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Rustic, Relaxed, Refined

The great room is truly the heart of the home and a palace of comfort. The sofas, coffee table and table in the reading nook were purchased at consignment stores. Builders Kevin and Deb Malone quarried all the stone for the fireplace and also fabricated the casegoods and ceiling beams found here and elsewhere in the house. Guests seated at the peninsula on the left can hang out while watching the chef work her magic in the kitchen beyond.

A vacation home on the edge of the Valley embraces the essence of Arizona living.

By Linda J. Barkman | Photography by Garrett Cook and Michae lWoodall

Janis Steinbrecher was enchanted with Arizona from the first moment she visited. “For a good number of years, I’d come out to various resorts to play golf, shop, read and unwind,” the Kansas native recalls in reference to her introduction to the state that impressed her with its simplicity and natural beauty. But nearly two decades would elapse before the idea of actually residing in The Grand Canyon State began germinating.

The seeds to purchase a second house were first planted after friends from Kansas City bought a home in the golf community of Tonto Verde, located in Rio Verde, northeast of Scottsdale on the edge of the McDowell Mountains. “They often invited me to come over, but unfortunately, I was really wrapped up in my career at that time and my visits to Arizona had been put on hold,” notes Janis, a now-retired doctor.

Fast-forward about 10 years, and the same friend tried again, extending an invitation for Janis to come out for a girls’ weekend. “She felt I needed a life beyond my career and urged me to accept,” Janis recalls. “I knew she was right, and it turned out to be a great time for me to finally get away.”

A wall hanging by Philonese Baisden is showcased in a shadow box frame in the great room. A discovery purchased before groundbreaking began, the piece served as inspiration for the design of the home.

After three days spent mostly on the golf course, Janis had fallen in love with the area and wanted to look at houses. “I started out just looking,” she notes. “But within a couple of hours I was looking hard to buy. If I was going to have a home here, I knew I wanted to have the solitude and serenity that came with views of the desert and mountains,” she reports. When she saw a vacant lot that backed up to the Tonto National Forest, she quickly asked, “Where do I sign?”

With the right property in-hand, Janis began the search for the perfect builder to make her dreams a reality. While she had built several custom homes in the Kansas City area over the years, they were done in a style she describes as eclectic but refined. That said, she knew from the start that her Arizona home needed to “speak to the Southwest” with an ambience that was very relaxed, comfortable and welcoming, with rustic furnishings that didn’t look like they came off a showroom floor, and original pieces of Southwestern art.

Janis also wanted her home to take advantage of the views, appear to have been there a long time and offer a variety of spaces that would allow her to entertain outdoors. “I wanted my own little haven where I could cook, read, swim, relax, have my friends over and enjoy life,” she says.

To fulfill Janis’ wish list of a truly Southwest abode, the couple conceived a 3,483-square-foot house that is oriented toward views of the desert and mountains beyond. It features an open floor plan, a centrally situated great room that provides easy access to outdoor spaces, a well-equipped kitchen, wide gallerylike hallways, two individualized guest suites and a master retreat located on the opposite side of the house.

The equally amenity-rich outdoor spaces include a patio anchored with a raised spa that spills into a kidney-shaped pool, a fire pit, a barbecue island and multiple seating areas, including a covered alfresco living room and nearby dining area.

Architecturally, a strong Southwest connection is evidenced in the home’s “modified adobe look,” gated courtyard entry with stepped wall, hefty vigas indoors and out, and two small, red-framed “spirit windows,” which according to Native Americans lore allow spirits to come and go.

A Santa Fe influence is evident in the entry to the front courtyard, which features a stepped wall and a wooden gate accented with groupings of pots filled with seasonal flowers.
1. Furnished and accessorized with unique and carefully selected items, the entry courtyard offers a welcoming prelude to what lies ahead. 2. A niche in the dining room was created for a multidrawered storage piece. Above it, natural light filters in through a rectangular skylight. Pieces of an antique kilim rug were used to reupholster the master chairs. The wall hanging over the fireplace is by Arizona artist Philonese Baisden.  3. The foyer features a console that rests on wheels in lieu of legs and a mix of accessories, including a Mexican wedding pot and the first of many flying pigs purchased by the owner on her travels.

The homeowner knew from the start that her Arizona abode needed to speak to the Southwest.

