Step Inside a Scottsdale Couple’s Modern Golf Retreat
A few questions result in a modern golf retreat.
By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Michael Woodall
Sometimes, a little architectural sleuthing yields great things.
For a Michigan couple, being a tad nosy resulted in a newly built, modernist home that’s both stylish and practical—and has killer views of the golf course, mountains and city lights.
“One of our neighbors had a modern house,” recalls the wife of a time a few years back when the couple lived in their previous residence, also in the same golf community. “I basically stalked the owner to get the name of their architect.”
The architect, it turns out, was Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winner Mark Tate, known for his contemporary spin on desert living and view-grabbing style. Once he was on board to do the couple’s house, Tate, in turn, worked with a team that included interior designer Sherry Engle, fellow Master of the Southwest, landscape designer Chad Norris and builder Dan Couturier to create the four-bedroom, 6,700-square-foot abode that makes the most of its 1-acre setting overlooking a ninth fairway.
The story behind the house actually goes back a few years more. The couple started coming to Arizona as visitors, then purchased a lot at the golf course community in 2001 as a real estate investment. Another lot followed, and before long the pair became smitten with the local golf scene and made friends in the community. They moved into an existing house and planned their permanent desert retreat.
“We like modernism,” says the husband, “but we wanted something a bit warmer in style. We also wanted something that’s indestructible for when our grandchildren visit. ‘Don’t touch’ is something we don’t like to say.”
A comfortable and organized house were the takeaways Tate had of his initial meetings with the couple. “The lot also has great views to the south,” the architect says, “so we planned that the outdoor living spaces would face that way, as well as the pool.” He drew up an H-shaped floor plan, anchored by the central living, dining and kitchen spaces. In front, two garages flank the auto court, while in back, bedroom wings open up to the pool patio. Tate also accommodated the owners’ requests for a few special spaces. A planned upstairs playroom for the grandchildren was converted to a home office during construction once the couple realized how fantastic the views were from the space. Instead, the grandchildren got a bunk room at one end of a wing, next to a soundproof media room. A combination pantry/dirty kitchen behind the main kitchen was a specific request from the wife, who enjoys cooking and entertaining, and a Zen garden was included to one side of the house, to encourage meditation.
In elevation, Tate made the central living quarters a glass jewel box, surrounded by a series of stepped-back solid volumes, done in different hues of sand stucco to create sculptural dimensions. “The pitched, standing-seam metal roof acts like a hat for the structure,” explains Tate, “and it sits on a dark-colored band at the top of the stucco walls, so it looks like it floats above the house.” The architect’s take on an entry was to create a honed basalt portal that frames the custom glass door.
Builder Couturier became a fan of Tate’s designs after collaborating on several residences. “The beauty of working with Mark is how creative he is with materials and textures,” says Couturier. “For this project, he used an exposed aggregate for the auto court and continued that material inside as a polished concrete floor, which then transitions to a finer exposed aggregate for the pool patio.”
Couturier was charged with overseeing the interior’s polished concrete floors—tough enough to withstand whatever the grandchildren might dream up—done in a white hue. “White concrete is a balancing act,” he says. “You have to add titanium to the mix to get the color. Too much titanium, though, and the concrete could crack.”
Following Scottsdale’s green building guidelines, Couturier also facilitated the installation of the home’s 50 solar panels, which provide most of the electricity and are tucked behind roof parapets.
For the interior, the couple turned to designer Sherry Engle, who had collaborated with them on several previous residences, including their home in Michigan. “We’ve been working together for at least 15 years,” Engle says, “and I know they are very focused on style, yet also very practical.”
Engle joined the project at blueprint stage and steered interior finish choices, custom cabinetry and millwork, background details and furnishings. One of her suggestions was a rift-sawn oak ceiling detail above the soaring volume of the living room, which not only has channels to disguise recessed lighting, but also acts as an acoustical surface, mitigating noise from the room’s concrete floors, glass walls, steel fireplace surround and other hard surfaces. Engle also designed a midcentury-inspired room divider and cabinet for the dining room, creating separation from the adjacent kitchen.
For furnishings, Engle deftly wove in pieces from the owners’ previous home, reupholstering and refinishing items to complement the current surroundings. New selections also add spark, such as the sculptural stools for the bar and kitchen, and a dramatic bubble-shaped light fixture for the powder room. “The husband spent time in the military and favors an Asian aesthetic,” says Engle, “so for the living room, we did two red velvet sofas as accents against the neutral colors.” The designer also incorporated the couple’s collection of art and artifacts gathered from their travels, including creating a display of masks brought back from Africa, Cambodia, Vietnam, Costa Rica and other locales.
As a landscape designer, Norris had worked with the owners on their previous residence and often collaborates with Tate on residential projects. “For this landscape, I knew I would be playing off Mark’s great architecture and creating living art outside the windows,” Norris explains. “I also knew the owners wanted a low-maintenance landscape that was sustainable and had a high impact, no matter what the season.”
Norris created a visual trail through the house by using specimen organ pipe cactus—at the edge of the auto court, by the front door and one at the side of the pool, all visible through the home’s central glass volume. Yuccas, agaves and golden barrel cactus also give the front landscape a strong pattern. For the sides and back of the house, hop bushes, paloverdes and mesquites form a backdrop and offer privacy from neighbors. More cactus, including spectacularly blooming Argentine giants, line the pool patio. Norris’ piéce de résistance? A saguaro, placed off center at the end of the pool. “I wanted it to reflect in the water,” he says, “but not obstruct the view corridor.”
Recently finished, the abode has lured the owners into spending all but the hottest months in Scottsdale, enjoying morning coffee on the upstairs balcony, watching grandchildren splash in the black basalt-lined pool or serving friends drinks at the indoor/outdoor bar.
“This was our post-retirement project,” reflects the husband, “and we love it.” Asking neighbors questions, it turns out, has its benefits.
Architect: Architect: Mark Tate, Tate Studio Architects. Builder: Dan Couturier, Madison Couturier Custom Homes. Interior designer: Sherry Engle, Reverie West. Landscape designer: Chad Norris, High Desert Designs. Landscape installation: Desert Foothills Landscape.
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