa Barbara. While finishing college, she managed a stable at San Ysidro Ranch, a boutique luxury hotel in Montecito. Mike went into the home-building business, remodeling Santa Barbara’s quintessential red-tile roofed residences. But while the seaside town was in their blood, the couple made the ultimate decision to move to Arizona 24 years ago.

“There was much more opportunity here, and it was much less expensive,” Mike recalls. Still, they never lost their love for the Spanish revival design that is so prevalent in Southern California. A few years ago, after residing in what they called a “raise your family” type of home in North Scottsdale, they were ready to build their empty-nester dream house. “We wanted to create a charming hacienda atmosphere similar to the cottages at San Ysidro Ranch,” says Angela. “Our main goal was to connect elements of our family heritage with our experience of living in Santa Barbara.”

“The basic color scheme of the home is quite neutral,” says interior designer Janet Kauffman. In this quaint hallway—and throughout the house—white walls, wood flooring, black iron light fixtures and splashes of color from textiles tie the design together. A Moroccan-style inlaid Savonarola chair brings simple elegance to far end of the hall.

What they ended up purchasing was nothing like what they envisioned in their dreams. The small ranch-style home featured low ceilings, brown shag carpet, beehive wallpaper and yellow patterned linoleum. Located on a quiet cul-de-sac, it was one of the first homes built in the neighborhood. “We were drawn to the property’s location, mature vegetation and proximity to restaurants, schools and other essential services,” notes Mike. The couple spent a year transforming the house into the perfect Santa Barbara-inspired oasis.

Michael served as the contractor, building the energy-efficient smart home to his specs based on a plan by architectural designer Julia Jones. Having worked with interior designer Janet Kauffman for many years, he knew she would be the ideal fit for the project. “We built a team of close friends and colleagues to help us materialize our vision,” he says.

“I like mixing patterns and textures so a home feels collected rather than overly planned.”

—Janet Kauffman, Interior Designer

1-2. Prior to its renovation, this home was an uninviting low-slung 1970s ranch that lacked character and curb appeal. 3. A built-in reading nook accented with hand-carved corbels was designed with drawer storage below and topped with a custom cushion and antique kilim pillows. Kauffman added the Moroccan star, a motif often found in Spanish homes, and had it electrified. The painted table adds an unexpected touch.

Key elements of the new four-bedroom residence include a red-tile roof, crisp white walls that mimic plaster, rich wood floors, wood beams and trusses, black ornamental ironwork and decorative hand-painted tiles. Kauffman, who describes Santa Barbara style as a collected look, brought in eclectic pieces to give the home character. A painted ceiling panel, for instance, was repurposed as a sliding door for the laundry room, while carved wood corbels can be found accenting a cozy reading nook.

On the ground floor, light and dark woods help balance the high ceilings. “Dark brown ceiling beams and hickory wood floors help tie the lighter elements of the house together,” explains Kauffman. “Wood has such a warm, rich feel, and it really expands the home visually.” The designer switched to tile in the bathrooms and laundry, using the same color-blended concrete tile for the floors but changing the patterns in each.

Tall windows characterize many of the rooms and let in lots of natural light to highlight the home’s distinctive architecture and newly purchased furnishings. “I chose classic, timeless pieces and added pops of color with textiles and rugs,” Kauffman says. “I like mixing patterns and textures so a home feels collected rather than overly planned.”

1. The resort-style backyard was designed with a classic-shaped rectangular pool softened by two bookend arches at the entry steps and spa area (not pictured). Saltillo tile provides rich color and is fabricated to create a cooling effect by being placed upside down. “There are no sealants needed, and the surface requires minimal maintenance,” says homeowner Michael Brown. 2. Kauffman brought in a large scale handcarved wood bed from India to anchor the space and create an ethereal atmosphere. The two antique Spanish paintings flanking the sleeping area and a xhand-tooled Spanish-style chair add to the room’s charm. 3. The master bath features custom-made Spanish tile behind the tub, which was the starting point for the room’s design. A carved wood panel above the windows, French paver-style flooring and iron accents are all elements common in Spanish colonial design. 