1. Granite countertops, alder cabinetry and engineered-wood flooring are key components in the spacious kitchen. A black finish on the center island provides contrast. Attesting to the homeowner’s trademark sense of humor, a painted wood chicken perched on a green chair adorns the top of the island. 2. The walls of this powder room are upholstered in embossed vinyl with the look of tooled leather. A 17th-century hand-carved elliptical wood farm sink sits on a cart-style vanity topped with granite. An old wood door with a speak-easy opening, found at a consignment store, separates the vanity from the commode area. 3. A viga-beamed roof crowns the outdoor dining room. Hanging over the hefty wood table is a metal chandelier that can be raised and lowered via a pulley system. Its wire tiers are wrapped in grapevine. Visible in the background is a cozy outdoor living room with a stone fireplace.

If building the home was like a course in local culture, furnishing it was all about the thrill of the hunt. “Everything was found, redone or pulled together, such as the one-of-a kind cart-style vanity in the powder room,” points out Malone. “Janis would come to town once a week each month, and we would shop. Some of the pieces are new; lots are from consignment stores; many were reupholstered or refinished.”

Admitting that there was a learning curve when it came to Southwest style, Janis says it took her a while to “get” the desert aesthetic. This became an ongoing joke; when she would see something she liked, she would ask, “What about this?” And Malone, explaining why it didn’t work, would respond, “Maybe when pigs fly.” Soon after, whimsical pigs with wings became a fun-spirited part of the home’s decor; they’re found in all shapes, sizes and materials throughout the house—Janis even placed a family of the flying critters outside the backyard walls for an amusing surprise among the desert flora.

An avid cook who loves to entertain, Janis makes good use of a spacious kitchen that appeals to homeowner and guests alike. But every space—indoors and out—is well-used and cherished. “I love every room in the house,” Janis says. She enjoys spending time in her outdoor living room, where she likes to nap and read, and she prefers to savor her morning coffee on the raised deck while scanning the adjacent land for wildlife.

1. Deb Malone created a reading nook for her book-loving client on one side of the great room, complete with a built-in crate for her beloved labradoodle, Latte, in the lower section of the built-in cabinet. 2. A house characterized by layers, whimsy and details galore is evident in this vignette of a casual dining spot in the great room. Decorating the table’s thick distressed wood top is a woven runner upon which rests a platter holding a whimsical flying pig from the homeowner’s collection. 3. Situated off the great room and accessed via a barn door, this office features upholstered wainscoting and a coffered ceiling. Builder Deb Malone cut a light channel into a leftover latilla and used it as a pole to support and illuminate a long carpet runner on the wall. A sliding glass door opens to the front courtyard.  4. Furnished as completely as its indoor counterpart—with textiles and accessories in bright colors and patterns that complement the home’s Southwest motif—this outdoor living room offers stunning views of Tonto National Forest. 5. Guests staying in the “bunk room” can’t help but feel the spirit of the West. Twin beds with headboards from a consignment shop rest against a wall clad in wood planks. Pendleton blankets featuring a horse and rider motif are used as bedspreads, while folded quilts cinched with belts dress the foot of the bed. A repurposed work table serves as a desk between the beds. 6. The outdoor living area separates this private guest patio from the master patio on the opposite side.

While Janis is undeniably thrilled with her new home, her favorite thing about it is being able to share it with family and friends. She smiles as she tells of a friend from Kansas City who said the residence was the most beautiful home she’d ever seen. For the consummate hostess, though, home is about more than looks—it’s about that special feeling it creates. And just as Janis desired, her home—front to back, inside and out—is the kind of place that makes you feel good from the minute you arrive until the time you leave.

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1. The covered patio off the master bedroom overlooks the pool and Tonto National Forest beyond. 2. The spacious master bedroom has a coffered ceiling and opens to a private patio. A pair of bachelor chests with burlap drawer fronts serve as nightstands. 3. The luxurious master bath features an arched ceiling, heated floors and a freestanding tub with a long, curved tub-filler faucet. An antique Chinese rice basket holds towels above the tub. An iron and stone chandelier hangs above a wood console in the center of the room.
1. A vanity area outside the guest bathroom features a wood-plank wall and a chair upholstered in hair on hide to match the one in the adjacent sleeping area. 2. A shallow wood cupboard on a wall outside the guest suites opens to reveal the day’s agenda.
1. Desert plantings add a lush backdrop to a sitting area overlooking the pool and raised spa. Colorful cushions add pops of color. 2. The home’s Southwest architecture, expansive patio and native desert landscaping can be appreciated in this view of the back of the house. All the boulders, specimen cacti and pots were individually selected. “It was a bald lot consisting of dirt and rock,” Janis recalls. “All the trees and cacti were brought in, including seven saguaros and several palo verde and mesquite trees.
1-6. Flying pigs are a design element used throughout the home. 7. An avid gardener, owner Janis Steinbrecher loves adding potted plants to her landscape. Here, cheerful blooms pair with a colorful Talavera pot.


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