Home Sharing: Remarkable Design Accommodates Two Families
A two-family dwelling offers the perfect mix of sleek style and casual functionality.
By Katherine Adomaitis | Photography by Christiaan Blok and Michael Duerinckx
Nestled at the base of Mummy Mountain, the contemporary glass, stucco and steel house, partially hidden by desert vegetation, presents a low profile to the street. On the backside, though, the seemingly conventional abode opens to reveal a lower level, a series of balconies, overhangs and cantilevers, and vast stretches of window walls that capture views of Camelback Mountain in the distance and flood the interior with light.
The remarkable design was driven not only by the owners’ modern, minimalist aesthetic and the sloping site but, most importantly, by their desire to have their home accommodate two families.
Melanie and Roland Folz spend much of the year in Germany, where Roland works, but they would frequently travel to Arizona to stay with Melanie’s sister, Mary Heitmann, and her husband, Mike. The couples, respectively, have two and three young adult children. “We all get along so well,” explains Roland, “that the idea of sharing a home seemed natural, especially when looking ahead at retirement, when Melanie and I will be able to spend more time in the Sonoran sunshine.”
The couples began to look for a home a few years ago, but nothing seemed to fill their wish list, which included separate master suites, five bedrooms for the children and enough common space to share without feeling like the two families were on top of one another. Eventually, they came across a 1970s ranch on a 1.5-acre lot with glorious mountain vistas to the north and the south.
The property, surrounded by a eucalyptus forest, had seen better days, so the family reached out to Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning interior designer Tony Sutton, whose detailed, understated approach they admired, to consult on a potential renovation or new build. “Nothing had been done to the residence since it was built, and it wasn’t worth saving,” Sutton recalls. “The original house wasn’t designed for the views, and the lot was overgrown—but the potential was fantastic.”
Taking advantage of the property’s slope, the design team discovered they could create a sizable walk-out lower level and reduce the mass of the 10,600-square-foot house toward the street. “This is a narrow lot,” architect Erik Peterson explains, “and there was a lot of programming that needed to be accommodated without compromising the views, but we got everything to work.”
Peterson, also a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner, created a main-level floor plan with separate but equal master suites—one that cantilevers over the backyard on the east side of the house and the other, on the west side, set square to capture views of Camelback Mountain. Connecting the two wings are a formal living room, dining room, family room and kitchen, all of which open onto a balcony that runs across the back of the house. The lower level includes the five children’s bedrooms, a game room, theater, wine cellar and an impressive man cave that’s tucked in back of the lower-level garage. “The key was to make each space have a human scale, even though it’s a pretty open plan,” Peterson says. “We wanted the house to have a sense of intimacy. We also didn’t want it to seem like a divided house, even though it’s for two families. If only one couple is here, it doesn’t feel like only half the space is being used.”
Peterson detailed the flat-roofed house with smooth, integrally colored stucco walls that blend into the desert site, aluminum-clad window walls, dark steel fascia and stone cladding.
Ensuring that all the pieces of the project puzzle came together smoothly—resulting in a home that, while complicated in design, feels effortless and accessible—was builder and fellow Master of the Southwest John Schultz. “Building a contemporary home is challenging,” Schultz notes. “What you do at the foundation stage affects everything. You can’t go back and disguise it with ‘gingerbread’ like you can a rustic-style house, which is much more forgiving.”
Having built numerous hillside residences in the area, Schultz was well-prepared for the challenges to come. He prepped the site with a 15-foot vertical cut into the slope and removed a large section of the rocky terrain, creating a horizontal foundation to accommodate the home’s lower level. Construction began with the tennis court and pool house at the far end of the property. “We couldn’t build the main house first due to the narrow shape of the lot,” he explains. “We worked our way out from the back.”
A look at the rear facade underscores the engineering skills Schultz put into play, as plenty of structural steel supports the home’s awe-inducing overhangs and cantilevers. Inside, the builder was responsible for details such as the kitchen’s floating glass bar top and the dramatic limestone, glass and steel staircase. He also coordinated the placement by crane of a large-scale stylized steel sculpture of Nefertiti, which now resides in the backyard by the pool.
