This Newly Renovated Home is Surrounded by Lake Views and Fairways
Interior designer Karen Long and landscape designer Kirk Bianchi transform an abode on the water.
By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Michael Woodall
Not long after they moved into their Gainey Ranch home, Lois and Daniel Compain noticed a flock of ducks in their crescent-shaped pool, making like there was an avian DJ spinning tunes and an open bar. Ditto for the leggy blue herons, who wreaked their own kind of havoc in the homeowners’ elegantly appointed garden.
In the scheme of things, an occasional visit from boorish waterfowl is a small price to pay for the Compains’ newly renovated slice of heaven. Their 3,600-square-foot home sits on a peninsula surrounded by a small lake, overlooking a golf course, with an updated interior and landscape, thanks to the talents of interior designer Karen Long, landscape and pool designer Kirk Bianchi and builder Steve Wolf, who transformed the mid-1990s residence into a contemporary setting that lives indoors to out.
“We’ve lived in Gainey Ranch for 30 years,” says Lois of their favored winter retreat, “and we’ve had three previous homes that Karen has done for us. When we heard this one was available, we made an offer without even seeing the interior. Its location is so unique, we knew we wanted to live there.”
Within days of acquiring the house, the couple—who have adult children and grandchildren—called in Long and Wolf for ideas to transform the interior. “The original interior was more traditional and compartmentalized than what the Compains wanted,” recalls Long. “It was a matter of opening things up and modernizing the look to make everything work.”
Among the changes Long and Wolf suggested were opening up the kitchen to the living room, re-imagining the original formal dining room into a sitting area and converting the old den and bar into a third ensuite bedroom. “I’ve been working with Lois and Daniel for so long that they trusted my suggestions,” Long says. “We added new windows and doors, new cabinetry, new plumbing and squared-off arches, which gave everything a fresh new look. The whole interior was basically gutted.”
Against a backdrop of pale walls and porcelain tile flooring, Long used a palette of grays and black, enlivened by touches of orange. “Even though they are retired, the Compains are busy, active people,” Long says. “They don’t want to be visually overstimulated in their home. They like to feel tranquility in their space.”
Long was able to bring in furnishings from their previous abode—completed not long before they acquired this property—and mixed in new pieces to make the setting work. In the living room, a deep sofa with crisp, lacquered details is part of a cozy conversation area in front of the newly configured, black granite-clad fireplace. In the sitting room, a custom sectional and leather ottoman/coffee table combine to make a relaxing spot to catch up on Netflix offerings. The couple’s circular dining table and pumpkin spice-hued leather chairs have found a new home in what was previously the breakfast nook, which has lake and golf course views.
The kitchen and bathrooms also received special attention from the design/build team. “Lois loves to cook, and she is always bringing over food,” says Long, who lives nearby. “We knew the kitchen would be important to her.” Out went the old oak cabinets and in went new custom cabinetry in black and gray, highlighted by stainless steel drawers. Open shelving, black granite countertops and a stainless steel tile backsplash complete the edgy-but-practical look. In the master bathroom, a deep soaking tub sits on a tile “rug” and overlooks a newly designed side garden, thanks to a picture window that replaced glass blocks.
“This project was like building a ship in a bottle.”
—Kirk Bianchi, landscape designer
Like the interior, the landscape was also scraped down to the proverbial studs at the suggestion of Bianchi, a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest. “This project was like building a ship in a bottle,” says Bianchi, “due to its narrow access and very long driveway. The shape of the backyard was very challenging because the center is only about 20 feet deep but very wide.”
Removing an awkwardly shaped pool and a Flintstones-esque pile of boulders beside it, Bianchi created the narrow, crescent-shaped pool, positioned to serve as a reflecting pond for the mature trees on the golf course and to focus views on the greenery beyond. To one side of the pool, a new fire pit serves as a cool-weather gathering spot, while a steel pergola and bar counter extend the kitchen to the outdoors. Outside the master suite—once a no-man’s land with a jumble of boulders, Bianchi created a private garden, with a curvaceous fountain and steel trellises to support vines and privacy. At the home’s entry, a new curving walkway, low garden walls and updated plantings add appeal. Bianchi’s plant palette included palo blanco trees, golden barrel cactus, elephant food and Mediterranean fan palms, all replacing the original bits of turf and tightly clipped shrubbery.
“This yard has such a sweeping panorama,” says Bianchi of the project. “It begged to be stretched. We needed to provide a nice flow line.”
Now that the couple has lived in the home for a few winter seasons, they have become even more appreciative of the picturesque setting and the easy-breezy way the updated house lives. They’ve even made peace with the ducks and herons. “Actually, we use a few tricks that the golf groundskeepers shared with us to keep the birds away,” says Lois conspiratorially. “We string fishing line across the pool when we’re not in town and tie a few shiny ribbons to sticks in the backyard. Works like a charm.”
Interior designer: Karen Long, Scottsdale, firstname.lastname@example.org. Landscape and pool designer: Kirk Bianchi, Bianchi Design, Scottsdale, bianchidesign.com. Builder: Steve Wolf, Tools For Hire, Goodyear, (602) 319-3462.
BACKYARD—Pool builder: Liquid Evolution Pools, Scottsdale, liquidevolutionpools.com.
PATIOS—Outdoor furniture: All American Outdoor Living, Scottsdale, allamericanoutdoorliving.com; brownjordan.com.
LIVING ROOM—Sofa and armchairs: centuryfurniture.com. Chair and ottoman: S.R. Drost Custom Furniture, Scottsdale, (480) 998-8977. Coffee table: Ladlow’s Fine Furniture, Scottsdale, ladlows.com.
KITCHEN—Cabinetry: Concept Cabinetry, Inc.; Gilbert, conceptcabinetryinc.com. Countertops and backsplash: Arizona Tile, Scottsdale, arizonatile.com. Appliances: subzero-wolf.com; mieleusa.com.
DINING AREA—Chairs: crateandbarrel.com. Light fixture: Hinkley’s Lighting, Scottsdale, hinkleyslighting.com.
SITTING ROOM—Sectional and ottoman: S.R. Drost Custom Furniture, (480) 998-8977. Armchair: rh.com.
MASTER BEDROOM—Armchairs: rh.com. Bedding: The Linen Tree, Scottsdale, thelinentree.com. Chaise fabric: kravet.com.
MASTER BATHROOM—Plumbing fixtures: ferguson.com. Cabinetry: conceptcabinetryinc.com.