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This Contemporary Home Favors Uncluttered Spaces, Clean Lines and Artistic Flair

This gallerylike passageway is all about the lighting, says interior designer Holly Wright. Flooring, which is European oak, is inset with porcelain tile that looks like concrete. The sculpture is by James Myford.
Architect James Haan conceived this contemporary home with dramatic overhangs to keep sun exposure at a minimum. “It’s responsive design in regard to the climate,” he explains.

Influenced by classic design, this contemporary home favors uncluttered spaces, clean lines and artistic flair.

By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Michael Woodall

After decades of living on the East Coast, where their high-powered careers took them to Washington D.C, Philadelphia and New York City, Carol Ann Petren and Floyd Clarke moved to Arizona in 2013. She was a federal prosecutor and general counsel for public companies, and he had a 35-year career with the FBI, serving as its director in 1993. As a self-described “city girl at heart,” Carol admits that it was quite a challenge to convince her to go West to Floyd’s hometown of Scottsdale when the two retired. “But when we drove through the gates of the Desert Mountain community, everything changed,” she recalls. “Seeing the world-class golf courses, the incredible facilities and spectacular views, we immediately knew that we would retire there.”

The couple were committed to building a modern house that included elements of concrete, steel and glass. “Over the years, we transitioned from a more classic style to simple, clean lines,” Carol remarks. “We were introduced to modern in its true form by Maria Demopoulos, who designed the interiors of our homes in Philadelphia and New York, and since then, we have never strayed from this look.”

At 6,500 square feet, their two-story, four-bedroom residence sits high on a hillside lot with views of Black Mountain, Pinnacle Peak, the Superstitions and Weaver’s Needle. “We wanted to take full advantage of the panoramic mountain ranges and the spectacular sunsets,” Floyd says. Floor-to-ceiling windows that pocket open allow in light and showcase the unique concrete and steel elements that architect James Hann incorporated into the interior and exterior. “We used 8-inch-square concrete block construction all around the house, which is not found in many homes, and it creates a kind of geometric base,” Hann explains. “Placing the block was like putting together a Swiss watch— everything had to fit perfectly.” 

Large steel beams visible inside and out are a dynamic component of the design. “The main architectural feature is the curved beams supporting the curved ceiling and roof over the main living area of the house,” says builder Dan Couturier. “Because of the tight turning radius in the community and little access to the site, the beams presented a difficult challenge in both getting them to the property and erecting them due to their extraordinary length. At 76 feet in length, they needed to be cut in half and reassembled at the site.” The result is nothing less than dramatic.

“I would best describe it as an intriguing blend of eclectic luxury and industrial modernity.”

—Holly Wright, Interior Designer

1. Taking a modern Italian approach to furnishing the great room, Wright then added antique Oriental rugs for character and warmth. LED lighting is incorporated into metal rings suspended from the ceiling. To the right of the wine cellar and hanging over the bar is a painting by Dan Namingha. The sculpture in the foreground is by James Myford. 2. To remove the boundary between indoors and out, pocketing glass doors in the great room provide unobstructed access to the patio. The concrete wall features a two-sided fireplace that also warms the family room on the opposite side. 3. Leading to the guest quarters, a steel-and-glass stairway wraps around the elevator shaft, which is composed of scored concrete block. 4. The fireplace in the master bedroom emulates the same aesthetic as the great room fireplace in that it is continuous with the exterior architecture. In addition, all of the interior glass elements are frameless and seamlessly integrate into the walls, lending a contemporary feel, notes project superintendent Brian O’Neil. 5. To bring a purist vibe to the master bathroom, white limestone flooring and white marble walls were incorporated. A freestanding fluted tub is enhanced by a serene painting by Moira Dryer.

“If you were seeing this house for the first time in person, you may not have the words to immediately describe what you were seeing,” says project superintendent Brian O’Neil. “It’s not like anything else on the street. James’ design is not hidden from view and stands proud on the hilltop for everyone to enjoy. The construction materials alone make you wonder, ‘If the outside looks like this, what must the inside look like?’ And when you see interiors, you might say to yourself, ‘Wow!’”

1. Wright designed the powder room with lava stone inspired by the same concrete block incorporated throughout the house. Hanging over the quartz counter are Italian pendants of minimalist design. 2. To bring a dimensional element to the junior master bathroom, a monochromic wall tile resembling ocean waves was chosen for the shower. 3-4. Floating cabinetry in the master bath (left) and guest bath make the rooms feel larger and suit the modern design. Fully dimmable LED lighting below the cabinets serves as a night light. The amber polycarbonate chair was designed by artist Jacopo Foggini. 5. A striking architectural element, the patio overhang is constructed of curved and straight steel beams and engineered European oak planks. Homeowner Floyd Clarke says he and wife, Carol, enjoy spending time on the patio being entertained by the “outside theater.”

The homeowners teamed up with Scottsdale interior designer Holly Wright, whose style and personality fit perfectly with what they were looking for. “The goal was to create a well-thought-out home that included intriguing elements and reflected Carol and Floyd’s individuality,” Wright says. “We wanted an element of antiquity in every space, along with touches of iconic furnishings.” The designer and Carol spent time in New York showrooms, where they were joined by Demopoulos, who offered her East Coast perspective on modern design.

The home’s cool gray and charcoal tones and finishes were chosen based on the architectural structure itself. “We selected a warm gray hue as the backdrop to create a neutral and soothing palette,” Carol notes. “The color scheme had to accommodate the various shades of gray in our furnishings, the wood in our ceilings and floors, and the red and blue hues in our rugs and art.” While she says they have a healthy mix of modern pieces, furnishings by Minotti and Poltrona Frau take top billing for style and quality. 

The house, explains Wright, is not one particular style, which is one of the reasons why they like it so much. “I would best describe it as an intriguing blend of eclectic luxury and industrial modernity.” Intermixed with antique rugs and carefully curated works of art are quintessential pieces that can be found throughout the four-bedroom home. “We included a classic modern chair in every room,” Carol points out. “Doing so brings the perfect blend of art and architecture to a space in a small way.”

The bright and airy interiors open to expansive patios that are surrounded by the beauty and simplicity of the desert flora. “The plant palette was intended to be sustainable with an effect that could be enjoyed year-round,” notes Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning landscape designer Chad Norris. “In some instances, the vignettes are very linear and formal and, in others, we created living art outside of picture windows that play off the homeowners’ artistic appreciation.” Whether they’re indoors or out, the couple have a high appreciation for the open yet comfortable feel of the house and the ease of day-to-day living. In the end, it was all about simple beauty and impeccable quality.”

1. The family room, which sits adjacent to the kitchen, includes a set of modern wingback chairs. Wright says that pairing modern furnishings with antique rugs creates unexpected contrast. 2. In an otherwise minimalistic space, Wright added vibrancy to the dining room with a sculptural light by René Roubícek that resembles a “flash” and is based on dynamic abstraction. Outdoors, a row of fence post cacti serves as a work of natural art. 3. A slab of custom-cut walnut makes a stunning headboard in the master bedroom, which is designed with a modern Italian influence. The navy blue 1960s Hans J. Wegner Wing Chair and footstool add classic styling. The floors are French white oak. The painting is by Pascal Pierme.

Architect: James Hann, James Hann Design. Builder: Dan Couturier, Madison Couturier Custom Homes. Interior designer: Holly Wright, Holly Wright Design. Landscape designer: Chad Norris, High Desert Designs (installed by Desert Foothills Landscape).

For more information, see Sources.


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