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Midcentury Modernism Gets a Creative Makeover in This Chandler Remodel

Architect Amit Upadhye wanted to make the home better fit its owners’ needs and lifestyle while remaining true to its midcentury bones. Polished Kota stone flooring connects the family room, kitchen and dining area, which merge into an open, airy place for gathering and entertaining.

Remaining sensitive to its storied past, a conscientious remodel transforms a dated Chandler home into a welcoming, minimalist escape.

By Ben Ikenson | Photography by Matt Winquist

For some homeowners, a house is merely a residence—a structure that offers shelter and a place to lay their heads after a long day at the office. For others, it is much more than that. It’s a comforting sanctuary, a repository of family memories and a reflection of one’s style and passions. Such is the case with the home of Rajiv and Anupa Ashar. The midcentury modern gem is not only a prime example of first-rate architecture but also a physical link to the Phoenix suburb of Chandler.

Rajiv and Anupa moved to the U.S. from India in the 1990s to pursue degrees in medicine. After living for several years in New England and the Midwest, their careers brought them to the Valley of the Sun. They bought a small three-bedroom abode in Chandler, where they lived happily with their two young children.

1. A large L-shaped island helps define the kitchen’s footprint. 2. Once dark and cramped, with angled cabinetry that impeded the workflow, the spacious kitchen is now functional and sophisticated. A large center island allows the homeowners to keep an eye on their kids’ activities while preparing dinner. A walnut waterfall counter and wood door frame add warmth to the bright white space. 3. Instead of removing a 16-foot-high structural fireplace that separates the living room from the entryway—a task that would have been complicated and expensive—Upadhye gave it a stylish facelift. Wrapping the feature in an elliptical dark gray facade softened its presence and provided a more natural flow between the two spaces.

The couple loved their neighborhood and would often go for walks through the gated community across the street from their home. One evening while out for a stroll with some relatives who were visiting from India, they happened upon the sight of a partially hidden and, what appeared to be, unoccupied property.

“It was midcentury modern and totally unlike any of the other homes in the area,” recalls Anupa, who had once entertained ideas of becoming an architect. “It really had its own unique appeal.”

The dwelling—a 6,000-square-foot masterpiece set on a single acre overlooking artificial lakes and the emerald stretches of a golf course—had been built in 1987 by architect Dwight Busby, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. Busby had been commissioned to design the residence for Jackson and Barbara Bogle, who were prominent figures in the community and for whom Bogle Junior High School was named.

“We both just loved the home,” says Rajiv. “Not that we were even in the market for buying anything.”

While the Ashars may not have been looking to purchase a new abode, Barbara Bogel was ready to sell, following the recent passing of her husband. However, she was only interested in finding buyers who would cherish her beloved home. “At the time,” Rajiv explains, “the housing market was such that lots of people were flipping properties to make a quick profit.”

“I saw an opportunity to create contrast between timeless modernism and organic modern.”

—Amit Upadhye, architect

As weeks passed, the Ashars’ admiration for the house grew stronger and, eventually, they decided to present an offer—along with a letter of interest that included reasons why they loved the home so much. Mrs. Bogle accepted and, a year after first seeing the property, the couple enthusiastically moved in. Five years later, they decided to begin a comprehensive renovation of the house.

“One of the biggest issues was that the home only had three bedrooms, and we wanted to be able to comfortably host relatives when they come for lengthy visits,” Anupa explains. Adds Rajiv, “Also, the finishes in the kitchen and some of the carpeting and other features were pretty dated.”

To help make the house better fit their needs while preserving its architectural integrity, the Ashars reached out to architect Amit Upadhye, a fellow Indian whose work is influenced by renowned modernist Louis Kahn. “When I learned that the home was designed by Busby, I took a step back for a minute,” Upadhye recalls. “The structure was very classic in expression, with wood windows, a slate roof and copper gutters. However, I saw in it an opportunity to create contrast between timeless modernism and organic modern, giving both styles room to express simultaneously.”

1. Lap joinery accentuates the woods’ natural tones and adds visual interest. 2. Prior to renovation, the stairs and loft were enclosed by a dated adobe railing that blocked light and overpowered the room. It was replaced with a sleek, minimalist staircase featuring American walnut treads, a solid maple stringer and a clear glass guardrail. 3. In a powder room, a contemporary freestanding sink pops against a grape-colored focal wall.

First on the architect’s to-do list was creating much-needed extra space, and he did so by transforming a laundry room into an additional bedroom and reconfiguring the master bathroom into a luxurious en suite complete with a spa tub, enclosed glass shower, walk-in closet and center dresser island.

The downstairs living quarters were given an open and airy update. A staircase and open loft above the living room were hidden by a solid adobe banister, which blocked light from large second-story windows. Upadhye replaced the chunky staircase and banister with a sleek, contemporary maple one with walnut treads and risers and a clear glass railing that gives the living room an expanded sense of space.

The dark, somewhat cavernous and cramped kitchen—with an angled layout, blue wallpaper and hanging cabinets that obstructed views—was gutted. In its place, crisp white floating cabinets accented with butcher block counters and a large wraparound island extend the area into the dining and family rooms as well as a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.

“The layout of the new kitchen does not trap the chi (the vital energy that flows through the body, according to traditional Eastern philosophy). The room opens itself up to glass walls that look out onto the golf course and lakes while flooding the space with desirable light,” notes Upadhye.

1. The homeowners’ teenage daughter’s room features built-in cabinetry and plenty of desk space at which to study. Large windows overlook the spa and golf course beyond. 2. The couple’s parents frequently visit from India, so it was important to have a serene space, complete with a remodeled bathroom, for them to stay in. A door at the far right opens to the swimming pool. 3. In the master bedroom, a dividing wall serves as a headboard while providing privacy from the en suite bathroom. Upadhye removed built-in wood cabinets that flanked the fireplace and replaced the wood-and-stone mantle with a floor-to-ceiling cold-pressed steel surround. 4 & 5. The master bathroom was given a fresh new look with clean-lined floating cabinets, white walls and counters, and a spacious glass-enclosed shower. A frosted-glass door hides the toilet, while the double vanity features a TV flush-mounted into the mirror.

In the living room, dark brown slate flooring in a square grid pattern “made the space static when it needed to flow freely,” says the architect. He replaced it with honed Kota stone from India laid in a running bond motif that “adds dynamism to the room,” he adds. More Kota stone was added around the swimming pool, which was reshaped into a rectangle, unifying the inside and outdoors.

One of the most troublesome features of the home, however, was a 16-foot-tall fireplace, the backside of which greeted visitors immediately upon entering the house. Because the massive feature offered structural support, it couldn’t easily be removed, so Upadhye softened and modernized it, giving it a streamlined elliptical shape that deflects the eye and adds fluidity to the room. On the side facing the front door, the architect also incorporated a special, culturally significant feature. “Because my clients are from Mumbai and were raised in Hindu families, they needed a meditation space and niche at the foyer to showcase a beautiful stone-carved Ganesh idol, which symbolizes warmth and welcoming,” he says.

Now the house offers the clean, contemporary appearance that the Ashars appreciate while still respecting Busby’s original designs. “Altogether, there is a striking and beautiful contrast between architectural styles,” notes Upadhye.

And for the two busy doctors, it’s an inviting retreat where their entire family can create their own Valley memories for years to come. “We love it,” says Anupa. “There are many different spots we really enjoy, depending on the time of day and how the natural light is brought into our home. The whole place has a very comfortable and relaxed feel.”

Architect and interior designer: Amit Upadhye, Amit Upadhye Architects. Remodel Contractor: Les Price, Priceless Construction.

For more information, see Sources.

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