Downsizing Did Not Mean Sacrificing Holiday Charm in This Festive Home
For Sharron and Del Lewis, downsizing still includes style and holiday charm.
By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Melissa Valladares
Sharron Lewis admits she’s a serial home builder. By her count, she’s done 13 in Canada and Arizona for herself and her husband, Del Lewis, founder of a media empire that once included Channel 3 and PHOENIX Magazine. “I love the process of design and building,” says Sharron, who’s involved on the boards of cultural organizations, including the Heard Museum. “That’s why I keep doing it.”
Recently completed House Number 14 in Paradise Valley is a bit of a departure for the couple. For one, it’s comparatively small—three bedrooms in 3,700 square feet on a tight lot that’s less than a quarter of an acre. The one-story home is also contemporary, a pivot from the traditional Spanish Colonial style motifs Sharron and Del previously favored.
But the abode packs in everything the couple needs: a lush garden designed by Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning landscape architect Greg Trutza that provides both a private sanctuary and space for large-scale entertaining; light-filled architecture with views and plenty of wall space for the couple’s extensive art collection; a comfortable interior that’s at once intimate and flows well for the parties that Sharron loves to host, and solid construction. Most important for Sharron? There’s organized storage galore for her vast collections of china, tableware and seasonal decor, making it easy to pull out everything she needs for her favorite holiday, Christmas.
The project started as a teardown of an older existing home, but the lot presented a few challenges for builder Greg Hunt and the design of the landscape and home, respectively, for Trutza and architect Matthew Thomas. For one, a wash runs through the front of the property and, by local code, the lot needed to have a water retention basin to collect runoff from nearby mountain slopes. “Those two issues would have taken up a lot of the landscape,” explains Trutza, “and, because the property was small, the home was occupying most of the lot.” The wash challenge was met by creating a pedestrian bridge over the gully from the street to the entrance, as well as a bridged driveway. The retention basin was buried underground, leaving more room for the garden, not to mention the house.
With those hurdles overcome, Thomas and Trutza concentrated on aesthetics and flow. “When it came to architecture, Sharron definitely wanted something more modern,” explains Thomas, “and a place where she could showcase her art. But we had to balance the modern to make it work with the more traditional art and furnishings she was going to be bringing from their previous house.” Thomas’ design was simple and spare, with a cool exterior marked by stone-clad walls and sand-colored stucco. Large window walls bring in light and views of Camelback Mountain and Trutza’s thoughtfully designed garden spaces. The architect made sure most of the interior spaces opened onto the landscape, and the great room and front patio linked, for the Lewises’ holiday parties that ebb and flow between fireplaces and the open sky.
Outdoors, Trutza designed every inch of the tight garden spaces, providing privacy from neighbors and leafy visual delights around all four sides of the house. “I knew the challenge was to deliver a type of garden experience for all areas of the home,” says Trutza, “a garden that invited one to explore and be part of the landscape, as well as provide interest from every window and door.”
“We worked on creating spaces where the owners could see out from inside, where the garden felt like it was part of the interior.”
—Matt Thomas, architect
Starting at the front of the property next to the street, Trutza landscaped the banks of the wash with desert native flora, in keeping with the neighborhood’s aesthetic. He gave the front patio—just off the great room and the home’s main outdoor entertaining space—privacy with a sour orange hedge, trees and a low wall. Limestone paving and split-face Kansas rubble on the garden walls provide a backdrop for the patio’s seating and dining areas, which are enhanced by a see-through fireplace and highlighted by a Doug Hyde bronze sculpture, which Trutza incorporated into a custom-designed fountain.
A limestone path winds around to the home’s private garden spaces, made lush with a canopy of trees, raised planters and pots. To one side, a custom gazebo shelters a statue of St. Francis and is flanked by beds filled with seasonal flowers. Even the utility side of the home—where the air conditioning units and trash receptacles can be found—is made inviting with plantings and custom gates.
Back inside, the Lewises’ abode is filled with antiques and accessories collected over the years and made fresh with new upholstered seating in subtle shades of cream. The interior’s emphasis is on the art and views.
A butler’s pantry, mud room cabinetry and a garage designed for maximum storage capacity all hold Sharron’s tableware and holiday decor, which she accesses to go all out for Christmas. “I’ve been collecting for years,” Sharron says, “and I mix and match everything for an old-fashioned look.” Indeed, Sharron lines the sofa back with seasonally attired teddy bears, pulls out angels and reindeer that grace tables and makes use of local florists for traditional flower arrangements, wreaths and garlands. The tree has a place of honor in the living room, where it can be seen from the entry and the front patio. Even the patios are made festive with Christmas objets and splashes of red flowers.
The decor is not just for the two of them. “I’ve done Christmas teas in the past for about 100 ladies,” says Sharron, “and we’ve done a big party in December for 250 guests. We’ll do family events and sit-down dinners. And I always change out my china and silverware.”
Sharron admits that their new house—completed in 2020—may not have quite the large-scale party capacity of the Lewises’ previous abodes, but that’s not slowing down her plans. “These days, people just don’t entertain the way they used to,” she says, “but I’ll always do dinner parties. I’ll always have big groups over. I love it—especially at Christmas.”
Architect: Matthew Thomas, AIA, Matthew Thomas Architecture. Builder: Greg Hunt, GM Hunt Builders. Interior designers: Teresa Nelson and Kim Barnum, Nelson Barnum Interiors. Landscape architect: Greg Trutza, ASLA; New Directions in Landscape Architecture.
Architect: Matthew Thomas, AIA; Scottsdale, mtarchitecture.com. Builder: Greg Hunt, GM Hunt Builders, Cave Creek, gmhuntbuilders.com. Interior designers: Teresa Nelson and Kim Barnum, Nelson Barnum Interiors, Scottsdale, nelsonbarnum.com. Landscape architect: Greg Trutza, ASLA; New Directions in Landscape Architecture, Phoenix, gregtrutza.com. Lighting designer: Walter Spitz, Creative Designs in Lighting, Scottsdale, cdltg.com. Floral: Rob Hudachek, Flora Bella, Scottsdale, flora-bella-flower-designer.business.site. Holiday stylist: Amy Videan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
LIVING ROOM—Arm chairs: rosetarlow.com. Sofa fabric: brochier.it. Game table: hickorychair.com. Area rug: Azadi Fine Rugs, Scottsdale, azadifinerugs.com.
DINING ROOM—Dining chairs: rosearlow.com. Kitchen cabinetry: Copperstate Cabinet Company, Phoenix, copperstatecabinet.com. Marble countertops: Arizona Tile, Tempe, arizonatile.com. Backsplash: Craftsman Court Ceramics, Scottsdale, craftsmancourt.com.
PATIOS—Arbor, gates and trellis work: Grizzly Iron, Phoenix, grizzlyiron.com.Pots: The Stone Yard, Phoenix, thestoneyardaz.com. Furniture: brownjordan.com, curreyandcompany.com; michaeltaylordesigns.com. Pavers: craftsmancourt.com.