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Inside an Interior Designer’s Desert-Meets-Scandinavian Home Makeover

A designer’s thoughtful, intentional choices transform an unimaginative tract home into her signature aesthetic.

Photography by Kevin Brost

The house had, as they say, good bones. Vaulted ceilings, lots of windows and a location in a quiet, friendly neighborhood that happened to be down the street from Taliesin West persuaded Kaitlyn Wolfe, the owner and principal designer of Iconic Design + Build, and her fiancé, Brett Troisi, to purchase the home.

What the 1990s, standard-issue tract home didn’t have was pizazz. “There wasn’t anything special in terms of the architecture or any character, but I saw the potential,” Wolfe says. A general contractor, she realized the home wouldn’t need any major structural changes to take it from so-so to spectacular. Gutting the entire home to install new flooring, baseboards, custom cabinetry, countertops, tile, lighting and plumbing, Wolfe created a light, bright space warmed by natural materials and textures. She calls the design aesthetic Scandinavian Modern Desert. Scandinavian design’s simplistic functionality plays well with modern design’s neutral colors and environmentally friendly materials. It’s a design style that not only fits the homeowners but has also become a signature aesthetic for Wolfe’s firm focused on interiors and construction. “I feel like we were able to make really impactful changes in the home while keeping budget in mind,” Wolfe explains.

Scandinavian Modern Desert Home dining room


Removing a wall between the living room and kitchen opened up the space, while European white oak engineered hardwood flooring unified the rooms. A niche designed for a 1990s-style TV armoire was reworked. Wolfe installed lighted, white oak shelves over a high-gloss cabinet, keeping the top of the niche wall open to let light flow into the hallway behind it. The designer, who loves the outdoors, styled the shelves with plants, travel mementos and natural elements. On the opposite wall, a small window was removed and replaced with drywall. “Taking down the wall between the living room and kitchen let so much natural light flood through, we could lose that small window and now have two usable walls in the living room,” Wolfe says.


Wolfe freshened newer existing cabinets by painting them a dark charcoal hue and adding brass pulls. Durable quartz countertops in a matte finish have the feel of natural stone, Wolfe says, and utilizing a waterfall edge on the peninsula “elevated the entire kitchen.” A white picket tile backsplash lightened the space. Wolfe took the tile to the ceiling in an area where she removed one of the existing upper cabinets. “Continuing a design detail to the end of the countertop makes it feel intentional,” she says. Black and metal sconces above the floating steel shelves add ambience.


Masculine meets feminine in the primary bedroom. Wolfe chose dark, hot rolled steel panels for an entire wall. “They installed it in individual panels with what’s basically trim pieces between them,” she says. In contrast, the curves of the tufted bench and the channeled, upholstered headboard lend an air of femininity. “It’s the juxtaposition of the masculine, sleek, industrial wall with the more feminine bed that makes it interesting,” Wolfe observes. The dark gold bench adds a pop of color—it’s one of several vintage-looking pieces the couple chose for their remodeled home.


Deep green is one of Wolfe’s favorite colors to work with. The designer selected a porcelain tile in the rich emerald hue for the walls in the primary bathroom. “The tile has so much depth, and by doing the vertical stack pattern, it brings in that Scandinavian feel we were trying to achieve throughout the house,” Wolfe says. “This much color in the space is unexpected.” She also removed a built-in garden tub and replaced it with a freestanding soaking tub and upped the drama by adding a modern pendant light with a pop of gold.



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