Globally Inspired Interiors Abound at This Biltmore Home
A total renovation of a stylish Biltmore pied-a-terre with international influences reveals an unexpected surprise.
By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Art Holeman
Interior designer James McIntyre doesn’t mind being called a snowbird.
For years, he’s had a successful practice in Calgary, Alberta, creating elegant primary residences as well as winter escapes in the Southwest for fellow Canadians. Several years ago, he, too, succumbed to the lure of the Valley of the Sun and set up a getaway for himself in the Biltmore neighborhood of Phoenix.
When McIntyre’s long-time clients Jacinthe Kassab and Andre Ferland took time from their busy careers as physicians to spend a weekend in Arizona with him, they were also smitten. “We weren’t really considering a second home when we came to visit James,” Jacinthe admits. “We casually mentioned the thought to him, and he took us to look at five homes. We’re not spontaneous people, but we bought the fifth house we saw.”
Within a few months, McIntyre completely transformed the modestly scaled abode into an appealing, cozy pied-a-terre for the couple and their two adult sons, complete with a global design theme that reflects the family’s many exotic travels. He also found a big surprise.
“Jacinthe and Andre thought they were buying a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom patio home,” McIntyre explains, “but when the contractor and I went to look at what we believed was the crawl space above the garage, we found a 400-square-foot room with a full-height ceiling. Everyone was stunned. We called it the ‘bonus room,’ and we decided to transform it into a loft den that connects to the living room with a staircase.”
According to the designer, the home’s aesthetic was “very basic. It was in what I would call a ‘1979 state,’” he recalls. “This was going to be a down-to-the-studs job.” Changes included opening up the kitchen to the dining room, adding bathrooms to the two secondary bedrooms and carving out space for a powder room. Sliding glass doors were replaced with steel-framed windows and French doors, and Saltillo tile was banished in favor of espresso-hued oak flooring. To add interest to the living room’s tall, narrow volume, McIntyre fashioned an intricate coffered ceiling out of dark oak.
Because Jacinthe and Andre had admired the modern black kitchen cabinetry with buckle-style door hardware in McIntyre’s own house, the designer fabricated a pale, whitewashed oak version for the couple’s new dwelling, complete with the same brass hardware. He jokes, “I call mine the Batman style of cabinetry, and theirs is the Vicky Vale version.”
When it came to furniture, accessories, lighting and art, McIntyre started from scratch, incorporating new items with vintage pieces that he acquired in Arizona and Canada as well as on buying trips to California. It was important to Jacinthe and Andre that their home projected a global theme that displayed items they brought back with them from travels abroad.
“We never close this house down for the season. We enjoy it so much, we even come down in the summer.”
—Jacinthe Kassab, homeowner
“The homeowner is very fashion-forward in her personal taste. The kitchen’s brass hardware is a nod to that.”
—James McIntyre, interior designer
“We had been to Turkey and Vietnam on previous holidays,” Jacinthe explains. “The year we got the house, we had a trip planned to Morocco. Serendipitously, James’ home in Phoenix has a bit of a Turkish-Moroccan theme, which we liked, so we decided to incorporate items from our vacation, such as area rugs, baskets and pots.”
A Moroccan rug that traveled with the couple by plane from Casablanca to Paris, Montreal and Calgary finally came to rest in their Phoenix living room. With its intricate patterns and vivid red hues, it sets the stage for a custom gray velvet sofa, some classic seating—including an iconic Sergio Rodrigues leather armchair—and a mirrored cocktail table. A bronze Buddha, perched above the stone-clad fireplace, and Moroccan-style pendant lights add to the international élan.
In the now functional bonus room, a daybed strewn with kilim-encased pillows, and two black-and-white Moroccan floor cushions serve as plush yet exotic spots for TV lounging. For the master bedroom, McIntyre specified sisal carpeting as a rustic counterpoint to the ornately carved four-poster bed and nightstands. Linen sheers lend a breezy vacation-home touch to the French doors leading from the bedroom to the pool patio.
“The interior of our Arizona residence is very different from our house in Calgary,” Jacinthe explains. “In Canada, we live with a monochromatic, minimalistic design. Here, we have pops of color and a variety textures. This home is a place where we can showcase treasures from our travels.”
McIntyre’s renovation also included the exterior spaces. He reworked the small, courtyard-style backyard, resurfacing the pool, adding lighting and transforming an old planter bed into a new platform for sun-catching chaises. Newly planted cypress trees, bougainvillea and pots brimming with succulents brighten the poolscape and add to the home’s resort feel.
“Jacinthe and Andre were in Canada when most of the renovation was happening,” the designer says. “When we were done, they opened the door and felt as though they were moving into a boutique hotel.”
After settling into their Phoenix digs, the family quickly began extending their visits past the winter months. “We never close this house down for the season. We enjoy it so much, we even come down in the summer,” Jacinthe says. “There’s barely a month that goes by when we’re not here. We bike, we read, we relax by the pool. And our favorite spot? The loft.”
Interior Designer: James McIntyre, James McIntyre Interior Design.
For more information, see Sources.