Rustic, Relaxed, Refined
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.”
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.
The homeowner knew from the start that her Arizona abode needed to speak to the Southwest.
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.
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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