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Old-World Charm, Modern Elegance

A rural Mediterranean oasis in the desert, the home of Don and Kim Gray is a family retreat that can host an intimate dinner just as easily as it can entertain a crowd. In the front yard, native desert species give way to more formal plantings, including Barbara Karst bougainvillea, Olea europaea ‘Little Ollie’ and Japanese privet.

Evoking European elegance, an expansive Scottsdale residence was created with family in mind.

By Shannon Severson | Photography by Garrett Cook and Chris Loomis

Grand but comfortable. Able to host myriad guests yet also accommodate intimate personal time. “The idea was to create a very livable family space,” says interior designer Rebecca Salcito of the North Scottsdale residence of Don and Kim Gray. 

On first glance when descending the driveway to a broad auto court, the home’s varying roof heights hint at a design that takes a home of considerable size—roughly 13,000 square feet—and divides it into distinctive, comfortable spaces.

“We laid the house out in a classic Mediterranean symmetrical orientation,” explains builder Anthony Salcito. “It’s all arranged around the idea of a formal garden, though the feel isn’t overly formal. The Grays spend so much time in Europe and enjoy being in the countryside year after year. This home looks like it was pulled right out of that region.”

An entry portico leads to a pair of glass doors that afford the first glimpse through the house of spectacular Valley views, prefaced by a narrow runnel water feature that draws the eye across the back of the richly landscaped property, beyond the mountains to the vast Arizona sky.

 “There are some pretty amazing views all the way around,” says architect Scott Carson. “It’s a relatively flat lot, but we used different levels of the yard to create the feel of a European hillside village, with unique, very intimate outdoor spaces. There are hidden, narrow staircases and courtyards with water elements. It feels like you’re in an old-world estate.”

The garden details on this massive property were deftly orchestrated by landscape designer Jeff Berghoff. “We worked with the grades to create steps and terraces to achieve different vignettes,” he says. “Taking the flow of the home into consideration helps create a vision for the garden that emphasizes the inherent beauty of each component, producing a harmonious relationship between architecture and landscape.”

A pair of potted boxwood globes greets guests at the double-entry portico. Beyond the initial wood door are glass entry doors, which echo the glass wall at the rear of the house and allow light to flow into the home from both sides of the foyer.

Inside, the rural Mediterranean design has the contemporary advantage of ample windows that naturally illuminate the living spaces and keep the large rooms from feeling cavernous. Muted tones of silver and creamy gray are underscored with deep browns and accented with gold accents that seem to echo the light flowing into each room.

“A home is so personal and should reflect the client’s taste and style,” says Rebecca Salcito. “I took my cues from a visit to the Gray’s home in Canada and then translated that to the setting and lifestyle of Arizona.”

The formal living and dining room—with coffered ceilings that soar to nearly 17 feet high—is the “black tie” area of the home. Guests can mix and mingle inside or step through the long wall of retractable glass doors at the rear of the room to the formal outdoor living room where upholstered furnishings are clustered in conversation-friendly groupings. Even the cityscape in the distance seems dressed up for the party as Camelback Mountain glows in the waning light of day and urban lights begin to sparkle. Steps away, the scene is set for outdoor dining in a mini-courtyard peppered with twinkling bistro lights and a collection of potted plants and featuring access to the bar and kitchen.

1. Vibrant bougainvillea spills over the stone walls that flank stairs to the lower lawn. 2. & 3. The terraced backyard, with stunning mountain views, features hardscape entertaining areas immediately accessible from nearly every room. Dwarf myrtle, carpet roses, fern leaf lavender and seasonal annuals add texture and color in varying heights. “The sculptural boxwood hedges near the house are more structural,” says landscape designer Jeff Berghoff. “As you move further down into the backyard, the plantings become more tousled and informal.” 

“My intent for all the homes I design is to make the rooms feel intimate with lots of natural light.”

—Scott Carson, architect

Light streams through steel-paned windows in the formal great room. An antique mirror and custom limestone fireplace preside over the space, while Venetian plastered walls and European white oak flooring that runs throughout the home add a sophisticated touch with custom colors and pattern. An arched cutout above the dining room allows light into the adjacent bar.

“The living room and bar are in their own zones,” says Anthony Salcito, “but there’s an overlap between the bar, kitchen and family room. All are connected by opening up doors so that you can circulate inside and out. The Grays can entertain casually with a family group or host a massive party.”

The family-friendly great room encompasses the kitchen, an informal dining area, the family room and a casual outdoor entertaining space. The high ceilings and large footprint of the area could easily overwhelm, but windows on three sides of the room and a cozy fireplace warm it up.

“My intent for all the homes I design is to make the rooms feel intimate with lots of natural light,” says Carson. “In every space, the windows open up to the views and let indoors and out work together. The great room opens to its own patio and the yard beyond, and it all becomes one big room.”