When creating a look for the interiors, Sutton chose to play it cool, calm and crisp. “The idea was to keep it clean, with no clutter,” he says. “Everything here has a purpose. The key, though, to minimalist design is to make things comfortable by bringing in natural elements, such as wood, and making sure all of the seating is loungelike.”
Working with pale flooring and white walls, Sutton relied on a palette of cream, taupe, gray, charcoal and black to keep the focus on the art and views. In the formal living room, two pairs of sculptural lounge chairs and a deep sofa form an intimate conversation area in front of a stone-clad linear fireplace. A coffee table comprising multiple hexagons adds a pop of red and blue to the family room, which features several deep armchairs and a custom two-way sofa that provides guests with the option of watching the TV and fireplace while facing one direction or the sun’s rays washing over Camelback Mountain from the other. The master suites are spare and simple, too; the beds float in the middle of the room, allowing the homeowners to wake up to the surrounding views.
Downstairs, Sutton took a few design liberties, creating a deep-toned home theater sparked with magenta accents in the carpeting and accessory pillows. For the man cave, he clad the bar and walls in a tufted and padded peacock-blue wallcovering, creating a vibrant setting for the room’s casual bar.
The lower level connects to a series of patios, where carefully planned amenities create numerous outdoor living and recreation opportunities. “The home’s architecture has a series of slight angles,” says landscape architect and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Russell Greey, “so we embraced those skews when we designed the backyard’s hardscape and planters.” A glass-tiled negative-edge pool that includes a lap lane and spa is the centerpiece of the rear landscape. Greey positioned the watery amenity to reflect Camelback Mountain when viewed from inside the house. Numerous terraces, fire pits and planter beds—many featuring greenery in gridlike patterns—add to the setting’s geometric look. Greey even designed the tennis court to be a deep blue like the pool, mirroring the hue in the landscape.
With the addition of numerous seating and dining groupings, plus two barbecue areas, the yard is used to the fullest. “This home was designed to be a magnet for our families,” says Roland. “We all want our kids to enjoy visiting, and, in the future, we want them to come visit with their partners and the grandchildren.” The happy couples and their children have already enjoyed Thanksgivings, Christmas holidays and several parties together in the house, with everyone cooking side by side.
But Roland points out that there is one downside to the new dual digs. “We used to go out and enjoy the city’s great restaurants,” he says, “but now we love to cook in our fantastic kitchen and enjoy our wine cellar so much that it’s like having our own culinary festival at home. We never seem to go out any more.”
Architects: Erik Peterson, AIA, NCARB; Stuart Jon Traynor, AIA, RIBA, ARB; and Jeannine Engh, PHX Architecture, Scottsdale, phxarch.com.
Builder: John Schultz, Schultz Development Corp., Scottsdale, schultzdevelopment.org.
Interior designers: Tony Sutton, Allied ASID and Holly Asher, Est Est Inc., Scottsdale, estestinc.com.
Landscape architect: Russell Greey, ASLA, Greey Pickett, Scottsdale, greeypickett.com.
Pool construction: Mossman Brothers Pools, Scottsdale, mossmanbrotherspools.com.
Outdoor furniture: gloster.com; kingsleybate.com; madegoods.com; ratana.com.
Windows: Western Window Systems, Phoenix, westernwindowsystems.com.
Pool table: pooltableportfolio.com.
Bar table: liveedgedesign.com.
Bar stools: andreuworld.com.
Sectional and curved chair: Feathers Fine Custom Furnishings, Scottsdale, feathersdesign.com.
Lounge chairs: kravet.com.
Hexagon coffee tables: modloft.com.
Area rug: Azadi Fine Rugs, Scottsdale, azadifinerugs.com.
Bar stools: sohoconcept.com.
Kitchen cabinetry: Finely Designed, Phoenix, finelydesignedinc.com.
Kitchen appliances (Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove): subzero-wolf.com.
Nightstands: Patina Yard, Phoenix, patinayard.com.
Lounge chairs: kravet.com.