Embracing the Curve
Inspired by its natural environment, a timeless Pueblo-style abode is a study in Sonoran savoir faire.
By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Art Holeman
On a sloping lot in the exclusive Estancia community is a home like no other on the block, or in the entire neighborhood for that matter. Its broad flowing curves, chunky vigas and heavy use of natural materials are indicative of a rich, desert-appropriate style that stands out from the European, Spanish, Traditional and contemporary characteristics of nearby residences.
It’s a look that its owners were drawn to. The couple, who live in Chicago and who have been visiting the Valley since the 1980s, had a part-time home in the Boulders area, which is known for its distinctive pueblo aesthetic. When they decided to build a custom dwelling, they had a pretty good idea of what they were looking for. “We love nature and wanted an organic house that was indigenous to the Southwest style—a nod to the old West—but also livable in today’s world,” says the husband.
It’s also the trademark of Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning architect Lee Hutchison, whose designs are inspired by Arizona’s history and environment.
“I worked with the homeowners from the very beginning, looking for a site that offered great views and that allowed us to nestle the house into the surrounding landscape,” explains the architect, who collaborated with his daughter and fellow architect Jessica Hutchison-Rough on the project. The lot the couple ultimately chose not only enabled Hutchison to capture views of the nearby golf course and impressive sunsets but also offered unparalleled vistas of picturesque Pinnacle Peak.
Visible from the front entry and straight through to the backyard, the iconic mountain served as natural inspiration for the home’s stone-veneer exterior. “From the outside, the house looks like an Anasazi ruin with its native schist stone,” says builder Randy Arnett-Romero, also a Masters of the Southwest award winner. Viga posts, timber latillas and clay tiles serve as reminders of authentic Sonoran architecture. “We tried to stay as true to the organic pueblo style as possible,” he adds. “The rounded tiles on the patio roof, for instance, imitate the look of vintage Mexican tiles that were shaped by hand with the clay over the knees of the workers.”
“The ceiling treatments are wonderful. And the lighting makes the house look really special at night.”
Inside the three-bedroom residence, thick undulating plaster walls, rough-sawn wood elements and handcrafted ceiling treatments bring Hutchison’s signature style to life, which just happens to mean there also are no 90-degree angles. “We didn’t quite understand what it meant to have a house with no corners,” admits the husband. “When everything is curved, you get a totally different sense of living. I find myself constantly wanting to touch the walls.”
Every nuance of the home is expertly crafted with a mix of handmade rustic pieces and sophisticated finishes, notes Hutchison. The walls, some of which are 2-feet thick, as well as several beehive fireplaces, are made from integrally colored Venetian plaster. Reclaimed oak floors, Saltillo tile, flagstone, and copper and zinc accents all lend an earthy, natural aesthetic.
No surface was overlooked—including the ceilings. “We looked at a lot of pictures to help us get a feel for the homeowners’ style, and they allowed us to do pretty much what we felt was right,” notes Hutchison. From the barrel-vaulted, viga-accented great room ceiling and the open latticework above the patio to the pleated-looking master bedroom treatment, each is a statement-maker. “I think my favorite is the wagon wheel-shaped ceiling in my office,” says the husband. “It’s made with saguaro ribs and outfitted with a custom light fixture.”
When it came to the interiors, Masters of the Southwest award-winning interior designer Bess Jones’ goal was to create a warm, organic atmosphere in sync with the desert. “Our color scheme was soft greens and beiges, and because the homeowners had several Native American rugs that they wanted to showcase, we used black and red accents.” She also worked closely with wood artisan and Masters of the Southwest award winner John Taber to design a number of custom furniture pieces, as well as the massive front door, which is handcrafted from solid pecan and weighs close to 1,300 pounds. “After seeing John’s work, we knew we had to include some of his creations in our house,” notes the wife. Other favorite Southwest elements include the molded wall treatment in the kitchen for displaying artwork, as well as special niches to showcase fiber wall hangings, Navajo blankets and works of Native American art.
Cozy, comfortable and well-designed, the residence is filled with inviting spaces that continually impress the couple. On the second floor, which can be reached by an elevator, one of the guest rooms features a special spot created just for the grandkids—a built-in cubby for napping. “They just love it,” says the husband.
“Every time we come back for a stay, we see something we haven’t noticed before,” he continues. “The ceiling treatments are wonderful. And the lighting makes the house look really special at night.”
Adds the wife, “We didn’t want something too big, but rather a house that would work for the two of us and for our guests. It’s amazing how calm and peaceful it feels here. We really love this community, and the ability to share all of this with our friends and family means a lot to us.”
Architects: Lee Hutchison and Jessica Hutchison-Rough, Urban Design Associates LTD. Builder: Randy Arnett-Romero, R-Net Custom Homes. Interior Designer: Bess Jones, Bess Jones Interiors. Landscape Designer: Jeff Franklin, Jeff Franklin Design and Consulting.
For more information, see Sources.