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On the Waterfront

Dropped soffit details provide ambient lighting and add dimension to the great room. During renovations, an enclosed rotunda was removed to create a larger, more open living area. Decorative concrete wall panels behind the piano and a custom glass wall divider that separates the dining nook from the entry add personal touches to the condo.

For one Tempe family, life is better in a condominium.

By Ben Ikenson | Photography by Chris Loomis

For many, the American dream includes a large house on a sprawling swath of green grass. But as families and lifestyles change, so does that idealistic aspiration. Native Arizonans Scott and Erin McDonald had the big home on a 1-acre lot in south Tempe, but with two teenage daughters and a penchant for traveling, they yearned for the ease and comfort provided by the local condo scene. 

When the couple found a three-bedroom, three-bath unit on the sixth floor of a luxury complex overlooking Tempe Town Lake, they recognized it as a rare opportunity to invest in waterfront property in their arid home state and to embrace the community’s amenity-rich lifestyle while benefiting from the relative low maintenance of high-rise living.

“The property is so close to downtown Tempe that we can easily walk to the many restaurants and shops, and the building has a pool, gym and conference room,” says Erin. “Plus, it’s very simple to maintain and leave whenever we want to travel.”

Before the family could settle down in their new digs, though, the approximately 2,700-square-foot space required some work. Scott and Erin—an artist with a keen sense of design—had some specific ideas off the bat. “We really wanted to create much more of a fresh, contemporary feel,” says Erin. Scott agrees, adding that “the countertops were pretty dated, and the foyer was all wrong, among other issues.”

Dramatically altering the entryway posed a unique challenge for the contractor’s project managers, Brian Feser and Logan Gangsei. “Working on the sixth floor of a condo building can be tricky,” says Feser, noting the obvious hurdles of limited space for hauling and storing equipment and materials, noise constraints and structural restrictions. “But we managed to work around some of the obstacles, such as existing concrete pillars that were in the closed-in circular foyer.”

Interior designers Angelica Henry and Michele Logan collaborated with the contractor crew on every detail of the remodel. “The first step in the design process was to reconfigure the floor plan,” says Logan. “Removing the large rotunda at the entryway, which cut into a lot of valuable space from the kitchen and living room, completely opened up the living area, provided the perfect niche for a built-in banquette for the breakfast nook and facilitated downtown views from the front door.”

“The daughters’ bedroom reflects their personalities and is a showcase of their favorite colors.”

—Angelica Henry, interior designer

1. A built-in banquette provides plenty of seating for a family with two teenage daughters and their friends. “The glass panels serve as art and give definition between the foyer and breakfast nook, while still allowing a visual connection,” notes interior designer Angelica Henry. 2. The homeowners fell in love with the condo’s stunning vistas of Tempe Town Lake and Piestewa Peak, Papago Buttes and Camelback Mountain in the distance. 3. Once a sea of travertine and black granite, the master bathroom is now a spa-like retreat. High-gloss cabinets topped with white quartz reflect light, while the freestanding tub commands attention. Its curved raised platform echoes the circular shapes seen in the bedroom. 4. A custom picture frame headboard in the master bedroom elegantly conceals a mechanical column while integrating effortlessly with the chunky crown molding.

Eliminating dated surfaces was also a priority. “In the kitchen, we replaced the black granite countertops with Taj Mahal quartzite and swapped the high-gloss burlwood cabinetry with modern textured ones finished in contrasting lacquers,” says Henry. “There was more black granite in the bathrooms, along with travertine. We gave the rooms a spa-like feel by adding white quartz on the counters and using timeless marble and a mixture of glass tile on the walls.” The design duo also updated the passé fireplace in the living room, removing the simple mantle and crosscut travertine slab surround and adding eye-catching mosaic tiles in a soothing neutral hue.

While the aesthetic changes gave the condo a fresh new look, the designers still needed to address the fact that the space “lacked character, dimension and lighting,” says Logan. “We really focused on developing ceiling details and architectural features. Our biggest challenge was finding lighting solutions for the living room without penetrating the concrete ceiling.”

1. A linear fireplace clad in limestone slabs and mosaic tile serves as a focal point of the living room. “The homeowners wanted a place the entire family could lounge together, and this custom sectional fit their request perfectly while enhancing the lines of the room,” says interior designer Michele Logan. 2. In the teenage daughters’ room, bedding and accessories in vibrant blues and pinks are offset by soft white walls, carpeting and leather furnishings; chrome details; and silver padded headboards. An accent wall with a polka dot pattern adds subtle interest above the beds. 3. The master suite is bathed in soothing neutral hues so as not to distract from the views. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls open to an intimate balcony, an ideal spot for enjoying a morning coffee.

“When we walk in the door, we’re greeted by magnificent picture windows that frame the lake, the beautiful Arizona skies and the mountains beyond.”

—Erin McDonald, homeowner

To address the problem, Feser and Gangsei created a drop ceiling of suspended drywall with a hidden LED light shelf. “Not only did dropping the ceiling add an aesthetic appeal to the room, it enabled more lighting,” Feser says. The new surface also appealed to Erin’s design sensibilities. “I think ceilings are often overlooked, but they are as important as floors,” she says. “There’s a lot you can do with them.” 

The centerpiece of the master bedroom is a floor-to-ceiling custom upholstered headboard that integrates with the crown molding. The chunky frame and straight lines complement the round details found in the coffered ceiling, wall sconces that flank the bed, chandelier and cabinet hardware. Soft shades dominate the entire condominium. 

“The homeowners wanted a light, airy and inviting home, so we began by installing warm-toned wood flooring throughout, which really helped to reinforce the open-contiguous space and complement the muted color palette of the walls,” says Logan. “In the living room, light, textured upholstery on the custom sectional and accent chairs further balance the warm floors, while pops of color in the rugs and artwork are added for the final touches.”

According to Henry, the lighter palette really opens up the small rooms. “The main hues are neutral; it’s all about the tactile qualities,” she says. “The nuances of the color tones and the layering of texture, such as the concrete walls in the living room and grasscloth wallcovering, give the condo a great sense of warmth and depth.”

For Scott and Erin, the now bright, comfortable and contemporary condo surpasses the dream of a white picket fence and a grassy yard. “When we walk in the door, we are greeted by magnificent picture windows that frame the lake, the beautiful Arizona skies and the mountains beyond,” says Erin. “We may not have an acre of land anymore, but we have replaced it with a warm and beautiful environment that feels like home.” π

Contractor: AllHaus Home Services, allhaus.com. Interior Designers: Angelica Henry and Michele Logan, Angelica Henry Design.

For more information, see Sources.

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