The multilevel kitchen island looks out onto the dining and family room area so whoever is prepping a meal can interact with others in the room. A casual buffet can be arranged on the countertops or the area can be used for increased seating when extended family comes to town.

“When it’s just the family, the Grays wanted an intimate home feel,” Carson explains. “We created spaces that allowed for that. In this house, I’ve taken the basic elements of a traditional lifestyle and then modernized them.”

Portraits of family, friends and international adventures line the walls of the home’s more casual spaces, including a hallway that leads to the home theater and poker room. Heavy curtains at the rear of the theater can be drawn for complete darkness—ideal for family movie night—or left open when having friends over to play poker or watch a ballgame. “The curtains make the room a really flexible space,” Carson notes.

1. A baby grand piano fits perfectly in a windowed alcove in the formal living area, where a pair of matching sofas are arranged atop a custom hair-on-hide area rug. 2. Newly upholstered chairs lighten the look of an existing dining room table, enhancing the experience of sharing special meals. 3. Formal entertaining heads outside when a glass wall at the rear of the great room is retracted. Rustic iron chandeliers hang from a coffered wood ceiling, while groupings of tailored furniture offer plenty of spaces for intimate conversations or taking in a favorite movie. 4. The bright, airy foyer has the perfect balance of casual elegance that characterizes the home’s design style. The striking quatrefoil-patterned floor was a custom design using different colors of European white oak. 5. A hand-painted terra-cotta tile backsplash behind the stove mimics the bright colors found in the homeowners’ pottery collection. The pewter-topped bar is an elegant touch in the family-friendly kitchen. 6. Custom wire-brushed millwork, wide-plank European oak floors and a cozy fireplace lend a homey feel to the breakfast area. The casual space opens to an outdoor dining room and upper terrace.

The theater is just one of several rooms designed with the youngest family members in mind. “Don and Kim wanted their kids close to everything but to have their own space,” the architect adds. Just up a staircase off the kitchen are the children’s bedrooms—located in a separate wing from the master suite. Each opens up to its own furnished balcony. The kids also have their own library study area and a TV room with access to an interior courtyard.

Not to be outdone, the parents have their own wing that encompasses their personal style and passion for athletic pursuits.

“The Grays are serious family people, and they’re über athletic,” says Rebecca Salcito. “They love hiking and cycling, and those activities are a big part of their lives here in Arizona and wherever they travel. The decor, scale and amenities of the master wing really reflect who they are.”

The family room, located just off the kitchen and breakfast room, extends outdoors to an informal patio where the Grays and their children can visit or watch TV.

From the freestanding, French-style copper bathtub in the master bathroom to the private interior courtyard with spa and cold plunge, the suite is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate after a long day on the trails. “You can soak in the tub for a half hour and the temperature doesn’t diminish a single degree, while the spa and cold plunge help reduce muscle inflammation,” the interior designer explains.

It makes sense that the couple’s private quarters would be a restorative space with windows that look out upon the natural landscape. But it’s also relatively compact. “The Grays didn’t want the master bedroom to be large and cavernous,” notes Carson. “They wanted intimate and cozy. Most of my clients say, ‘Bigger! Bigger!’ They kept having us scale it back. Even the master bath isn’t huge.”

Don and Kim each have their own office in the suite, and Kim’s has a special addition for two important family members: the dogs. Custom doors lead to a fenced-in play area and small dog pool. “Kim can leave the doors open when the weather is nice, and the dogs can run around or go in the pool and then come back inside to hang out with her,” notes Rebecca Salcito.

Guest accommodations and outdoor spaces also strike the perfect balance between being elegant yet comfortable spaces and environments of refuge from the modern world. A private guest apartment, complete with a beautifully appointed bedroom and bath and private balcony, features high ceilings and European white oak flooring for a look that’s light and airy.

“Originally, the accommodations were a barn set at the lowest grade of the property, but that was a bit too isolated,” says Carson. “We moved it up to where it is now and gave it access to an underground garage. Guests can use it without going into the main house. It feels very private and has a beautiful view all its own.”

Throughout the property, Berghoff created multiple environments that range from restful to dramatic, altering the plantings to reflect the formality of the setting. A lush lawn, which could be the setting for the ultimate garden party, runs the length of the sparkling pool, where a stone cabana, outfitted with a TV, fireplace and comfortable sofas, is available for après swim lounging.

1. It’s a nice contrast to the more sophisticated feel of the exterior living room (below) for more buttoned-up occasions. 2. An alfresco dining room is bursting with old-world charm. The reclaimed wood beam in the archway was salvaged from a century-old European castle. Flowering hibiscus trees in large terra-cotta planters add a pop of vibrant color to the neutral setting.

