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Homepage / Interior Design  / Resort-Style Luxury Meets Hollywood Glam in This Designer’s Dreamy Desert Retreat

Resort-Style Luxury Meets Hollywood Glam in This Designer’s Dreamy Desert Retreat

Left: A 50-year-old creeping fig vine frames the romantic alfresco dining space at interior designer James McIntyre’s Scottsdale home. “I was compelled to create a sort of desert resort vibe with global influences—a true retreat.” Right: Prior to renovations, the courtyard simply had some pavers and a clamshell-shaped hot tub—a quirky relic of the townhome’s 1970s origin. Now, oversized terra cotta pots of desert specimen plants create a lush atmosphere around the aquamarine dipping pool that takes center stage in the newly designed courtyard.

An uninspired town home from the 1970s is transformed into a timeless desert hideaway.

By Carly Scholl | Photography by Austin Larue Baker

As an interior designer, you sometimes feel the call of the wild,” laughs James McIntyre about his latest personal project—a radical home renovation in Scottsdale’s Cuernavaca neighborhood. After living many years and in a variety of homes in the Valley, the designer came across the 1970s townhome about two years ago and, as he tells it, took a leap of faith.

“It was a solid house but sort of tired,” he notes. “I loved the Spanish colonial style—the flat roof, the natural brick trimming. The idea of a courtyard appealed to me because it’s much less maintenance than a yard. We were moving from central Phoenix and were up for a lifestyle change.”

Despite its original charm, the house needed plenty of work if it was going to fit McIntyre’s vision. “We ended up gutting it down to the studs and concrete slabs,” he says. “As we got into it, we realized we needed to do a full renovation, with some floor plan changes, new air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, new kitchen, new finishes, new courtyard—pretty much everything.”

The consummate host, McIntyre envisioned his home as a refuge not only for him and his partner but also for the many guests they welcome throughout the year. What used to be a two-bedroom house now has four bedrooms, four-and-a-half bathrooms, private balconies, and plenty of resortlike amenities. “I love the natural feel of the Auberge hotels,” McIntyre says. “Luxury, but down to earth. Nothing glossy, shiny or processed. I wanted to echo that feel while staying true to the Spanish colonial style, so I used a materials palette of natural-toned travertine, caramelly marble, French oak wood floors, an adobe fireplace and terra cotta.”

McIntyre brought in elements of other design aesthetics to complement and contrast the Spanish colonial style. An Italian marble mosaic on the kitchen backsplash and geometric tiles in the bathroom exude art deco drama. Sparkling light fixtures imported from Morocco add a subtle bohemian touch. A burl-front credenza and brass accents throughout the home speak to the Hollywood Regency era. “I loved the history of the home, and I wanted to add to it with other design styles rooted in history,” the designer says.

1-2. In the shade of the townhome’s second story, understated patio furniture and contemporary sculpture welcome lounging any time of day. Charming details, such as brick-lined doors, private balconies and the secluded outdoor dining corner, were part of what originally attracted McIntyre to the home. 3. Scottsdale’s storied Cuernavaca neighborhood is home to McIntyre’s diamond-in-the-rough townhouse. Drawn to the Spanish colonial-style architecture, the designer saw beyond the dated 1970s interiors and envisioned a sophisticated desert retreat. 4. “I’ve collected these pieces of art over many years,” says McIntyre of the parlor-style gallery wall of paintings and photographs. “I really like how they transform the space.” To infuse a bit of art deco influence into the sweeping staircase vignette, the designer installed wrought- iron railing and returned the floors to 1930s-style terra cotta. 5. A striking Italian marble mosaic makes a dynamic art deco-inspired backsplash. Paired with curvaceous lighting fixtures from Morocco, the kitchen tells a worldly story. 6. One of the major structural renovations McIntyre made was to this two-story opening in the living area. Arched cutouts peak into the upper story hallways, and an oversized Moroccan light fixture anchors the space.

Originally outfitted with pavers and a clam-shaped hot tub—“Scalloped and everything!” McIntyre remembers—the courtyard has also been updated to fit the luxury-resort-and-spa identity the designer dreamed of. With an array of lounging options, burbling fountains flowing into a Riviera-blue pool and stately palm trees original to the house, the new courtyard is a true getaway.

“The house feels like an escape from normal life. In Scottsdale, so much of the lifestyle is about golf, shopping and public outdoor activities, but I wanted our home to feel private, tucked away and a little more cosmopolitan.”

