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Homepage / Architecture  / From Guest House to Multifunctional Haven: The Evolution of What a Paradise Valley Couple Calls Their ‘Flex Pavilion’

From Guest House to Multifunctional Haven: The Evolution of What a Paradise Valley Couple Calls Their ‘Flex Pavilion’

Separated from the main residence by a natural wash bursting with life, a contemporary “Flex Pavilion”—a guest house/office/gym/gathering space—manages to both emerge from the desert floor and blend into it. “The aesthetics of this space integrate beautifully with the balance of the house and its surroundings,” notes the homeowner, “but it still has unique features that create additional interest.”

A multi-use structure tucked into the landscape of a desert residence is all things to all people.

By Carly Scholl | Photography by Carl Schultz

What began as a vision for a simple guest house for visiting family and friends evolved into multifunctional space so varied in its uses that it eventually required its own terminology to describe it. The “Flex Pavilion,” a stand-alone structure on a breathtaking swath of Sonoran land, is the perfect complement to the homeowners’ residence just steps away. 

“We had always envisioned filling that part of the property with a special structure,” says the husband. “As our family was getting older, we had interest in having a space that could serve as a great social area, a place for enjoying winter evenings, and a workout space. We expressed all of those interests to architect Brent Kendle, and the Flex Pavilion was created.”

In keeping with the striking contemporary design of the main home, dubbed “Desert Wash” for the rocky rain basin that runs through the property, the Flex Pavilion is a 585-square-foot amenity that does just what its name implies—effortlessly flexes from one use to another. “This part of the property was originally planned for a pool and pool house,” explains Kendle. “But we changed the program to accommodate a structure that could house a small office for both work and receiving clients or consultants, an exercise space, an entertainment area for growing kids who might want to cross the wash to get away from the old folks and have some personal space, as well as double as a guest casita with a kitchenette and bath.

1. Intersecting planes of oxidized steel, stucco, glass and dark bronze metal accents form a visual mosaic on the exterior of the structure. Simple plantings of natural Sonoran species continually reference the desert context. 2. Extending out over a patio area, the cantilevered open roof extends the lines of the home without creating too much visual noise. 3. A sunken seating area outfitted with a fire pit, abstract steel sculpture and minimalistic plantings also serves an important environmental purpose: During heavy rainstorms, the space becomes a retention basin to hold extra water before it is filtered through the gabion walls that otherwise function as benches.

“It’s basically a single-family home shrunk down to the size of a tool shed,” the architect continues. “As with the main home we designed, the space needed to have a meaningful connection to the surrounding environment, feature the natural wash that divides the lot, and support multiple outdoor family gathering and/or contemplative spaces within a desert garden setting.” In addition to its seemingly endless list of uses, the pavilion also acts as a shield that blocks the view of the main house from the street and neighboring property.

“Part of being authentic in our architecture choices is using natural materials and those tested by time, detailed and expressed in such a way that respects their inherent nature.”

—Brent Kendle, architect

With floor-to-ceiling glass walls, the pavilion opens up to the spectacular surrounding landscape, with views of the mountains, the wash and the abundant desert flora beyond.

Rather than gathering dust between visits from guests, this space is used every day. “Whether it’s hanging out with family and friends, watching a game or sitting inside having quiet time looking out at the property from a different viewpoint, we’re here all the time,” says the homeowner. “It’s really an extension of our home.”

Capped by a dark bronze aluminum floating roof and comprising colored smooth stucco with numerous planes of glass to drink in the surrounding garden, the pavilion is beautifully integrated into the rugged desert terrain. “Part of being authentic in our architecture choices is using natural materials and those tested by time, detailed and expressed in such a way that respects their inherent nature,” Kendle notes.

According to the architect, the Flex Pavilion essentially completes the composition of the entire residence, acting as both an additional focus from the main home and a complement to it. “It creates an energy in the center of the property, one focused on family and friends and on nature. It becomes a sort of grand outdoor room, where nature lessons may be taught, social activities may thrive and moments of solitude can occur.”

1. With ground concrete floors below and Douglas fir wood ceilings above, the pavilion’s motif of the balance between industry and nature is demonstrated perfectly, even in the interiors. 2. “A naturally weathered steel scrim wall wrapping two sides of the structure helps transition architecture to landscape,” explains architect Brent Kendle. “It is both art and a multi-purpose functional element, screening mechanical equipment from view and providing privacy and a sense of shelter to the ‘outdoor rooms’ and intimate spaces that surround the Flex Pavilion.”

Architect: Brent Kendle AIA, LEED, AP, Kendle Design Collaborative, Scottsdale, Builder: Brett Brimley, Brimley Development, Phoenix, Construction management: Advocate, Scottsdale, Interior designer: Claire Ownby, ASID, Ownby Design, Scottsdale,


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