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Thoroughly Modern Mediterranean

A mature ironwood in the auto court casts a shadow on the home’s entryway. Linear plantings underscore the architecture’s clean lines.

A family-friendly home in North Scottsdale breathes fresh life into a traditional style.

By Katherine Adomaitis | Photography by Steve Thompson

Scottsdale’s Silverleaf community has a sense of gravitas, graced with elegant estates done in classic architectural designs that reference historic Spanish colonial and Mediterranean motifs. However, the exterior of a new home at the edge of the golf course pushes the design needle toward modern with its smooth gray walls, flat roof and, at the entry, an overscale glass pivot door. And the interior? An easy-breezy layout that channels mod looks, pop art and bursts of color.

The owners—youthful empty nesters with grandchildren—were looking for a change from their previous Scottsdale residence. “Our other house was a three-level old European, Tuscan-style abode that was getting to be a bit too much,” explains the wife. “We wanted something that was one level, easier to maintain and had a more modern look. We’re a big family, so we also wanted our new home to be open, friendly and comfortable for everyone—adults, kids, dogs, cats.”

Leaving behind almost everything except for a purple pendant lamp, the couple started fresh by purchasing three acres that overlook a fairway and the McDowell Mountains to one side and city views to the other.

Though the lot was fairly flat, builder Anthony Salcito explains, the initial challenge was situating the house so that it captured the best vistas. Along with architect Dale Gardon and the homeowners, Salcito used ladders placed on the empty lot to find just the right height to see both the grass of the fairway and the mountains. “We wanted to set the finished floor high enough to capture those views,” he says, “so we decided to elevate the house slightly. We were still able to work with the land and integrate the house into its setting.”

Gardon, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner, created an L-shaped plan for the 8,000-square-foot house, placing the guest wing and a separate casita along a side street to create an architectural barrier for the backyard. A formal foyer connects the guest quarters to the home’s central core, which includes the kitchen, living and dining rooms, and an arcade. The master suite was placed beyond the main living spaces.

“The orientation did influence the floor plan,” explains Gardon. “We wanted to focus views out the back toward the golf course and mountains and, in front, we wanted to look past the houses across the street to sunsets and city lights.”

1. The facade is a study in Old World meets contemporary. The classical architecture is given a modern-day makeover with straight lines and soothing shades of gray. Guests are greeted at the entry with views through the home to the McDowell Mountains beyond. 2. A soaring ceiling with wood beams accentuates the living room, which is anchored by a mod-style circular leather sofa. The vividly colored area rug is made from recycled silk saris and helped set the interior’s color scheme. 3. A groin-vaulted ceiling and crystal chandelier add drama to the formal entry hall, accessed by the pivoting glass front door. A large window looks out to the backyard and mountain vistas.

The home’s elevations and materials palette give a nod to the neighborhood’s romantic revival architectural styles yet fulfill the owners’ desire for a contemporary look. “This is a modern interpretation of a formal Mediterranean style,” Gardon says. “Nothing is ornate. The windows are more open; the roof is flat; and the trim is sophisticated and clean.”

Salcito used a silvery-gray integrally colored stucco for the exterior walls, which are contrasted by dark charcoal roof tiles and black metal railings. Low-profile limestone surrounds accentuate the windows and doors.

Indoors, a combination of aged oak and porcelain tile flooring underscores the rooms. A variety of ceiling treatments—a groin vault for the entry and a domed look with cove lighting for the dining room, for example—add interest above, while floor-to-ceiling telescoping glass walls and French doors open the interiors to numerous patios.

A pink and purple area rug made from recycled silk saris and a pop art portrait of Queen Elizabeth gave rise to the color scheme and style, notes interior designer Sloane Marshall, who worked on five of the couple’s previous homes. “We wanted this house to be completely different from their last one,” she says. “I knew that the owners weren’t afraid of color and wanted to have fun with this interior, so we decided to work with neutral backdrops and put the color into the art and accessories.”

“The owners wanted a formal, Mediterranean look for the landscape—but with a few twists. We made it more contemporary and tailored with geometric plantings and axial views.”

