This Vibrant Valley Abode Puts Color Theory to the Test
A contemporary South Phoenix abode gets a sophisticated refresh that preserves its spirited personality.
By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Roehner + Ryan
For some homeowners, a little color can go a long way, especially for those who follow recent minimalist trends. When JoAnn and David Ott built their Ahwatukee Foothills house in 1997, the property was defined by a kaleidoscopic palette. The richly hued residence, which served as a gallery for the couple’s eye-catching art collection, showcased 22 different tints, including lively shades of red, blue, orange, yellow and purple. “I wanted to use a lot of color. I didn’t want a single white wall in the house,” JoAnn remembers. More than two decades later, the couple remains drawn to this vibrant aesthetic, but when woodpeckers began poking holes in the home’s exterior stucco, resulting in a renovation that included a few structural changes, the Otts decided that it was time to simplify the interior’s look.
Designed by the late architect George Christensen, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner, and his associate architect Martin Ball, the contemporary dwelling sits on a rocky 2-acre hillside lot with views of South Mountain to the north and the Estrella Mountains to the west. To this day, the rugged setting is an ideal location for the Otts, who wanted out of the city and were longing to live near the open desert when they purchased the land. “I’m a long-distance runner, and David and I like to mountain bike together,” JoAnn says. “We can head out the door and find a trail within minutes.” Sited so that neighboring houses aren’t visible, the two-story split-level home comprises the common living areas, a master suite and a guest room upstairs; and two children’s bedrooms, a home theatre, office and playroom downstairs.
The Otts say they were lucky to get Masters of the Southwest award-winning builder Jerry Meek on board for the remodel. “He was part of the original build team, and we were so glad to be able work with him again,” remarks JoAnn. According to Meek, his father, Gerald, served as the initial project superintendent and points out that the integrity of Christensen’s design was maintained throughout the entire refurbish process.
Architect Jim Moffatt, a 16-year associate of Christensen’s, spearheaded the renovation. “Our goals were to take better advantage of the incredible east vistas from the dining room, update the interior living spaces by reducing the number of elements within them, including furnishings and structural components, and offer a solution to a rarely used rear patio,” he explains.
“The living room, kitchen and master bath had what I refer to as ‘visual noise.’ There was simply too much going on to be able to appreciate it all, so we pared things down.” This included removing a fireplace in the living room to open up the view, taking down a low wall in the kitchen and reorganizing the room, and leveling out a section of the patio to line up with the rest of the outdoor living areas.
One of the most dynamic changes was the expansion of the small dining room. While its size wasn’t increased significantly, the architect opened it up to the home’s surrounding scenery. “I needed the aperture to be wider to fully capture the desert and frame the mountain landscape,” says Moffatt. By removing an existing balcony and sliding glass doors, he gained square footage, and was able to angle the dining table so it now faces a new floor-to-ceiling window. “I bet we’ve used our dining room more in the first six months following the remodel than we did in all the time we’ve lived here,” JoAnn admits.
The homeowner also worked closely with interior designer Angelica Henry to create a freshened palette for each room . “JoAnn loves color and isn’t afraid to use it,” Henry describes. “The original scheme was heavy, with overly saturated primary hues. We used neutral shades for the walls, flooring, cabinetry and counters to ground them and saved the color for accents.” A fan of yellows and oranges, JoAnn chose a combination of these festive hues for the master bedroom walls, dining room chairs, a living room accent wall and above the kitchen cabinets.
Still, she couldn’t let go of the desire to bring some full-on vibrancy into some of the spaces. “We decided to go really bold in the bathrooms,” notes JoAnn. “My favorite is the downstairs powder room. Angelica found this great glass-beaded purple wall covering with a stingray pattern, and I just love it.” In the children’s bath, tiny shimmering blue tiles serve as a striking backsplash, while a wall in the upstairs powder room is cloaked in large iridescent blue-green panels. “Angelica was so instrumental in helping us reimagine this house. She loved my embracing of color as well as my design quirks,” JoAnn adds. “I can’t imagine having done this without her.”
“We used neutral shades for the flooring, cabinetry and counters to ground them and saved the color for accents.”
—Angelica Henry, interior designer
For David, living in a house updated with smart-home technology has made life easier. “We had a home automation system installed that is intuitive and simple. It allows us to control and monitor such functions as climate, lighting, entertainment centers, security system, garage doors and window shades from a tablet or cell phone,” he says. “The updated lighting is more efficient, cooler and works with how we live our lives.”
Outdoors, tons of dirt were hauled in to level out two patios into one combined sitting area that overlooks a sleek pool situated a full story down the hillside. “We now have this great space for entertaining and enjoying some of the best views. It’s just magical at sunrise,” says JoAnn. Although the footprint of the house didn’t change by much, by editing a few walls, reworking the rooms and toning down the color palette, the home has taken on a fresh, updated feel. Adds David, “The new design has been fantastic and opened up views and internal space that we never appreciated before.”
Remodel Architect: Jim Moffatt, J. Moffatt + Associates Inc. Builder: Jerry Meek, Desert Star Construction. Interior Designer: Angelica Henry, Angelica Henry Design.
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