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This Home’s Serene Outdoor Spaces are Healing for the Soul

Tranquil outdoor spaces create a healing haven for a couple and their guests.

By Lauren Tyda | Photography by Michael Duerinckx

It is both a destination for quiet contemplation and conversation, of shared laughs met with meditative moments. 

This Paradise Valley home’s outdoor spaces are a delight for the senses. The trickle of the fountain, the glint of the sunlight through the trees, the dulcet murmur of wind chimes, the gentle breezes stroking the leaves as their branches bow and nod in reverence—it’s a symphony of whispers, a lullaby composed by nature.

All of this was expertly choreographed by landscape architect Greg Trutza. The Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest was tasked with creating a Zen setting where the owners could enjoy family, friends and solitude with equal measure.  “I knew they loved feng shui principles,” he says, referencing the Chinese practice of creating harmonious and balanced environments to promote well-being and positive energy flow. “The inspiration was to create healing and restorative garden spaces within a natural retreat setting. It is like having a perpetual day pass to an exclusive resort spa.”

But before the couple could embrace their new oasis, they had to let go of their attachment to their previous home—and like a sensei poised to bring his subjects to enlightenment, that’s where Trutza began. “They were in love with the quaint ranch house they lived in before,” he recalls. “So that was part of the journey, to leave
that behind.”

The designer manifested the sense of intimacy they enjoyed in their past dwelling by taking advantage of the just over one-acre lot’s slope to create multiple terraces and “outdoor rooms” in the back. What was once a tiny, dated pool with land sited by previous owners for a tennis court was transformed into layers of plants, trees and hardscape meant to be wandered and explored. “There were minimal plantings, but the crown jewel was a mature carob tree just west of the pool that we wanted to keep, thus mandating where the first of many terraces would be,” says Trutza, who collaborated with architect Cathy Hayes, builder Greg Hunt and interior designer Karen Rapp on the project. “We wanted to keep many of the trees and design a series of pathways to weave among the trunks.”

1. A gravel walking path winds around the perimeter of the property, starting with a mesquite tree and display of Parry’s agave. 2. Water trickles from the infinity-edge pool down to a basin. The building to the right looks like a guest house inspired by a charming Tuscan guest cottage, but it’s actually a clever disguise designed by architect Cathy Hayes to hide the pool heater. 3. The entry courtyard leads into the great room and draws the eye toward the lush backyard. 4. Geraniums add seasonal color to the home’s front entry alongside African iris and Carissa macrocarpa ‘Boxwood Beauty.’ 5. “Inside the courtyard, I designed a nautilus-shaped fountain stream trickling down to a lower pool that invokes the sacred spiral theme found in nature,” says Trutza. It is said that the spiral represents innocence, rebirth and the eternal. 

Bowered by the branches of a mesquite tree and carved out of gravel and stone, the property’s nature walk begins with a fire pit lounge area and ambles around the base of the hill, which opens up to views of Camelback Mountain.

The stairs on opposite sides of the property are a study of yin and yang—one made of polished paved tile and the other of rugged reclaimed limestone fence posts meant for a more strenuous climb. “They provide another trail to go down,” Trutza explains. “In the spring, when the plants are dense, it feels like you are hiking the forest or the mountains.”

The owners relax in what they call the “Flintsone chairs,” a functional art installation they purchased from a gallery in Sedona. “They contour with your body,” says the wife. “Even when they have been sitting in the sun, it’s like a hot-rock massage.” The chairs are flanked by large wind chimes that give off a deep meditative tenor reminiscent of a sound bath experience.The dining terrace is focused on a whimsical fountain sculpture of a bird having disturbed a pitcher that flows water over the table and chairs, which rest on a flagstone patio with open joints to collect and recycle the water. “We saw it at a restaurant in Napa Valley,” says the wife. “We were sitting outside on the patio and heard the water, looked over and thought, ‘Wow, that is so cool!’”

Plenty of seating and dining areas allow enjoyment from all levels, including a ramada with a dining table and pizza oven, where the couple hosts most of their gatherings, an outdoor living room and a secluded spa patio. Secret hideaways invite discovery, whether it’s the covered herb and vegetable garden or the hidden passageway flanked by raised rose beds that leads to a potting bench at the base of the pool terrace.

“Every themed area is a destination upon itself enhanced by art and specimen plantings,” Trutza continues. “The windswept swimming pool that I designed leads the eye to Camelback Mountain. The soft, sweeping curves eventually reach a 20-foot-long negative edge, where water dances on the limestone rubble facade to drop down to a basin 7 feet below.”

The owners’ unique artwork was foremost in the design, with strategic placement to enhance the various areas. Significant pieces by acclaimed sculptors such as John Henry Waddell and Gary Slater are nestled among the landscape. “I created a theme around each piece to invoke emotions such as serenity, whimsy or repose,” Trutza notes.

Since its completion, the landscape has matured almost in tandem with the couple’s daughter, who went from creating habitats for her toy animals among the trees to celebrating her wedding reception as guests wandered the lush patios.

“Peace and calm are invoked wherever you wander in this landscape.”

—Greg Trutza, landscape architect

1. The draperies that came with the house matched the owners’ existing furniture, which includes the living room’s two bright red sofas and a colorful area rug. On the mantel, a mountain lion by artist Star Liana York keeps watch over the house. 2. The dining room is anchored by a vintage table and stately chairs with room enough to seat 10. Much of the artwork in the room and throughout the house came from traditional landscapes being deaccessioned by The Phoenician Resort. 3. While the house was exactly what the owners were seeking, the backyard views of Camelback Mountain and Praying Monk helped seal the deal. The existing garden was largely put in place by landscape designer Jeff Berghoff for the previous owners. 4-5. The vivid orange hue of the outdoor fabrics was inspired by the patio furniture at an Italian lakeside resort and the Aperol Spritz cocktail. Architect Mark Candelaria and interior designer Isabel Dellinger Candelaria designed the tiled fountain, influenced by similar ones they’d seen in Italy.

The respite may also boast healing properties. “My younger brother went through stage 4 stomach cancer,” the wife says. “We invited him to take over the house with his family for a week, relax, unplug and enjoy the grounds. We said, ‘Just take care of yourself and put your head in a good place.’”  The experience was so transformative, she adds, that her sibling is now cancer-free. “It’s sort of a miracle,” she says. “The property is restorative.”

On a sunny afternoon, the gardens are teeming with activity. Hummingbirds hover over blooms, taking quick gulps of nectar. A dragonfly pauses atop a bistro chair to marvel at the views, gently tapping its iridescent wings. Butterflies surf the wind in pursuit of flowers. And the chorus of nature’s sounds and fragrances continues to channel positive vibes throughout this peaceful sanctuary.

“My greatest delight with this project was simply the journey,” Trutza says, “from being part of the conceptual planning process to watching it all grow in beauty while a family was raised. I particularly love that the surprising aspects of the landscape are never told in one glance. Each ‘ah-ha’ moment delights the soul.” And as for their previous home—the couple hardly misses it.


Architect (home, pool equipment building and covered patio): Cathy Hayes, Hayes Inc., Phoenix, Builder: Greg Hunt, GM Hunt Builders-Remodelers, Cave Creek, Interior designer: Karen Rapp, ASID, Wiseman & Gale Interiors, Scottsdale, Landscape architect: Greg Trutza, ASLA, New Directions in Landscape Architecture Inc., Phoenix, Landscape installation: Benhart Landscaping Inc., Scottsdale, Pool contractor: Dan Goss, DGA Inc., Scottsdale,


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