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Muted Tones and a Minimalist Aesthetic Are the Hallmarks of this Earthy Scottsdale Abode

The master bath includes design details such as dimensional wall tiles, a floating vanity and a walk-in shower with a view of a Zen-like, private outdoor space, featuring a sculptural ocotillo, planted in a bed of beach rocks.

A Scottsdale dwelling dazzles with dramatic features and earthy accents.

By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Mark Lipczynski

Is there such a thing as “piéces de résistance”?

While perhaps a plural form of the phrase is grammatically incorrect, it might well describe the many remarkable features of a recently completed home in a North Scottsdale golf community.

To start, there’s the desert landscaping, strategically planned with specimen pieces to make the most of privacy. Then there’s the kiln-fired art glass front door, which pivots open to reveal a great room—detailed with stone, wood and steel— overlooking the pool patio. Last but not least, there’s a downright sexy master bath, where tub soaks and showers offer views of curated desert vignettes through large windows.

The feature-filled residence is the handiwork of a talented group that included Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest: architect Mark Tate, interior designer Claire Ownby and landscape designer Chad Norris.

“This was a spec home,” explains Tate, whose team handled the 5,400-square-foot dwelling’s architecture and interior finishes, fixtures and cabinetry. “It wasn’t your typical spec home, though—we had free rein to create a modernist, high-design house for a discerning client.”

Working with builder Ned Woods, Tate sited the house on the half-acre lot to make the most of the desert setting and avoid views of neighboring houses. “This was a difficult lot,” he explains. “It was square and relatively small, had houses on two sides and backed up to another lot. We like to create homes with multiple view opportunities—and that was a challenge here.”

Tate created an H-shaped plan, placing the dining, living and kitchen areas in the center, opening them to the pool patio. The master wing is to one side, while the guest quarters make up another wing. A staircase leads to a second-story den above the guest wing. Tate edited the views, placing windows strategically to frame glimpses of open desert and Pinnacle Peak in the distance, while screening neighboring dwellings. “Every window was placed so you see a view while navigating your way through the house,” he notes.

1. Black countertops and walls, as well as slim, tubular light fixtures, add to the master bathroom’s drama. 2. A series of boulders, yuccas, cactus and desert trees create a natural vignette at eye level with the master bathroom’s tub, in addition to providing privacy from a neighboring house. The stool is petrified wood. 3. A rust-hued metal panel provides a backdrop for a stone sculpture, ringed by specimen agaves. above Framed by a honed basalt portal, the pivoting front door is made of art glass.

Strong horizontal lines and desert-inspired materials link the house to the site. Local stone clads monolithic walls that continue from outside to in, while rust-hued metal defines the fascia and serves as accents at the front entry. Honed basalt frames the entry door and is used as the front walkway. Inside, porcelain tile flooring and walnut cabinetry continue the bold material choices. Known for his dramatic architectural touches, Tate pulled out the stops here, with a black steel grid that clads the great room’s fireplace and TV wall, a floating wood staircase that leads to the second level, and a show-stopping master bath, featuring a black, dimensional tile wall, shower with a floor-to-ceiling window and soaking tub set at eye level with the desert floor.

Builder Simpson likened constructing the house to doing a commercial project. “We used masonry walls and a lot of structural iron to support the cantilevered roof overhangs,” he explains. “We also had to build site walls that run 8 feet deep, because the property backs up to an arroyo—a cool feature, but it can run hard when it rains.”

The certificate of occupancy had barely been signed when the house was sold to a couple who love to golf. They hired Ownby to furnish the residence and to make a few changes to the setting, including transforming the den into an office with a bookcase and partners’ desks, and adding a linen closet to the master bathroom’s cabinetry.

“Every window was placed so you see a view while navigating your way through the house.”

—mark tate, architect

1. A half wall in the master bedroom helps with the room’s circulation and does double duty, providing a desk on one side and headboard on the other. 2. The master bedroom, with views of the pool patio, features custom nightstands wrapped in leather, which acts like a protective coaster for the surface. 3. A monolithic stone wall frames the great room, which opens onto the pool patio. Furnishings, including the sectional, coffee table and floor lamp were chosen for their large scale, to anchor the room’s volume. 4. The ceiling level is lower in the kitchen, providing a sense of intimacy for the space, highlighted by an onyx backsplash and walnut cabinetry.

“Mark Tate did a great job with the architecture and the materials,” says Ownby, who worked with team member Kalysha Manzo on the project. “We wanted to reflect that earthy, native feeling, clean lines and neutral color palette with our furnishings.” Scale was another element Ownby addressed, using a large sectional and a 6-foot-square coffee table to counterbalance the airy volume of the great room. She also added natural elements such as a petrified wood stool in the master bathroom and a walnut-topped dining table to contrast the home’s steel and glass details. As a nod to the homeowners’ desire for an abode that was conducive to casual living, Ownby specified performance fabrics and durable surfaces. “You can sit anywhere in a wet bathing suit,” she explains, “and you don’t have to worry about finding coasters for your drinks.”

Outdoors, landscape designer Norris created high-impact desert planting areas that both created focal points and discreetly screened out neighbors. “I love to place living art outside of windows,” says Norris. “The plantings also have to look good throughout the seasons and help with privacy. Everything was selected and placed intentionally.”

1. The kitchen window opens up to create a serving area and bar for the pool patio 2. Framed by a honed basalt portal, the pivoting front door is made of art glass. 3. Viewed from the street, the home’s strong horizontal lines and bold materials blend the residence into the site. Native trees, cactus and boulders flank the front walkway. 4. A raised pool, cantilevered spa and basalt-clad fire pit on the right are features of the patio, where a scrim of desert trees screens the house next-door.

Norris used Texas ebony, palo verdes and mesquites to form a desert tree canopy at the front of the house, accenting the entry with golden barrel cactus, agaves and Mexican fenceposts. To filter out the fact that a neighboring house overlooked the pool patio, he added a scrim of palo verde trees and placed mesquites in the foreground for their sculptural shape. And for the master bathroom’s views? Norris did a spare, Zen-like vignette outside the shower window, using an ocotillo set in beach rocks. For the tub’s window, boulders, trees and yuccas obscure the fact that another house is close by.

Not long after the house was completed and furnished, the buyers sold to another couple—Midwesterners who, for now, use it as a weekend golf retreat with an eye toward making it a place to enjoy retirement in the years to come. “We had been looking at lots to build a home,” explains the husband, “but then we saw this. We loved the use of materials, the open plan and Claire’s furnishing selections, which we kept. I love the upstairs office, and my wife likes the fact that everyone can be together in the kitchen, the great room and the outdoors.”

No doubt, the piéces de résistance wowed both sets of owners.

Architect: Mark Tate, Tate Studio Architects. Builder: Ned Simpson, Simpatico Builders Inc. Interior designer: Claire Ownby, Ownby Design. Landscape designer: Chad Norris, High Desert Designs (designed for Desert Foothills Landscape).

For more information, see Sources.

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