Keeping Up with the Joneses: Neighbors So Loved This Home, They Bought it Mid-Build
One couple’s new build becomes a dream home…for their neighbors.
By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Austin LaRue Baker
By all accounts, things were going smoothly in the creation of this custom home. The clients had chosen a lot with dead-on views of Pinnacle Peak in the distance and a golf course in the foreground, and had put together a seasoned design/build team that included architect Craig Wickersham, builder Glenn Farner and two Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winners: interior designer Claire Ownby, and landscape designer Chad Norris, to craft the 6,500-square-foot contemporary home.
But more than halfway through the construction of the four-bedroom house in North Scottsdale, there was a twist that potentially could have blown the project off course. The clients’ neighbors across the street fell in love with the abode’s clean, crisp aesthetic and bold modernist design. They—a couple with grown children—convinced the original clients to sell them the house. At this point, a design/build team might have ripped up the blueprints and prayed for the best. But in this case, they were in good hands. The new owners had worked with the team before and loved everything about the yet-to-be finished residence.
For one thing, they liked how Wickersham managed to angle the house on the half-acre site to capture the views with strategically placed window walls that overlook the pool patio as well as provide privacy from neighboring homes via massing, blank walls and high windows. Wickersham’s edited and repeated use of materials—natural travertine cladding on walls inside and out, a hemlock plank ceiling, walnut cabinetry and large-format porcelain tile flooring added to the appeal. “Have you ever seen a person wearing clothes with mismatched buttons?” asks Wickersham. “The look is not harmonious. Here, we limited the palette of materials, which strengthens the design.”
The new owners, however, did ask to make some minor changes to fit their lifestyle. “The clients like to entertain outside,” explains Wickersham, “so we added an extra patio cover off the great room.” Working with Farner, he designed a low-key “lid” on the patio that provides extra shade without blocking views. Another change? Converting a guest bedroom into a media room, where golf and football could be watched just off the pool patio.
The new owners appreciated the home’s details—such as the welcoming walk-up bar at the entrance, the leathered quartzite countertops and black steel accents throughout—but they worked closely with Ownby to select new furniture for the house. “Everything we did for the original clients translated well to the new owners,” explains Ownby. “Luckily, we hadn’t done the furniture yet, so we were able to get pieces that worked for their lifestyle, which includes a lot of entertaining for extended family and their golf community social group. We were also able to incorporate their Southwestern art collection into the new setting.”
Just inside the glass entry, the dining area features a custom walnut-and-metal table, but Ownby points out that a lot of the social gathering takes place in the great room, where two cushy sofas and deep lounge chairs flank the walnut- and quartzite-clad fireplace. The adjacent kitchen has a deep island that invites kibbitzing during meal prep. In the master bedroom, a leather bed and wood flooring bring warmth to the simple space and meld with other background finishes.“We wanted the interior to have a quiet, serene feeling,” Ownby says. “That’s why we used neutrals, which let the eye go straight out to the landscape views.”
“There is a grand, universal appeal here. The materials are harmonious, and the look is serene.”
—Claire Ownby, interior designer
While there is drama in the surrounding natural desert, Norris was charged with planning the immediate landscape views, creating both focal points and plant groupings that double as privacy screens. There was a bit of drama, too, during the installation. Norris chose a mature, salvaged ironwood tree for a spot in the front motor court, sited to shield the glass entry and dining room from street views. “The tree was an oversized load,” he recalls, “and we had to move it in the middle of the night. We barely got it through the community’s entry gate.” In the backyard, where planting opportunities were tighter, Norris craned in a specimen organ pipe cactus and boulders over the roof to form a grouping behind an L-shaped fire pit, which also doubles as a retaining wall. Jojoba and fire stick succulents planted just outside the pool fence provide privacy from the golf course without blocking the views. Other cactus, agaves and lantana round out the plantings.
The completed home is a success, observes Wickersham. “We created a private world for the owners, even though their neighbors are literally less than 40 feet away. By using simple, repeated materials, the house has a peaceful energy.” And the home’s original clients? They’ve moved on, but not too far. Nearby, Wickersham, Ownby and Norris are creating another new home and landscape for them.
Architect: Craig Wickersham, AIA; Scottsdale, craigwickersham.com. Builder: Glenn Farner, GEF Development, Scottsdale, gefdevelopmentllc.com. Interior designer: Claire Ownby, ASID; Scottsdale, ownbydesign.com. Landscape designer: Chad Norris, High Desert Designs, Phoenix, highdesertdesigns.com.
Cabinetry: Concept Cabinetry, Inc., Gilbert, ccabinetry.com. Table: aneesupholstery.com. Chairs: reneecazares.com. Bar stools: elitemodern.com. Light fixtures: Hinkley’s Custom Lighting, Scottsdale, hinkleyslighting.com.
Sofas (custom): ownbydesign.com. Coffee tables: Peter Thomas Designs, Phoenix, peterthomasdesigns.com. Side chairs: molteni.it. Side table: bludot.com. Area rug: Azadi Fine Rugs, Scottsdale, azadifinerugs.com. Light fixtures: hinkleyslighting.com.
Table: peterthomasdesigns.com. Dining chairs: troscandesign.com. Light fixture: hinkleyslighting.com. Millwork: Concept Cabinetry, Inc., Gilbert, ccabinetry.com.
Bed: reneecazares.com. Nightstands: tricafurniture.com. Chair and ottoman: haute-living.com. Bedding: sdhlinens.com. Area rug: azadifinerugs.com.
Cabinetry: ccabinetry.com. Vanity stool: aneesupholstery.com.
Sofas, lounge chair, side chairs and ottoman: Inside/Out Showrooms, Inc., Scottsdale, insideoutshowrooms.com. Coffee table: Solido, Phoenix, solidollc.com. Side table: brownjordan.com.