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From Home to Gallery

The modern house wraps around a center courtyard, which includes a rectangular pool. The homeowners spend much of their time on the patio enjoying the Valley’s warm weather. Series of straight lines and grid patterns in the architecture and landscape design direct the eye’s natural focus toward the owners’ art collection, which is on display through large glass walls.

A pair of art lovers designs a midcentury modern-influenced house to spotlight their collection.

By Jackie Dishner | Photography by Bill Timmerman

A home should reflect its owners’ style and emphasize the things they’re passionate about. “We’re minimalists, so we wanted our house to focus less on architecture and more on the art,” says one Paradise valley homeowner. Because she and her husband owned an extensive art collection as well as stylish furnishings, their new abode would instead become a personal art gallery, designed for comfortable enjoyment of treasures both inside and out.  “Everything had to be designed around the artworks,” the wife adds.

Even the setting is an important element of the overall aesthetic, notes Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning architect David Dick. “The views of Camelback Mountain were to be a participant in the gallery space, like a piece of sculpture.”

For the structure itself, the couple envisioned clean, simple lines that would evoke a timeless yet midcentury modern aesthetic. The 5,000-square-foot, three-bedroom house is a single-story stucco configuration that wraps around a center courtyard with a pool, outdoor dining area and multiple conversation zones. High ceilings in the living areas create an open feel while lower ones in the bedrooms set a more intimate atmosphere. Inside and out, crisp white walls accented by carefully cut and stacked gray granite provide the blank canvas for an enviable collection of artworks. Strategically placed floor-to-ceiling windows framed in horizontal bands of black aluminum offer unimpeded views of Camelback and Mummy mountains, as well as sunsets over Piestewa Peak. At night, when every light is glowing, large-scale paintings displayed throughout underscore the home’s elegant museumlike quality.

The artful impression begins in the front yard, where xeric landscaping becomes part of the exhibition, transitioning from natural desert to a more structured appearance at the entryway. A decomposed granite driveway bordered by rows of barrel cacti and agave lead to a formal entryway marked by exposed aggregate concrete slabs divided by ribbons of gray Mexican beach pebbles. The look is mirrored in the central courtyard, where the rectangular pool gives the yard an elongated feel and acts more like a water feature, according to landscape architect Jillian Hagen. Grids of deer grass help soften the hardscape.  “I like the whole idea of repetition,” says the wife.

According to Dick, the homeowners didn’t want the house to be “big and grand.” Satin finishes on all of the surfaces lend a softness to the bright, airy spaces. “Even the furnishings are muted,” Dick notes. Cool limestone flooring flows throughout every room except for the living/dining room, master bedroom and study, which are cloaked in warm white oak. The kitchen cabinets, island and bathroom vanities are topped with white marble. A pair of bookmatched marble slabs serve as a backsplash for the stove. Their mirrored pattern is broken by a large angular stainless steel hood that commands attention.

Aside from a guest bathroom that features black marble counters, the only dark room in the house is the study, which is painted in a deep saturated gray. The calming hue, combined with furnishings in a similar shade, offers quiet respite away from all the light. A graphic painting by Parisian-born Tel Aviv-based artist and family friend Samuel Frydman, aka Asnaby, adds a rich punch of red and orange to the room. “Each space has an individual feel but the lines all blend together and create a nice flow,” says builder Jason Boysel.

1. Guests enter through a pair of custom white oak doors into a spacious and sleek gallery. A gray niche at the end of the hallway spotlights “Broken Eggs” by Dann Foley, 3D resin eggs with a textured golden yolk appeareance inside. Stone columns and a woven bench add texture to the smooth limestone floors and white walls. 2. The home’s low profile and walls of glass provide enviable views of Camelback Mountain from the center courtyard as well as from inside. 3. The bright and spacious master bath features custom walnut vanities atop black steel legs and a walk-in marble shower. A Dalí lithograph hangs on the wall.

“The views of Camelback Mountain were to be a participant in the gallery space, like a piece of sculpture.”

—David Dick, architect

A wall of windows adjacent to the front door offers a first glimpse of the impressive artworks displayed inside. Guests are greeted by a large-scale painting that hangs inside the grand hallway. Frydman, whose work represents a major part of the couple’s collection, painted the piece.

“I call it ‘Baba,’” says the wife, “I see a grandmother with a black babushka. It’s welcoming. At the same time, it’s protective. This was one of our first paintings. It’s always had a place of honor in the entry of our homes.”

1. The home’s clean lines and sharp angles are accentuated by a layered and sculptured landscape. A long white planter is filled with purple hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa “Purpurea”), while a tall yucca towers over newly planted desert-friendly flora. 2. In the kitchen, the warm tones of a walnut island contrast with the cool whites of the custom cabinetry and honed Statuarietto marble on the counters and backsplash. The homeowners wanted a minimalist look throughout that would not distract from their art collection. The cabinets are made of a glass composite that is easy to clean and doesn’t smudge. 3. The living room showcases the couple’s love of timeless midcentury modern decor. The space was designed around the large painting by Samuel Frydman. “It reminds me of space aliens,” says the wife. “I see rabbits talking to aliens and crazy matter floating around the rest of the canvas.” Her husband loves the spots of bright color. They bought the chandelier, a custom metallic piece by Avram Rusu called “Confetti,” in Brooklyn, New York. 4. The homeowners say that the master bedroom has the best view in the house. A stone wall opposite the bed houses built-in walnut cabinetry. White oak floors and fine linens, including silk, velvet, mohair and cashmere, soften the space. The side tables are made of Venetian glass with gold inlays; they are topped with Murano glass lamps. The lithograph on the far wall is by Salvador Dalí. 5. One of only two dark-hued rooms in the house, the study is decorated with a vintage Paul McCobb desk, a custom leather reclining sofa and Progetti armchairs. The wife likes to use the space for reading and watching movies. A colorful painting by Frydman is complemented by a lithograph by Victor Vasarely, three vintage fencing masks and her parents’ photographs. “It’s nice to have a calming, quiet room away from all that light,” she says.

“We’re minimalists, so we wanted the house to focus less on architecture and more on the art.”

—The Homeowner

A row of windows and stone columns that the architect calls “solar fins” helps control how light and shadow fill the hallway. At one end are the guest bedrooms, which are decorated with vintage posters and antique furnishings from Paris, France. On the other, a steel sculpture made of black circles acts as a room divider and draws attention toward the main living area.

Balancing the brightness of the gallery is the main living space, which is lit by a second, larger window wall that faces the courtyard. The grandeur of unimpeded views of Camelback Mountain outside is balanced by rich pops of color found inside. In the center of the dining/living room, a sextet of celadon green velvet chairs paired with a black marble-topped tulip table rest beneath a sculptural chandelier crafted of metals and semiprecious minerals.

A floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, which reflects an exterior rock feature just beyond the glass wall, towers above the far end of the room. Behind it, a second gallery hall leads to the homeowners’ private spaces. Dominating the room is a mural-size abstract painting with striking black and orange shapes. Another work by Frydman, it is the largest artwork in the house and it fills an entire wall.

The dramatic canvas serves as a main attraction and emphasizes the desired effect that the homeowners envisioned: a house built to be a gallery. Says Dick, “It’s the art that’s always on display no matter where you look.”

Architect: David Dick, David Dick Architects. Builder: Jason Boysel, Symmetry Construction LLC. Landscape Architect: Jillian Hagen, Modland Design.

For more information, see Sources.

The backup pantry/laundry room features drawers filled with food and craft items for the wife, who enjoys flower arranging and canning.


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