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Personality Perfected

An innovative Scottsdale remodel embodies the coolness of creativity.

By Niki D’Andrea | Photography by Bill Timmerman

The Cattle Track Arts Compound in Scottsdale has long been a magnet for forward-thinking souls. Painters, sculptors, architects, craftsmen and writers have turned the large property—with its 35 artist studios, eight of which are full-time residences—into a haven for innovation and originality.

Nearby, a newly remodeled abode has captured the area’s quirky vibe, standing like a work of art unto itself. Filled with funky flourishes that reflect the eclectic tastes of its owner, the Southwest contemporary-style home with an industrial twist is unlike any other place in the neighborhood.

Its highlights include artisanal doors, a luxury kitchen with top-of-the-line cabinets and, of course, stunning views of the surrounding desert.

Framed by foliage and a steel fence, the one-acre property comprises the 3,000-square-foot house and 400-square-foot casita. Constructed in a traditional adobe style in the late 1950s, the main house underwent renovations in the ’70s and ’90s. Its current owner decided to give the home a total makeover shortly after purchasing the residence.

Her wish list included “myriad weird things,” including adding a garage door in her dining room, keeping the original concrete floors throughout the house and filling the yard with illuminated gabions. She lived in the guest house during the 22-month-long renovation.

“The homeowner really wanted to maintain some of the original character of the home in terms of its age; it was important to her that it not look like a newly constructed house,” builder John Gurley says. “She was looking for something that was more of a mix of the old warehouses and historical homes that have been remodeled, cleaned up and modernized.”

Guests arrive at the house via a circular gravel driveway. They’re greeted by one of the home’s many impressive attributes: an 8-foot-high by 8.5-foot-wide custom steel entry door, with an inset smaller pedestrian portal known as “the Hobbit door.” Crafted by metal artisan Jeff Hebets, the massive pivoting structure features additional panels akin to puzzle pieces that open and close separately, and the entire door pivots in a perfect semicircle.

An industrial-style table and chairs and abstract light fixture lend an urban loftlike feel to the dining room. The painting, titled “The Gwens,” is by California artist Bradford Brenner.

Chunky I-beams support a rusted steel awning above the entryway—a contemporary version of the wood vigas and latillas typically found on Southwest homes. The accents are used throughout the home; they were added after architect Jon Poetzl realized the roof on the original structure needed to be replaced, a decision that afforded him the opportunity to raise the roof for a more open, airy feel inside.

“We used the steel beams to help bring a modern industrial vibe to the home’s simple exterior. They’re also a maintenance-free shading element that will not need to be touched, unlike their wood counterparts, which require constant attention,” Poetzl says.

To improve the flow of the house and enhance its entertaining ability, the architect relocated the kitchen from its original location near the main entrance to a larger space near the rear of the home, with easy access to the backyard. According to kitchen designer and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Robert Moric, the idea was to make the kitchen a space not only for cooking but also a main socializing spot during parties.

Converted into a game room, the main entry area includes a chalkboard wall and a concrete pingpong table. “The wall is a place for guests to write notes on or play tic-tac-toe or whatever they want,” the homeowner says. “There’s a candy machine and a popcorn machine. It’s to help people gathered in that area just enjoy being themselves.”

Concrete counters add industrial flair to the room, and the large island features a built-in basin for ice and beverages. “The homeowner can pretty much cook anything very efficiently and effectively, and when she wants to entertain, the room becomes a great place where people can congregate on two sides of the island and engage in activity,” Moric explains.

High-gloss cabinets combine form and function, designed in seamless lines and integrated with the refrigerator and a charred Japanese wood backsplash, which forms a wall behind the appliances and extends in a long rectangle—like a bridge—across the ceiling into the family room. Anchoring the comfortable vignette is a massive wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling cold-rolled steel entertainment center and fireplace surround.

The dining room separates the kitchen from the backyard; a fun garage-style roll-up door opens the space to the outside. “The entertaining flow starts at the front door and pulls all the way through the living space to the outdoor kitchen area with a great sunset view,” says Poetzl. “The rear patio overlooks Camelback Mountain, so it was important that we make it a prominent feature. We created a link to this space directly from the dining room with the glass overhead garage doors.”

Focal walls abound throughout the home. Just off the entrance, a game room, complete with a concrete pingpong table and vintage vending machines, is bookended by a purple accent wall and another covered in chalkboard paint. Playful chalk-drawn art adds color and whimsy to the space. In the master bathroom, custom bright teal plaster serves as a vibrant backdrop for the simple, egg-shaped tub. The wall extends into a glass-walled shower, which is lined on two sides by matching teal tiles. A skylight that runs the length of the room illuminates the space.

In addition to the house, the grounds also received a much-needed face-lift. Wanting to maintain the home’s mature desert feel, landscape designer Brent Bartsch kept the property’s existing foliage, which included creosote, mesquite and palo verde trees, a giant eucalyptus and a citrus grove. He added jacaranda trees along the backside of the house, bringing touches of purple to the gardens, and used synthetic turf to create verdant grassy areas.

1. The custom entrance door, which features an inset pedestrian portal called “the Hobbit door,” is fabricated of more than 100 individual pieces of steel. 2. A dramatic focal point of the home, the backsplash is crafted of charred Japanese wood; it travels up the wall and across the ceiling into the family room. 3. The kitchen features sleek, high-gloss cabinetry, built-in appliances, including a wall oven and warmer, wine cabinet and induction cooktop, and a concrete island countertop. The painting by California artist Sue Averell was originally purchased for the homeowner’s house in Florida, but she decided “it would be perfect here.” 4. The master bedroom features a custom bed and numerous accents in the homeowner’s favorite color, purple. It is complemented by the soothing teal hues of the master bath. 5. The master bathroom’s custom plaster wall provides a serene backdrop for the freestanding bathtub, in which the homeowner can soak while watching the wall-mounted flat-screen TV.

Gabions feature prominently in the yard, bordering the entry walkway, as columns on the exterior fencing and even as a base for the grill and outdoor kitchen. The homeowner fell in love with the stone features while visiting Italy years ago. To make them even more of a highlight, Bartsch figured out a way to illuminate some of them from within. “The entire thing was an experiment,” says the homeowner. “We didn’t know how to light gabions from the inside, but Brent is a landscape genius. He put together this prototype, and it works and it looks cool.”

Near the main entrance, low gabion walls line the inside of a large metal enclosure that connects to the master bedroom and wraps around two sides of the room. This is known as the “catrium.” Built around a tree and equipped with ramps, benches, toys, artificial grass and even a fountain, the enclosed outdoor spaces provides the homeowner’s beloved feline a safe space to enjoy nature.

Once a dated property, the newly renovated home is now filled with visual and sensory delights—for the homeowner, her cat and all of her friends. “I wanted my house to be a place where everyone could come in and have a good time,” she says. “It shouldn’t be stuffy or serious or pretentious in any way. It’s a place where people can enjoy
being themselves.”

Architect: Jon Poetzl, Poetzl Architecture + Design. Builder: John Gurley, R.J. Gurley Construction. Landscape Architect: Brent Bartsch, Mitscheles Landscape Design.

For more information, see Sources.

1. The exterior of the residence combines two of the homeowner’s favorite building materials: steel and stone. To the right is the fenced-in “catrium,” where the resident feline can safely enjoy the outdoors. It is one of several gabion structures found throughout the landscape. 2. For a unique twist on a doorway, architect Jon Poetzl connected the dining room to the back patio with a roll-up garage door.


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