—James McIntyre, interior designer

1. A calming aura emanates from the main living area, as a palette of creamy neutrals and sumptuous textures invites visitors to breathe deep and relax. French oak wood floors set the scene for masculine yet cozy furnishings, while large-scale artworks, a burl-front credenza and kitchen cabinetry outfitted with unique ring-shaped pulls demonstrate McIntyre’s singular personal style. 2. “I love art deco style,” McIntyre notes. “It’s handsome and timeless, and black and wood tones are so beautiful together.” This combination is on full display in a seating area situated around an adobe beehive fireplace. 3-4. Upstairs, guests can enjoy tucked-away spaces marked by more plush furnishings and global objects of interest. “When we bought this house, there was about 40 years’-worth of paint on top of these wood-beamed ceilings, which we set to work removing. That process is not for the faint of heart,” McIntyre laughs. “When we exposed that natural wood color, it set the palette for the floors and the wood doors.”

McIntyre likens the spirit of the newly renovated home to those of the popular Spanish Revival-style estates built in Hollywood during its Golden Age. “The house feels like an escape from normal life,” he says. “In Scottsdale, so much of the lifestyle is about golf, shopping and public outdoor activities, but I wanted our home to feel private, tucked away and a little more cosmopolitan.”

Indeed, the townhome is reminiscent of a retreat where a 1930s star of the silver screen might hide out from paparazzi, sipping gin fizzes by the pool and studying scripts on the balcony. From the dramatic curved staircase in the art-filled foyer to the alfresco dining space beneath trellised vines in the side yard, there is an essence of romance and understated glamour around every corner. “I wanted to create this true desert retreat,” McIntyre says. “This home was a chance to play into a bit of fantasy.”

1. In a guest bathroom, a dizzying tile backdrop creates an unforgettable scene. “I loved the idea of doing a large center knob on some of these doors,” McIntyre points out. “It’s a little nod to Hollywood regency design.” 2. A dreamy breakfast nook off the kitchen is a perfect example of how McIntyre uses scale throughout the home to create such an alluring environment. Oversized fixtures, such as the pillars of houseplants, a sparkling glass light fixture and a heavy wood table, inspire a larger-than-life sense of comfort, livability and luxury. 3. “When people hear travertine, they think of all those faux-Tuscan homes from the 2000s that used polished beige travertine on every surface,” says the designer. “But it’s really such a beautiful material that, when used strategically, shouldn’t be associated with outdated design anymore.” In a guest bathroom, mesmerizing striations of sand-hued travertine create a slight sense of movement and interest.

Interior designer: James McIntyre, James McIntyre Interior Design, Scottsdale,
OUTDOOR DINING ROOM—Tables and chairs: Terra cotta pots: Plant Stand of Arizona, Phoenix, Light fixture:
POOL AND PATIO—Pool: Postorino Pools, Scottsdale, Pool tile: Pool umbrella: Patio furniture: Patio sculpture (by Birgit Piskor):
ENTRYWAY—Flooring: Mexican Tile and Stone, Phoenix, Stools ( from The James McIntyre Collection): Light fixture: Lady Gaga Portrait (by Janine Hall):
LIVING ROOM—Black linen sofa: Light fixture over Island: Floor lamps: Burled walnut credenza: Large painting over credenza (by the Fortoul Brothers):
SITTING AREA—Sofas and tables: Blankets:
KITCHEN—Cabinetry: Light fixture: Backsplash: Craftsman Court Ceramics, Scottsdale, Stools: Hardware: Clyde Hardware, Phoenix, Plumbing fixture: Studio41 Home Design Showroom, Scottsdale, Ceramic urn (by Nick Bernard): Scottsdale,
POWDER ROOM—Moroccan tile: Light fixture: Door knob: Plumbing fixture:
BREAKFAST NOOK—Dining table: Dining chairs: Light fixture: Mirror and banquette (custom): Flooring: Turkish pots: Tierra Del Lagarto, Scottsdale,
MASTER BEDROOM—Bed and nightstands: Windows: Drapery: Arizona Custom Drapery Inc., Scottsdale,
READING NOOK—Shelves: Area rug (by Holly Hunt) Light fixture:
GUEST BATHROOM—Travertine tile: Light fixture: Cabinetry: Marble counter: The Stone Collection, Phoenix, Plumbing fixture: Decorative vase:


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