“We wanted to create a charming hacienda atmosphere similar to the cottages at San Ysidro Ranch.”

—Angela Carmitchel, Homeowner

Oftentimes, Kauffman tailored a room based solely on the color and patterning of the tile work. “The ornamentation is one of the standouts and is an element I love to work with,” she notes. For example, for the fireplace surround in the great room, Kauffman selected muted tile with a Mediterranean feel to give it a more sophisticated and timeless look. On stair risers, she used more color-saturated Mexican pieces for an unexpected element.

Artwork, too, played a role in inspiring the designer. Angela, an artist in her own right, had inherited a number of antique paintings but was uncertain how they would look in the new house, even admitting to not liking a few of them. But once Kauffman hung them, the homeowner changed her tune. “Janet has an amazing talent for incorporating family paintings and personal travel heirlooms, which enhances the old-world feel we were looking for,” she remarks.

Angela is also an accomplished equestrian who trains thoroughbreds, and she now has a charming riding arena, tack room and horse corrals just beyond their fenced-in backyard to do the work she loves. Currently, there are two horses in her care. “We weren’t specifically looking for horse property,” Michael points out. “But we got lucky when we found this lot.”

Throughout the yard, landscape designer Victor Parra introduced a colorful palette of xeriscape vegetation that can be viewed from every room of the house. “We requested that as many existing trees, plants and cacti as possible be salvaged during the renovation process,” says Michael. Tiled fountains, a massive pool, quaint sitting areas and vine-covered walls all lend a sense of quiet elegance and simplicity that matches the essence of Spanish revival style. “All of these design elements were inspired by houses and buildings we visited in the Santa Barbara area,” Michael adds. “Having lived and regularly traveled there, it was important to not cut corners on the interior or exterior.”

Kauffman agrees, noting, “The physical transformation of the property from a little dark ranch house to an elegant inviting home is truly impressive.”

Architectural designer: Julia Jones. Builder: Michael Brown, Taylormade Homes. Interior Designer: Janet Kauffman, Janet Kauffman Interiors. Landscape Designer: Victor Parra, VMP Landscape Creations.

For more information, see Sources.

1. Dramatic trusses visually bring down the ceiling height in the great room, helping to cozy up the space. Kauffman designed the unusual fireplace surround from terra-cotta tiles in a mix of shapes and stains. “My goal was to make it the focal point so no additional adornment was needed,” she explains. Traditional furnishings add to the warm ambience, while pocket doors open to the patio seating area. 2. A pendant-lined spiral staircase within an architectural turret can be viewed from the second-floor landing. When the lanterns are illuminated at night, the entire space looks like it glows. Kauffman found the oversize lights in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. 3. This much-used outdoor living room is decorated with an eclectic mix of pieces in terra-cotta and blue, giving it a Mediterranean feel. “A vacation spot every night!” exclaims Kauffman. Plenty of seating options and lots of little drink tables make it ideal for entertaining. “I think you can go bold with things outdoors, yet it should function like an interior space,” the designer adds. 4. Angela Carmitchel gets some riding in just outside the perimeter of the backyard where she has horse stalls and a corral. Mature trees create a natural sense of privacy on the 1.25-acre lot. 5. One of the couple’s favorite rooms is the gourmet kitchen. The high-ceilinged space features butcher block table seating, concrete countertops, black iron lighting and a mix of light and dark woods. “It’s a blend of Santa Barbara style and Mediterranean Spanish colonial,” Kauffman points out. 6. An antique painting entitled “Paris” was the inspiration for the dining room’s moody color scheme. Handcrafted iron chandeliers and dark wood furnishings add rustic charm. 7. Just off the kitchen, a barn-style door fabricated from an old handcarved ceiling panel opens to the laundry room. “We thought we would always have the door closed, but we love the look of the laundry room so much, we usually leave it open,” says Angela. Kauffman designed the space to have a European vibe with a farm-style sink, cabinetry painted a sage green and then distressed, and color-blended concrete tile flooring laid in a herringbone pattern.

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