At the outer reaches of the lower yard, down a flight of stone steps, is a hidden olive grove with both a sheltered sitting area with fireplace and a gravel-covered, open-air patio lined with olive trees that’s the perfect setting for a leisurely dinner beneath the stars.

A short walk away along a tree-lined path is the home’s showpiece: a three-story, tile-roofed stone observation tower that imparts a bit of whimsy while recalling old Mediterranean villas. It provides the perfect spot to enjoy an unparalleled view of the surrounding mountains and allows for a bit of surveillance of the 17th green at Silverleaf Golf Club.

1. The Grays enjoy hosting extended family in the beautifully appointed guest house, which has its own entry. 2. Simple yet comfortable, the guest house features the same European white oak flooring as the main home. Sliding glass doors open to a private balcony with views all its own 3. The dreamy guest bath has a charming claw-foot tub, hexagonal floor tiles and mosaic walls of polished Calcutta marble.

“The tower became a really fun element that the entire family actually uses and enjoys,” says Carson. “There are gun slots cut into the walls and a little trap door to a loft where Don and Kim can have a glass of wine and take in the scenery. The structure also serves a functional purpose as a circulation point from the main lawn to the olive garden or down to a lower-level garage and workshop.”

For all their home’s grandeur of scale, the Grays have truly created the village they envisioned. The dwelling can host a gala that’s the event of the year, but thoughtful planning also makes space for casual family dinners on the patio, game nights, a teen movie marathon, a private dinner party in the olive grove or curling up with a good book in the fairytale tower. It’s a big home built for the small moments that matter.

For more information, see Sources.

1. The master bedroom is decorated in warm hues of gold and cream, with textured wallpaper, plush bedding and a vaulted, beamed ceiling. A custom limestone fireplace warms the room on chilly nights and enhances the romantic ambience. 2. The room’s leathered marble floors extend into the spacious walk-in shower. 3. Heavy curtains separate the home theater from the poker room. They can be closed to create total darkness in the theater or left open so guests can play cards while watching the ballgame. 4. The lower lawn includes a sparkling pool with a cascading waterfall. Narrow decking on two sides of the pool ensures that the azure feature doesn’t overpower the verdant lawn. 5. Texas ebony trees frame a stone archway above the drive to the home’s garages. 6. Adjacent to the pool is a cabana with plush seating. Stone walls lend a sense of history to the structure. Tucked alongside the southern edge of the cabana is the spa, which takes advantage of the views. 7. At the far end of the lawn is a small stone building. A pair of hidden stairways lead to an intimate seating nook, complete with fireplace and an outdoor dining area. Surrounding the spaces is an enchanting olive grove. The setting feels world’s away from the main house and is ideal for stealing away to enjoy views of the city. 8. Rosemary and annuals fill large pots around the cabana; the lawn and flagstone patio are edged with dwarf yaupon holly, Olea europaea ‘Little Ollie’ and white cloud sage. 
1. Metallics and luxe materials abound in the master bathroom. A custom mirror with a gold-leafed frame hangs above an intimate vanity table, complete with comfy slipper chair. It reflects a gold-framed painting on the opposite wall. 2. Just off the foyer is the hallway of the master wing of the house. Stairs lead up to Don’s private office; Kim’s office can be found just beyond the base of the stairs. 3. Clerestory windows follow the slope of the roofline in Kim’s office, where the European white oak floors are laid out in a herringbone pattern. 4. Doors open up to a fenced dog lawn where the family pups can cool off in their own bubbling pool. 5. Kim’s office is decorated in soft hues of cream, pale gold and blue. Gray textured wallpaper, floral curtains and crystals on the chandelier and sconces add feminine flair. Shelving is lined with photos of family, friends and the couple’s hiking and cycling adventures. 6. Dark wood cabinets, rich leather seating and warm amber lighting lend a masculine feel to the bar. The wine room is entered through inconspicuous French doors that are built into the glass wall. 7. No detail was left overlooked in this powder room, which features an ornate vanity with gold fixtures, gold-framed mirror, textured wallpaper and decorative floor tile. 8. At the far end of the lawn is a small stone building. A pair of hidden stairways lead to an intimate seating nook, complete with fireplace and an outdoor dining area. Surrounding the spaces is an enchanting olive grove. The setting feels world’s away from the main house and is ideal for stealing away to enjoy views of the city. 9. Bougainvillea vines begin their climb around a doorway near the tower. “As in any Mediterranean garden, we utilized grays, whites, purples and coarsely textured plants that encompass the sense of place,” says Berghoff. 10. The estate’s observation tower is as much for adults as it is for kids, with views of the grounds, mountains and city. Accessed by a path from the olive grove, an interior stairway descends to Don’s workshop.

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