The New Classic
Tried-and-true elements of farmhouse style are shaken up with bold contemporary personality.
By Carly Scholl | Photography by Isaac Bailey
Take a leisurely drive through Phoenix’s idyllic Arcadia Neighborhood and you’ll quickly pick up on the recurring motifs of traditional farmhouse- and ranch-style abodes; verdant citrus trees dotting swaths of freshly mowed lawn; agricultural elements that feel more Midwestern than Sonoran. But when local developer Marc Nassos was finally ready to transform his piece of Arcadian paradise into the coolest spec house on the block, the area’s distinctive aesthetic served only as the jumping off point for the genre-bending home.
“I strive to create unique and functional spaces that stimulate the utmost inner happiness and joy,” explains Nassos of his original vision for the project. “These havens are where people can commune to create long-lasting memories.” To achieve this goal, Nassos brought together a team of creative professionals who would bring his vision to life. He first tapped architect and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Erik Peterson to assess the lot.
“Marc and I met on the site and agreed that it had a whole bunch of challenges,” recalls Peterson. “It was a bizarre shape, the view orientation toward Camelback Mountain was at a weird angle to the rest of the property, and the way it addressed the street was strange because of how the cul-de-sac sits. There was also an alley flanking the property and power lines running right through the view. But I love a challenge. When you have a lot that’s just a square and you can basically create whatever you want—I almost find those projects more difficult than a plot of land that has a ton of roadblocks. As you start working out the difficulties, they lead to more exciting solutions.”
With help from builder Mike Murphy, Peterson and Nassos had the original rectangular building scraped from the land, and construction began on a home that flipped the script on the classic Arcadia house. Rather than low-slung rooflines and staid stucco, the new abode boasts a dramatic exterior that features high-pitched gables and bold black siding covering select sections of the house. “Marc took a deep breath and let me and my team paint portions of the siding,” explains interior designer Jaimee Rose, who was brought onto the team early on. “It was a bold move at the time, and now we’re seeing it everywhere. Someone had to be first.”
Expanses of crisp metal-framed windows break up the geometric masses that form the house, and invite arriving guests in to experience the sophisticated yet slyly edgy interiors. With the simplicity of farmhouse sensibility acting as a guiding light and the exciting possibilities of contemporary style inciting boundless creativity, Rose’s design imparts undeniable wow factor. “Marc had great vision for this project,” she says. “He wanted it to be unique but classic, and to have modern boldness but still appeal to Arcadia’s traditional bent. Above all, he wanted it to be a house that would get people talking.”
Inside, each individual space expresses personality while fitting into the larger theme of “modern organic” style. Rose notes that the history and relation to the natural world implied by farmhouse architecture was inspirational to the design, but she strove to steer the look into something more stripped down. “We leaned hard into organic textures paired with very controlled lines: gabled roofs, but without the overhangs, and metal accents, but more industrial and honest,” she explains. “We used tiles that look like they could have existed once upon a time, including natural stone, encaustic tile and terra cotta zelliges from Morocco, juxtaposed with clean-lined lighting. We kept the colors quiet and let the textures do the heavy lifting.”
“The challenge was for us to step up and really do something interesting and different from what so many other people are doing in Arcadia.”
—Erik peterson, architect
While the overall tone of the house is sophisticated and modern, Rose imbued a sense of fun by adorning certain spaces with unexpected points of interest. “Marc let us put a ‘pool boy’ button in the pool house and spell out ‘No Diving’ in tile in the shower,” she recalls with a smile. “He was totally up for an all-black powder room and let me have my way with crazy hexagonal tile inlaid into wood flooring, which was inspired by a bathroom in an apartment I stayed in on my honeymoon in Paris.”
Like most homes in the family-friendly area, the livable interiors have a strong relationship to the outdoor spaces. “Marc wanted a new look for the neighborhood,” says landscape designer Jeremy McVicars, a fellow Masters of the Southwest award winner. “Arcadia is full of citrus trees, roses and French country style. But to bring a little bit more modernity, which Erik and Mike achieved in the architecture, we echoed that edginess in the front and back yards.”
In order to work around the challenging lot, McVicars used grouped plantings to hide the incongruent edges of the property and installed raised metal panels of lawn leading up to the home. “Such species as regal mist and deergrass are used in massing so much in this part of town, but when they’re paired with the raised grass beds, that’s not something you see every day,” he explains. Instead of making the garages a visual focal point of the front exterior, McVicars planted young citrus trees in a grid that separates the main walk from the driveway and filters the view of the automated doors. “Whether it was the patio layouts or the planting formations or the landscape lighting—all of it was inspired by the clean, sleek architecture and we just blended it into the surrounding environment.”
One of the final challenges that Marc insisted on solving was the electrical cables obstructing the home’s stunning vista. “We buried an entire block of power lines in the ground to capture the views of Camelback Mountain,” he recalls. “We just felt that we had to do it in order to give this project what it deserved. One of my favorite things to do after the house was finished was open up the massive doors overlooking the pool, grab a glass of wine, flick on the two-sided fireplace, play some tunes and just sit on the couch and stare at the beautiful view.”
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Architect: Erik Peterson, PHX Architecture. Builder: Mike Murphy, Tiara Sun Development. Interior Designer: Jaimee Rose, Jaimee Rose Interiors. Landscape Designer: Jeremy McVicars, Refined Gardens.