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Handsome Art and Views Converge in This Beguiling Scottsdale High-Rise

Robert Mapplethorpe images, framed by the photographer himself, are visible in a hallway through an opening in the kitchen. The steel backsplash serves as a backdrop for a collection of ceramic pieces.

A minimalist setting in a Scottsdale high-rise frames a significant collection of modern works.

By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Austin Baker

A condo high above Scottsdale with golf course and mountain views usually follows a design narrative that’s all about focusing on the expansive views. But for a recently completed 11th-floor residence done by architect C.P. Drewett and interior designer Claire Ownby, the vistas take a back seat. Instead, the eye is drawn to a dazzling display of modern art, from a collection that includes works by the likes of Francesco Clemente and Andy Warhol, all skillfully displayed in a 2,400-square-foot, three-bedroom space.

The condo—and the collection—belong to an East Coast couple who had previously wintered in a 7,400-square-foot vacation home in north Scottsdale, which Drewett had also designed. They wanted to downsize their Scottsdale retreat and began looking for something that was more like a pied-à-terre, just big enough for the two of them as well as visits from adult children and grandchildren. The pair found something they liked at Optima Kierland and brought in Drewett and Ownby for the project.

“From my previous work with them, I knew that art is the cornerstone of their life,” Drewett says. “This new home had to be minimalist, modernist and filled with refined details.”

The condo wasn’t yet built out, explains Drewett, and he and Ownby were designing the space as the building was going up. To get the size the couple wanted, they combined a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom unit. Working within the limitations of the high-rise floor plate, structural columns and predesignated plumbing lines, Drewett conceived a floor plan that includes an entry gallery, a great room with an open kitchen and a dining bay, a master suite and a guest bedroom.

“There was a lot of programming that went into the design of this home—beyond making sure there was room for the art,” says Ownby, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner, who worked with a team that included Kris Harline as project designer. “This was a major downsizing for the owners, so everything had to be highly functional and well-planned. We managed to squeeze in an office space off the living room, and the third bedroom had to not only accommodate a convertible bed, but space for the grandchildren and a bookcase for their art book collection. Also, the amount of function we got into the little laundry was amazing.”

1. Two additional Mapplethorpe images hang in a hallway, underscored by a beeswax sculpture by Wolfgang Laib. 2. In the dining room, an acrylic light fixture by Jorge Pardo illuminates the table and casts a glow on George Condo’s mixed-media “Lies, Lies, Lies.” 3. A shelf at the end of a hall displays Nick Cave’s finger sculpture. 4. A self-portrait by Andy Warhol graces the powder room, reflected in a custom backlit mirror. 5. A bathroom niche frames a red Balloon Dog by Jeff Koons.

The white expanses of walls for art had to be balanced by details and materials that also made the rooms interesting. Ownby and Drewett created a backdrop that includes large-scale pale porcelain tile flooring and walnut and steel millwork crafted to display sculpture and books. A sleek charcoal-hued kitchen is linked to the living room with a black steel “ribbon” that forms the backsplash to the cooktop and continues up the ceiling to connect the living room’s custom TV cabinet. While the raw concrete ceiling plane was left exposed in some areas, in others, a drywall soffit was created to hide window shade mechanisms and allow for lighting.

Ownby specified furniture that was subtle and elegant, with slim lines and a smoky color palette that helps keep eyes on the art. “Yes, it’s a showcase for the artworks,” Ownby says, “but the rooms also needed to be layered and interesting, as well as functional.” In the living room, a pair of curvaceous Italian club chairs provides a counterpoint to the two crisp, rectilinear sofas, all positioned to make the most of views out the floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as the surrounding art. The dining area’s round walnut table is an organic touch, as are the leather chairs. The master bedroom’s headboard and custom nightstands were chosen to serve as anchors for the art installed above the bed.

1. The living room’s TV cabinet is flanked by British artist Chris Ofili’s painting on the left and a work by Christopher Wool at right. 2. A neutral color scheme and furnishings with simple lines help create a unified look for the kitchen, living and dining areas.  3. An illuminated custom cabinet, detailed with steel, separates the living room from the office and serves to display pieces including a Kawashima Shigeo basket. Alice Neel’s portrait of Duane Hanson anchors one wall, while a map by Alighiero Boetti hangs above the office credenza.

Choosing which artworks to bring to their new abode was a major process for the couple, who began their collecting journey with a trip to the 1993 Venice Biennale. They work with a private curator, who helped them whittle down the pieces to bring to the Optima Kierland residence, as well as place the art, throughout the rooms. In the entry, visitors are greeted by a Francesco Clemente painting and a series of his bronze heads. In the living room, a Chris Ofili painting that incorporates elephant dung and a work by Christophe Wool flank the TV cabinet. A series of Robert Mapplethorpe images, framed by the photographer himself, leads down the hall to a bedroom. In the guest bedroom, a three-panel work by Man Ray hangs across from the bed.

While the condo has natural illumination, thanks to plentiful glass walls, the owners brought in lighting designer Robert Singer to properly light their collection. “Art is a huge part of this couple’s life,” Singer notes, “and they understood how important lighting is for this collection. But they wanted the lighting to be felt and not seen.” Following the couple’s desire to avoid spotlighting and scalloping effects, Singer designed linear lighting in the ceilings and side lighting in corners, which graze walls—and art—with even light. The full-spectrum LED lights show everything in true color, without adding any hue distortion. Singer also collaborated on the designs of the millwork, adding hidden fixtures to spotlight smaller sculptures and artifacts, and worked on the home’s general lighting plan, which included task lighting for kitchen surfaces and path lighting for hallways.

When everything was finally in place, the owners were able to share their new home and their art with family, friends, fellow collectors and curators. “They are the stewards of the artwork,” Drewett says. “But our job was to create both a blank canvas—no pun intended—for their collection, as well as a setting that could hold its own.”

1. Francesco Clemente’s self-portrait greets visitors in the entry, which also includes a series of his sculptures 2. In the guest bedroom, city views compete with a wall relief by Louise Bourgeois above the bed and Man Ray’s “Message to Marcia” on the right. 3. Simple furnishings in the master bedroom are a foil to bronze doilies by Kiki Smith.

Architect: C.P. Drewett, Drewett Works. Interior designer: Claire Ownby, Ownby Design. Lighting designer: Robert Singer, Robert Singer & Associates Inc.,

For more information, see Sources.


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