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The ‘Museum House’ Takes Cues from Iconic California Style

The “Museum House” takes its cues from cutting-edge SoCal style. 

By Carly Scholl | Photography by Eric Kruk Photography

For decades, the Valley has been a winter refuge for Midwesterners looking to escape the cold. But over the last few years, Phoenix has seen an influx of new residents from California, Washington and Oregon seeking a reset from the high cost of living on the West Coast. With these newcomers comes a new sense of style, and local design professionals are taking note. 

Architect Erik Peterson and interior designer Meredith Smyth guide us through the “Museum House,” a Paradise Valley home that takes its inspiration from Southern California’s iconic brand of cool.

“We weren’t constrained by any rules in colors or materials, so we pitched an idea that comes out of a style that’s popular in Los Angeles—but still rooted in Arizona,” explains Peterson of the austere abode. “It’s clean and simplified, with a mix of warm and cool tones throughout that achieve that ‘desert modernism’ aesthetic—contemporary, but not cold.”

To Peterson’s architectural vision, Smyth brought equally inspired interiors. “We wanted to create a house that embodied both the sense of history and the modernity that you find in places such as Palm Springs or Hollywood,” she says. “In the design industry, there are styles that are on-trend and styles that are timeless. This house is both—it’s widely appealing but also a chameleon.”

Photography by Eric Kruk Photography

It’s difficult to discern which is more stunning—the majestic mountain views that surround the home or the awe-inspiring architectural details that comprise it.

Made up of 13-foot-high floor-to-ceiling glass walls and windows, linear masses of white stucco, cut-out overhangs and sprawling interior pavilions, the ethereal structure reminded the design team of a world-class museum one might find on the California coast.

The H-shaped layout creates central courtyards within the footprint of the home, opening up views to the minimalistic landscaping outside. “We chose this layout and orientation because it feels very open and connected to the exterior and allows for so much natural light while maintaining a sense of privacy,” Peterson says. Like curated works of art at a museum, the design puts the natural surroundings and the architecture itself on display.

Also designed for entertaining, the minimalist poolscape is a study in right angles and clean lines.
The Museum House’s sleek aesthetic carries into the backyard.

The only thing stopping the central living room from merging into a “great room” is the monolithic fireplace that creates a cozy architectural division between the gathering area and the kitchen and dining areas. 

The space is a paradox of experiences—luxe but welcoming, interesting but understated, old and new. “The terrazzo-esque marble floor, the fireplace and the curved sofa feel like old-school midcentury modernism, but it still has a lot of today’s sensibility to it, too,” notes Peterson.

“I say, ‘break up with the rules,’” asserts Smyth. “Nonconformity is what makes a home so exciting. I love this room because the marble floor is a top-notch luxury, but it’s intended to be intriguing without being distracting. The fireplace is a focal point but leaves space for the homeowner to customize with a television or art piece.”

Often called the heart of the home, the kitchen is where people are most likely to gather together throughout the day. At the Museum House, the streamlined kitchen, dressed in contrasting cool grays and warm wood tones, begs to be at the heart of the action.

Filtering through custom metal grills and expansive picture windows, natural light illuminates the kitchen with an inviting glow. In the morning sunshine, the massive island becomes the perfect place to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, while a sunset glow transforms the space for happy hour with friends. 

“This house is perfectly suited for the modern entertainer,” Smyth says. “Right outside the kitchen is a garden on the patio that is ideal for growing vegetables and herbs. There is a ton of space for prep work and cooking for a crowd. Plus, there’s a butler’s pantry for when you want to throw a dinner party but don’t want your guests to see stacks of dirty dishes.” 

“Everything has a purpose, but nothing is meant to distract.”
—Meredith Smyth, interior designer

“The primary suite is a true sanctuary—it has the best views in the house, connects to the yard, but also is the most private,” says Peterson. “We wanted to give the bathroom a Four Seasons resort feeling, so we opted for floating countertops, granite, a soaking tub set in river rock and one of my favorite features—the midcentury modern breeze block-inspired grillwork outside that provides privacy to the bathtub but doesn’t completely block the view.”

Smyth’s attention to detail is on full display in the primary suite, as well. Muted colors and natural textures create a sense of calm, and large-scale furnishings feel luxe but welcoming. “The stone around the tub sometimes looks gray or green in a certain light, which is meant to highlight the garden beyond the window,” she points out. “Everything has a purpose, but nothing is meant to distract.”

Architect: Erik Peterson, AIA,NCARB, PHX Architecture, Scottsdale, phxarch.com

Builder: Jeff Sapanaro, Sapanaro Development, Phoenix, sapanarodevelopment.com
Developers: Paramount Luxury Development, Scottsdale, paramountbuilt.com
Interior designer: Meredith Smyth, Smyth House Interior Design, Phoenix, thesmythhouse.com
Interior furnishing and styling: Smyth House Atelier, thesmythhouse.com
Landscape design: Berghoff Design Group, Scottsdale, berghoffdesign.com

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