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Romancing the Stone

The backyard views from this North Scottsdale home include a direct line to the Tonto National Forest. A trio of charcoal fire features, visible from inside the master bedroom, add nighttime drama to the subdued setting.

A pair of Valley transplants find the perfect home that blends business and pleasure.

By Jackie Dishner | Photography by Mark Lipczynski

There is a common saying that “like attracts like.” It appears to be true for Shannon and Michael Hitchcock, owners of a local stone and tile company, who instantly fell in love with a 5-year-old hillside residence in one of Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain villages.

Adorned with materials they know so well—travertine floors, stacked stone walls, glass tile showers—it was as if the stucco dwelling, with its flat roof, translucent block and custom glass front door had been built especially for them. “It felt like home,” says Shannon, adding that after relocating from the foothills of Colorado, she and Michael had hoped to find a similar environment in the Valley.

Seamless window walls in the main living areas and the master bedroom offered picture-perfect views of a stone-covered patio and negative-edge pool and spa that seem to spill out into the vast desert—a riparian corridor for local wildlife—making it look as though the Tonto National Forest, Black Mountain and Pinnacle Peak were part of their backyard. The unobstructed glow of city lights down below completed the deal. “We wanted to be able to see all that the desert has to offer,” Shannon notes.

The multilevel property was mostly turnkey, but to make the house their own, the couple brought in interior designer Angelica Henry, who created a more subdued color scheme that fit their soft but contemporary aesthetic. “Shannon and Michael really wanted to infuse their business and personality into the space,” she says.

Both characteristics are prominently on display in the master bedroom, which features one of the home’s showpieces. “They had this stone slab that they thought could be used in the dining area,” Henry recalls. Instead, the designer fashioned a headboard out of the earth-toned Velluto onyx from Turkey, mounting it in a custom clean-lined iron frame. “It’s a work of art,” says Shannon. The depth of pattern and color in the natural material are underscored by backlights, creating an elegant, orange glow at night.

Henry also made use of design elements already present in the house, including a series of floating reclaimed wood beams that runs the entire length of a curved hall that begins at the front door and opens into the main living area. The beams’ dark finish inspired the designer to stain the original white oak built-ins found throughout the home in a matching espresso tone. She balanced the deep hues with light-colored carpet and cream paint. Taupes, browns and grays on throw pillows and abstract artworks offer organic accents that create a soothing vibe.

The designer’s biggest challenge was deciding what to do with a wall that closed off the dining room from the rest of the main living area. To achieve the full open floor plan that the Hitchcocks wanted, she knew it had to be removed, but she would need to find a way to disguise its former imprint against a concrete aggregate wall. A new wet bar, complete with iron shelving that incorporates a smoky gray glass that matches the kitchen island and breakfast nook high top, was expertly integrated to appear original to the home. “It’s the only structural change we made,” notes Shannon.

1. Interior designer Angelica Henry says the architecture’s straight lines inspired the purchase of the wrought iron chandelier that hangs above the dining room table. Its bronze-gold finish is reflected in an oversized abstract giclee. 2. The kitchen’s breakfast nook offers views of Black Mountain. The textured-glass tabletop matches the raised bar on the island.

The depth of pattern and color in the natural material are underscored by backlights, creating an elegant, orange glow at night.

Outside, landscape designer Jake Plocher was tasked with dramatizing the front and adding more color to the back.  He offered the Hitchcock’s what he calls the “wow” package, but they wanted even more, he says. At the entry, he replaced the square concrete slabs that formed a walkway to the front door with more sculptured shapes that matched the curvature of the architecture.

Sago palms, barrel cacti, shade-loving agaves, star jasmine vines and flowering plumbagos, among others, are layered around two groupings of basalt columns that form eye-catching water features on both sides of the path, creating a soothing oasis that hints at the resortlike setting in back. A bed of two distinct shades of pebble rock forms the appearance of flowing water on the ground, while the burbling sound of the fountains echoes up the walkway. When viewed through the dining room window, the space looks like a terrarium.

1. A towering saguaro and a row of cardons lead guests down the curved drive to the home’s hidden entrance. 2. The glass front door features iridescent dichroic flakes that shimmer and change colors throughout the day. To enhance the entry experience, landscape designer Jake Plocher added five basalt rock columns that match the texture of the door. Water tumbles down from smooth basins at the top of each column, creating a trickling waterfall sound that echoes through the pathway filled with a mix of agave plants, flowering vines, palms and columnar cacti. 3. Midcentury modern features, such as the glass door and stacked block wall, along with travertine floors bordered by black granite, were instant draws for the homeowners, who liked the clean lines and geometry of the space. 4. A leather sectional lends an informal feel to the family room, which is separated from the living room by an open fireplace. The copper cladding gives the space a warm yet contemporary feel when paired with traditional stacked stone and a limestone hearth and mantel. An identical fireplace can be seen outside. 5. Custom glass artworks painted in metallic charcoal, platinum and bronze hang behind a low-profile leather-and-fabric sofa in the living room. A barn door serves as an added artistic element as well as the entrance to the master suite.

In back, it was all about blooms. “Shannon desired color, which she wanted to be able to see from inside,” explains Plocher. “She really loves bougainvilleas, but they’re messy.” In order to limit the amount of debris that would land in the pool and spa, he anchored five custom planters to the back side of the fence around the pool patio yard. Shannon is able to view her colorful flowers while the leaves drop into the desert beyond.

When the renovation was completed, the Hitchcocks invited the home’s architect, Mark Tate, to visit. He hadn’t seen the dwelling since it was first built five years earlier and was excited to see the difference.

“Angelica did such a marvelous job of interpreting the house. It was as if it were brand new,” he says, “It’s nice to know what you’ve designed is timeless and easily adapted.”

Architect: Mark Tate, Tate Studio Architects. Builder: Platinum Homes. Interior Designer: Angelica Henry, Angelica Henry Design. Landscape Designer: Jake Plocher, Desert Foothills Landscape.

For more information, see Sources.

“It’s nice to know that what you’ve designed is timeless and easily adapted.”

—Mark Tate, architect

1. The focal point of the master bedroom is a custom headboard crafted from a massive slab of Velluto onyx. Henry kept the rest of the decor simple, adding only the bed, nightstands and a leather chaise to the space, so it would not compete with the eye-catching feature or the views outside. 2. Although the cabinets were refinished with an espresso-colored stain, the homeowners opted to keep the original hardware, which suited their style. The gray glass subway tile backsplash was carried to the ceiling for a luxurious, finished look that accentuates the room’s height. 3. To open the dining room up to the rest of the living areas, Henry replaced an obstructing wall with a sleek, stylish wet bar that features iron-and-glass shelving. 4. Plocher added 6-foot-tall totem pole cacti, which complement the soft contemporary feel of the outdoor furnishings, to the seating areas. “They’re good for places where people congregate because they are the only cacti without thorns,” he explains.

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