Rising to the Occasion
Inspired by boulder outcroppings, a Scottsdale garden melds Mediterranean style with Southwest ambience.
By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Michael Woodall
“It was the location that first drew us to this property,” recalls Joyce Silverstein of the stately residence she shares with her husband, Barry. “It’s situated on the side of a summit with beautiful vistas of the nearby mountain ranges and exquisite views of the city lights at night.”
Located in the Artesano community of Troon Village, along the southwestern edge of Troon Mountain, the lot also takes in picturesque Pinnacle Peak. “We love the boulder outcroppings on the mountain,” Barry says. “We had constructed a house in the same neighborhood with our builder five years before, but when this lot became available higher up, Joyce and I jumped at the chance to purchase it. We had already fallen in love with North Scottsdale.”
Joyce’s ties to the state run deep; she says her grandparents homesteaded in Peoria, and she met Barry when they were both students at Arizona State University. “We’ve had homes in different areas of the Valley for the last 30 years,” she remarks. For their current abode, the couple chose a Tuscan-influenced design because they felt the look was a good fit for their neighborhood and the mountainside locale.
“Situated near the summit, the home has views that are unimpeded and spectacular in all directions. ”
—Greg Trutza, landscape architect
While the house was under construction, landscape architect Greg Trutza visited the site and remembers it as being possibly the best one in the area. “Situated near the summit, the home has views that are unimpeded and spectacular in all directions,” he says. The Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner was introduced to the couple by their general contractor, Joe Mierau, and worked closely with the homeowners on the development of their landscape.
“Greg’s first visit here led him to open up our view and change our original hardscape design,” Barry recalls. Trutza removed overgrown vegetation that blocked sightlines and incorporated outdoor living spaces that focused on the showstopping scenery.
The home’s original plans featured just the raw shells of a stream and pool to begin with and no patios, Trutza describes. “The driveway, patios and hardscape were not installed, and the area around the house was just soil sloping away from it. So I came up with a series of retainer walls that could accommodate various areas for sunning, dining, cooking and entertaining.”
The landscape architect designed several terraced patios and added fire pits with sitting areas in both the front and back of the house. Antique French pavers for many of the terraces contrast with the travertine flooring that extends throughout the covered areas and the home’s interior. An arbored barbecue/dining area features a reclaimed barn wood cover adorned with purple-blooming snail vines climbing the columns; it is one of Joyce’s favorite spots. “We really like to entertain, and we can open our sliding doors on each side of the living area to create a large outdoor space,” she says.
Because the Troon homeowners association guidelines require the use of drought-tolerant indigenous plants for the majority of the property, allowing it to blend seamlessly with its natural surroundings, Trutza steered the Silversteins toward water conservation in the plantscape. The site’s elevation of 2,584 feet, which is well over twice that of central Phoenix, results in cooler temperatures year-round, so he chose trees and shrubs that look good even during the cold winter months and enhance the Mediterranean style of the residence, including various types of citrus, heritage oak, mulga and a desert orchid tree. “An amazing microcosm of plant life was able to occur,” Trutza points out. “It provides a wonderful background canopy to soften all of the stone veneer on the home.”
Numerous juniper varieties, including a Western juniper that was salvaged from the Sedona area, bring character to the landscape. “It’s as though one is in the front row seat in a national park without any signs of civilization to disrupt the tranquility,” Trutza adds.
By far the most monumental and original element in the landscape is a 30-foot-high waterfall in the backyard that appears to originate from Troon Mountain. Water cascades into a natural pond, then into a stream that flows beneath a self-supported hallway and ends at the front yard pool. Lush plantings around the pool soften the hardscape. “The hallway, which connects to the master wing, is suspended a few feet above the ground and about 20 feet long,” Trutza says. “It’s fun to look out the windows on both sides and see the water flowing underneath you.”
The waterfall was considered a necessity in order to “hold back” the mountain and enable the home to be built, explains the landscape architect. “The stream also affords an important outlet for excess rainwater, so it doesn’t end up trapped behind the house. Any excess from the monsoons finds the stream as a pathway to exit at the front of the property. It’s a very clever feat of engineering by the builder,” Trutza remarks. “I added boulders, stones and plants to create a sense of realism.”
While there is so much in this landscape to admire, Joyce particularly enjoys relaxing by the front fire pit. “The views are just spectacular, and it’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset,” she enthuses. For Barry, it’s all about the back patio. “It’s quiet and secluded with our only wood-burning fireplace,” he remarks. “Greg recently added shutters to enclose the space, so we can enjoy it even in winter.”
For the landscape architect, realizing early on what a treasure this property was enabled him to envision its potential and help transform it into a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind retreat. “You can find the general character of this stone-clad mountainside home in the Mediterranean,” he says. “But here you have the indigenous species and desert-adapted plants bringing the design back to the Southwest.”
Architect: Bing Hu, H&S International. Builder: Joe Mierau, JCM LLC. Landscape Architect: Greg Trutza, New Directions in Landscape Architecture Inc.
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