MASTERS of the SOUTHWEST Award Winner
When building their California vacation home, a Valley-based couple recruit their longtime interior designer.
By Linda J. Barkman | Photography by Jeri Koegel
It’s been said that good things come in pairs. Such is the case with two spectacular residences in two different cities that Arizona residents Deanna and Kemp Biddulph hired interior designer Beth McGehee to work her magic on. The first was a luxurious Spanish-Andalusian-inspired abode in Paradise Valley that McGehee did the interiors for more than a decade ago. When the couple decided to purchase a vacation residence in La Jolla, California, they knew that the designer was just the person they needed to help turn the three-story, 6,000-square-foot custom house into a show-stopping retreat that they could escape to during the searing Sonoran summer months.
The Biddulphs were already familiar with the seaside community, having purchased a second home there some 30 years earlier. But seduced a few years ago by the expansive ocean views offered by a nearby property, they decided to tackle the task of building a new dream home.
“We seriously doubt we would have moved forward with that challenging experience without Beth,” remarks Deanna, noting the designer’s creativity, knowledge of the Spanish-derived style and background in construction. “Although the styles of our permanent residence and the new house are somewhat comparable,” she adds, “Beth was able to differentiate both the exterior and interior appearances.”
In order to determine the most appropriate look for their new home, the Biddulphs say they perused every neighborhood in La Jolla—a town filled with architectural wonders—finally determining that a Santa Barbara-style would be the most aesthetically compatible with the area. Plus, it was a style they had admired for many years.
“La Jolla is kind of an anything-goes town, but Santa Barbara-style certainly fits the climate and creates harmony with the neighboring houses,” says architect Tony Crisafi. “About four houses away is a historic estate of the same aesthetic, so visually there’s a nice relationship.”
The Biddulphs were also enthusiastically engaged in all aspects of building their home. “This particular client thoroughly enjoyed the process and stayed intimately involved throughout the project,” McGehee explains. This included selecting materials and design details—from tile patterns, colorization and placement; to motifs for the staircase, ironwork, limestone fireplaces and carved doors, she notes.
Because authenticity was important to the homeowners, such classic design elements as clay roof tiles with chinking, traditional Santa Barbara-style fireplace chimneys, the extensive use of hand-painted ceramic tile inside and out, and dual winding staircases with wrought-iron balustrades play key roles.
“Because the home is on a tight lot and the owners had a big program list, just organizing the spaces around each other was a challenge,” says Crisafi. “The circular stairs are a sculptural way to make the vertical circulation flow throughout the three levels.” The custom light fixtures that flank the front gate and entry door are replicas of historic designs.
“The exterior of the home is clearly authentic Santa Barbara/Spanish Renaissance style. Most all unique features have been taken from classic Santa Barbara and La Jolla homes,” says Deanna.
Additional key components of the home’s representative design are its white plaster surfaces and custom tile baseboards, which are inset into the walls. Comfortable furnishings are in neutral hues with touches of red and black, while wood elements are chunky and dark, giving the rooms a rustic, timeless appeal. Hand-colored tile throughout is based on historic designs. Leathered marble flooring and artisan-made window panels fashioned of glass roundels add custom charm. “The craftsmanship of the handmade items, such as the tiles and ironwork, really drives the authenticity,” notes Crisafi.
Also high on the Biddulphs’ wish list was the ability to enjoy ocean views from their main living spaces. The design team was able to satisfy the requirement by siting the home well, strategically incorporating large windows and including two decks and a small enclosed yard at the back of the home. “The house features three levels facing the ocean,” notes Crisafi. “The hierarchy was to have views from the kitchen, living and dining spaces. It was also important that Deanna and Kemp have separate offices, each with its own view. The garage was kept on the east side of the property, so even on the lower level as you step out below the terraces, there are spectacular vistas.”
The Biddulphs also desired a dramatic powder room, but the request was extremely challenging from a design and engineering standpoint because not only was there a coat closet immediately to its left, but also because the entryway was circular in shape, with a coffered ceiling. The small bathroom is visible upon entering the house, so instead of hiding it, the designer chose to make it a focal point. “The homeowners wanted the door to the powder room to make a statement,” explains McGehee. “So we decided to combine the two doors and connect them with millwork.”
Accomplishing the task of building the complicated frame was Tucson-based artisan and Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest award winner John Taber. “The design was a collaboration with Beth that evolved over a period of seven months,” he notes. “It was the most challenging project I’ve ever worked on. The crown was radiused, but the doors had to meet at a 90-degree angle. We made templates of everything using dimensions taken during a site visit, and actually re-created the the exact framing in our shop. That way, we were able to attach the doors and millwork and make sure all the pieces fit correctly before we took them to California for installation.”
Taber also built a custom dining table; a pair of iron and leather ottomans, carved-wood mirror and black-painted built-in cabinetry for the living room; and the grand mesquite entry door. “The front door and surrounding tile accents are something special,” notes Deanna. “Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t stop for pictures, generally focusing on the entrance.”
A small plaque, surrounded by custom tile, is inset in the entry gate. It reads “Casa de Sueños.” An apt name. Because whether they’re watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean or waking up to refreshing sea breezes, for the Biddulphs, their elegantly designed vacation home really is a house of dreams.
For more information, see Sources.
MASTERS of the SOUTHWEST Award Winner
When interior designer Beth McGehee moved to Arizona in 1995, she brought with her a decade of experience in the housing/construction/design fields. An opportunity to work for a developer of luxury golf club-centered communities re-sparked her joy in home interiors and led to her eventually opening her own firm, SB Design.
Described by industry professionals as talented, resourceful, collaborative and knowledgeable about materials, products and the overall building process, Beth notes that her construction background gives her the confidence to overcome seemingly unsurmountable design challenges. She admits that focusing on the small details to achieve the best possible end result is one of the things she enjoys most about her work. “The more complex a project is, the more I enjoy it,” she says. “The bigger the challenge, the better.”
La Jolla, California-based architect Tony Crisafi, with whom Beth worked on the home featured on these pages, says, “She brought ideas to the table and helped us iron out a number of kinks. The homeowners totally trusted her.”
Not one to take all the credit, Beth is quick to point out that the architects, builders, subcontractors and artisans with whom she works are instrumental to her success. “Just like the end result in construction is only as good as the people you employ, interior design is only as good as the trade partners you utilize.” In fact, pairing with talented craftspersons to create custom details is a well-known signature of her designs.
Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning architect Erik Peterson notes, “Beth has a great sense of style and uniqueness in creating wonderfully comforting environments.”
With an aesthetic that’s timeless, clean-lined and paired with Southwest influences, Beth always remains mindful of where a home is both geographically and architecturally. And that’s what makes her work stand out. For that, we are proud to name her a Masters of the Southwest award winner. Congratulations, Beth.