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Queen of the Castle

2020 MASTERS of the SOUTHWEST Award Winner - Isabel Dellinger Candelaria

Interior designer Isabel Dellinger Candelaria creates a modernized version of a classic Parisian home infused with light and sophistication.

By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Julianne McKay and Portrait Photography by Jesse Rieser

It’s not often you come across French Transitional design in the Southwest. Throw in a splash of urban sophistication, a dash of modern and a bit of glam, and you’ve got something far more suited to a European metropolis than the desert. But for homeowners Betsy and Clay Coffeen, the combination perfectly suits their Arizona lifestyle and family of five.

“My husband used to drive by this golf course property every day on his way to work,” says Betsy. “It belonged to actor Leslie Nielson and before that, a foreign consular officer from Belgium. We really liked how quiet and private the lot was. It had a very peaceful feeling.” In 2013, the couple purchased the Paradise Valley residence but, after realizing how much it would cost to remodel the dated abode, they decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

“Betsy loves New York City and French design,” says interior designer Isabel Dellinger Candelaria. “She wanted a bit of a fashionable Manhattan apartment vibe with European flair.” The homeowner adds that she has always been drawn to the Modern French style of architecture. “I think it’s so charming, but I also love a touch of clean lines and a polished look,” she says. “I didn’t want to take a single-minded approach but a more eclectic one—something warm and inviting with a bit of glamour and elegance, and Isabel was able to make that happen.”

Dellinger Candelaria, who grew up in northern New Mexico and has an affinity for Santa Fe design, admits to her own love of Parisian style. “As a designer, it’s all about what the client wants, but I’ve always been fascinated with furniture history and French style, and I was excited to take on this project,” she explains.

1. Isabel Dellinger Candelaria; Portrait Photography by Jesse Rieser 2. no caption 3. A simple but elegant kitchen off the great room blends modern with classic. “We wanted gray tones, something neutral but warm—a palette that would be refined, timeless and work with an array of colors,” says Betsy.

The Coffeens have three children and two dogs, so it was important that their home be kid-friendly and sustainable for the Arizona climate. “Betsy and Clay chose polished concrete for the main floors for its durability and because it keeps the house cool naturally,” notes Dellinger Candelaria. They also wanted lots of light and high ceilings. “We are big entertainers, so a large, bright and open kitchen was a must, as was an adjacent morning room,” says Betsy. “I call it my Manhattan room, and it’s my favorite. It’s super modern and colorful, like something you would see in a New York City apartment, and there is so much natural illumination.”

Separate bedrooms, bathrooms and a private lounge area for the kids; a theater; and a man cave are part of the mix, as well. “When I was in my 20s, I was a professional golfer. When we built this house, I wanted somewhere to display my old monogrammed golf bags, memorabilia and trophies,” says Clay of his private retreat. “I’m also a huge sports nut and wanted a place to watch games with family and friends.”

To give the homeowners everything they desired, Dellinger Candelaria collaborated with her husband, architect Mark Candelaria. The pair met in 2009 and married in 2013. “Working together just sort of happened,” the designer says. “We have similar aesthetics and identical values, and when we do get to collaborate, I think it makes it easier for the client.”

Candelaria, a 2005 Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner, notes that the two-story residence features a number of French Revival details, including vaulted ceilings, paneled walls and traditional millwork combined with contemporary details. “It’s a fabulous blend of the old with the modern,” he explains.

The exquisite features are something in which the interior designer takes particular pride. “So much attention went into creating the wall paneling and bringing attention to the beautiful craftsmanship of the ceilings,” she remarks. “There’s quite a bit of forethought, investigation and education that goes into these types of projects. While it’s a lot of work, it’s also wonderful and rewarding.”

Dellinger Candelaria worked closely with Betsy to select all of the finishes, furniture and accessories. “We didn’t want it to look overfurnished,” notes the designer. “In fact, it looks very European.” Because she has experience doing everything from floral arranging and real estate sales to visual merchandising and custom-furniture store management, Dellinger Candelaria has an innate sense of what works best with what. “Isabel is very intuitive and is excellent at picking out tiles, fixtures and colors,” says Betsy. “We wanted our interiors to be original and interesting. Every room has a different feel and doesn’t look too arranged.”

A house needs to function well, live well and wear well. And comfort is huge.

—Isabel Dellinger Candelaria, interior designer

1. Glamorous and very French, the dining room is a sophisticated blend of quiet elegance and understated beauty. Interior designer Isabel Dellinger Candelaria used mint green, one of the owner’s favorite colors, in accents, such as vintage dishware. “I find the color both peppy and preppy,” she says. 2. Pewter-hued millwork in the foyer offsets the white walls and allows the craftsmanship of the paneling to stand out. Cement tiles form a permanent rug near the front door.  3. A wood credenza with a limewash finish brings a modern vibe to the great room, while paneled walls accentuate the French aesthetic. 4. For added European flair, the designer selected marble tiles with a gray printed pattern for the butler’s pantry. 5. Feminine and ornate, a side table in the living room is from the French Rococo period. Green bottles and accessories reflect Betsy’s love of the color. 6. In the front entry, a whitewashed demilune table with gold embellishments is understated yet classic.

The overall aesthetic of the 7,500-square-foot house is soft and serene. “Betsy loves white and mint green, and that’s what drove the design palette,” Dellinger Candelaria points out. The pale viridescent hue can be found as subtle accents in everything from the master bathroom sinks, sconces and a string of chandelier crystals to a backsplash, TV cabinet and artwork. “The colorization is light, airy, open and clean,” notes the architect. “The furnishings are in the same realm with pops of color, but they’re definitely not overbearing. The hardest part of design, especially interior design, is knowing when to stop, and I think Isabel nailed it on this house.”

Always ready for a challenge, Dellinger Candelaria would face her biggest one not long after finishing the Coffeens’ house. Initially diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer in May 2017, a follow-up appointment revealed that the disease was actually at stage 3. After chemotherapy and radiation, her doctors discovered that the cancer had metastasized to her brain. “That certainly changed my perspective on things, and I went through some incredible spiritual experiences during that time,” she recalls.

1. Homeowner Betsy Coffeen wanted a conservatory style room off the kitchen that was light and bright. Dubbed the Manhattan Room, the stylish space is a mix of New York glamour and Parisian charm. 2. Going for a casual yet sophisticated ambience, Dellinger Candelaria outfitted the great room with an eclectic mix of French-inspired furnishings. Scored and stained concrete flooring melds with the patio’s old-world-style brick pavers when the collapsing doors are open.

Following intensive treatment, the designer shows no evidence of the disease and says she feels better than her old self. “I have more energy, am healthier and think I am more clear-headed and creative than ever. My team at the office really stepped up during that time, and we didn’t lose a single client.” People often tell her that not only do her designs look beautiful, but they also look comfortable. “A house needs to function well, live well and wear well. And comfort is huge. I’ve found that to be especially true since my cancer diagnosis.”

Being able to continue working with such homeowners as the Coffeens brings Dellinger Candelaria happiness. “I really enjoy my clients. Often we become friends and they end up being a regular part of my and Mark’s lives,” she says. “I truly savor these relationships. Right now, I’m taking things one day at a time. I’m at a very peaceful place in my life.”

Architect: Mark Candelaria, Candelaria Design. Builder: Jerry Meek, Desert Star Construction. Interior Designer: Isabel Dellinger Candelaria, Earth and Images.

For more information, see Sources.

Architect Mark Candelaria designed the house in a French Transitional style. Brick pavers and desert landscaping require minimal maintenance, and plants are watered from a well.


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