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This Old-World Home Will Make You Feel Like You Are in Italy

Interior designer Isabel Dellinger Candelaria added drama to the entry with a mosaic tile floor inspired by a Pompeiian fresco. At left, antique screens were repurposed as wine cellar doors, while the low table is a reproduction of Marie Antoinette’s vanity table.

Friendship, a love of color and an affinity for Italy shape a Paradise Valley home.

By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Austin Larue Baker

Creating a home is an intimate, personal process for clients, interior designers and architects, relying on equal parts trust, taste and patience. Friendships often form after months—or sometimes years—of meetings and decision-making. 

Such was the case with a Paradise Valley couple who became fast friends with interior designer Isabel Dellinger Candelaria and her husband, architect Mark Candelaria—both Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest. The couple’s home—filled with art, treasures from travels, vivid hues and traditional furnishings— is a testament to bonding with the Candelarias over humor, good food and drink—plus a love of color and all things Italian.

The path to the couple’s present, 6,500-square-foot dwelling that overlooks Camelback Mountain and its Praying Monk formation began years ago when they hired Candelaria to help remodel their then-Southwest-style home at Desert Mountain. Candelaria, in turn, recommended Dellinger Candelaria, then his fiancée, as the interior designer for the project. “I remember thinking, what if we don’t like her or her style?” recalls the husband. “That would have been awkward.” Instead, the project went swimmingly. “Isabel listened to us and understood our style,” recollects the wife.

“They told me that they didn’t want brown or gray in the house,” remembers Dellinger Candelaria, “and that their style was more traditional and European. I grew up in Santa Fe, where many people had traditional furniture in their old adobe homes—and I love working with color, so it was a perfect fit.”

Dellinger Candelaria helped them choose comfortable pieces, with upholstery colors inspired by art, not to mention the bright carmine and orange hues of favorite Italian aperitifs. She also mixed in antiques and reproductions that echoed European manors. The Desert Mountain project inspired the couple to join the Candelarias’ annual “friends and family” summer tours to Italy, crisscrossing the country and cementing the homeowners’ love of Italian style.

1. 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. 2. A new tile backsplash enlivens the kitchen, which was updated by a previous owner. 3. Architect Mark Candelaria and interior designer Isabel Dellinger Candelaria designed the tiled fountain, influenced by similar ones they’d seen in Italy.

But Desert Mountain proved to be a tad too far at the edge of town for the couple, long-time Valley dwellers, and they turned their sights to a home perched on the slopes of Camelback Mountain. “We tried to make it work for them,” recalls Candelaria, after he and Dellinger Candelaria were brought into that project. “But no matter how we designed the remodeling, there were just too many steps in the house because of the hillside.”

Instead, the couple, who are empty-nesters, found their perfect, single-level abode nearby, in a long-established, leafy neighborhood of rambling homes on one-acre lots. “I walked in and said, ‘This is our house,’” says the wife of the Mediterranean-style residence built in 1982. “This place was just waiting for us.”

While the house had been recently updated, the couple again brought in the Candelarias to help with the interiors and some light-touch renovations. Working with builder Greg Hunt, Candelaria reconfigured the entry to open it up to the living room by removing some ubiquitous-in-the-’80s precast concrete columns. “I called this ‘decolumnization,’” quips Candelaria. “We’re doing a lot of that in homes lately.” He also spearheaded lightening the home with cream-hued paint inside, brightening some of the previous ochre tones on the walls.

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.

Dellinger Candelaria added more depth to the setting with tile details, including a Pompeii-inspired mosaic for the entry floor and colorful backsplashes in the bar and kitchen. Space for a wine cellar was carved out in the hallway off the family room, using several antique screens as doors that the husband had found years ago.

From then on, it was a matter of placing the existing furniture and art in the home, mixing in a few new pieces. “At Desert Mountain, I put together three different color schemes for each room, inspired mostly by their artwork,” recalls Dellinger Candelaria. “We basically designed that whole house in an afternoon. Everything fits seamlessly here at the Paradise Valley house.”

In the living room, which has arched windows overlooking the lushly landscaped backyard, two cherry-red sofas flank the fireplace, while the TV is hidden in a custom, Italianate-style cabinet. The dining room is anchored by a long, polished wood table, encircled by curvaceous chairs, all vintage finds. Dellinger Candelaria designed a free-standing liquor cabinet, based on an antique Spanish Colonial design. “Families kept their money and important documents in these kinds of cabinets, which they could take with them when they traveled or moved,” she explains. For the entry hall, Dellinger Candelaria showcased two treasures—an antique Venetian table, embellished with paint made of powdered semiprecious stones, and a chest that’s a reproduction of Marie Antoinette’s Versailles vanity table.

Throughout the rest of the house, much of the art is personal, inherited from family. However, some of the art and antiques were acquired when The Phoenician Resort was deaccessioning pieces that founding developer Charles Keating had collected for the project in the 1980s. “Keating flew around in his private jet with a curator to find the art for the hotel,” says the husband. Adds Dellinger Candelaria, “When the hotel was replacing the art with more contemporary works, they literally held the sale in the parking garage. We found some lovely traditional pieces.”

Outdoors, more recent additions were chosen specifically for the rambling garden and patios, directly inspired by treks to Italy. The Aperol Spritz-colored cushions on patio seating and draperies for the ramada were inspired by the bright patio furnishings at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como. A bistro table and chairs came from Positano, as did the ceramic dining table on the patio off the living room. A new tiled fountain, designed by the Candelarias, speaks of the Amalfi Coast.

Now settled into their new abode, the husband and wife are looking forward to more toasts, dinners and trips with the Candelarias. “There are rooms, and then there are rooms where you gather,” says Dellinger Candelaria, summing up the home and the relationships it has continued to foster. “We have all become best friends, and this house has rooms where we get together. While it’s lovely to see our design work completed, the richest thing we can experience here is our 10-year friendship.”


Architect: Mark Candelaria, AIA,  Candelaria Design Associates, Scottsdale, Builder: GM Hunt Builders-Remodelers, Cave Creek, Interior designer: Isabel Dellinger Candelaria, Earth and Images, Phoenix,

LIVING ROOM—Sofas and armchairs: TV cabinet: Artitalia Group, Scottsdale, Area rug: Alyshaan Fine Rugs, Scottsdale,

KITCHEN—Table and chairs: Artitalia Group, Scottsdale, Backsplash: Handcrafted Tile, Inc., Phoenix,
PATIOS—Outdoor furniture:


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