––Jeff Berghoff, landscape designer

1. Plant beds filled with cacti and succulents create framed sweeps of color and texture in the landscape. Steel edging adds a modern touch to the setting. 2. A Resident Westies, Harry (left) and Kennedy, enjoy the home’s garden. 3. A custom alder and quartzite table provides plenty of seating in the kitchen, which was designed to look like an extension of the adjacent living room. When closed, the doors to the dining room appear to be part of the kitchen cabinetry, creating a “secret room” that the homeowners desired. 4. Framed by the guest house, the zero-edge pool was designed to appear like a sheet of black glass. Landscape designer Jeff Berghoff  created a tailored-looking garden, complete with linear plant beds filled with geometric rows of desert-friendly plants. White roses, a signature touch of Berghoff’s, line the perimeter of the backyard. 5. The living room opens up to a furnished patio that’s warmed by a fireplace and offers views of the landscape and mountains.

The walls are an example of what the wife calls Marshall’s use of “30 shades of gray.” The designer explains, “We chose variations of the hue depending on the space and the type of light coming into the rooms. The walls are a bit darker in rooms with western exposure to temper the bright sun; they’re lighter shades in the interior spaces of the house.”

When it came to furnishings, Marshall mixed a series of bespoke designs with classic pieces. A circular leather sectional that channels the ’70s anchors the living room. It curves around a disk-shaped, polished metal cocktail table that’s a nod to the husband’s automotive interests. A custom white oak tabletop and floating credenza, as well as a leather-and-crystal chandelier, add drama to the dining room, which is sparked by a magenta area rug. The powder room has just the right amount of glamour, thanks to a curvaceous handcarved marble sink, a small crystal pendant and metallic draperies that offer a touch of shimmer.

In the kitchen, a backsplash crafted of marble, stainless steel and glass tiles frames the range, which is flanked by matching table lamps. Along with sleek cabinetry, the lamps help make the kitchen look like an extension of the living room—something the wife requested. “It’s all one open room,” Marshall says. “We didn’t want it to look like two separate spaces.”

Special touches add to the home’s affable character. In the kitchen, what appears to be a set of pantry doors opens up to reveal the dining room, created as a secret space, hidden from the rest of the house. Off the living room, an alcove houses arcade games, including pinball and Skee-Ball machines, collected by the husband. “We wanted to incorporate games for everyone,” he says, “and keep the whole family from ages 8 to 80 engaged.” Glass barn doors help contain noise levels when the games are being played.

Contemporary art, black-and-white photography, sculpture and framed memorabilia add finishing touches. And that purple pendant light from the previous house? It now graces a hallway in the guest wing.

Outdoors, landscape designer Jeff Berghoff walked the fine line between traditionalism and modernism, creating, in essence, an updated parterre garden. “The owners wanted a formal, Mediterranean look for the landscape—but with a few twists,” he explains. “We made it more contemporary and tailored with geometric plantings and axial views.”

As seen from the back of the house, a geometric water feature leads the eye through the yard and toward views of the McDowell Mountains in the distance.

“What’s life about if you can’t have fun and let your hair down in your own home?”

––the homeowner

Using desert trees salvaged from the site, Berghoff planted the property’s perimeter to appear more like the natural desert, then added denser foliage and formal hardscape closer to the house. In front, two curved pea gravel driveways converge at a brick-paved auto court, which is shaded by a specimen ironwood tree. Limestone steps lead up to the front door.

In the back, the garden is divided into three zones: a series of gravel paths and plant beds that link to the guest wing, a private space for the master suite and a central expanse that includes a pool. The plant beds, filled with sweeps of colorful succulents and cacti, are edged in steel for a crisp, contemporary look. They frame a water feature that leads the eye from the house to the mountains beyond and the dark, zero-edge pool, which looks like a sheet of black glass.

An array of vantage points provides picture-perfect destinations for enjoying the views. A ramada with a fire pit overlooks the golf course; a covered deck on the guest house offers unparalleled vistas of storms and Fourth of July fireworks in the distance; and a raised patio off the dining room is just right for sunset cocktails.

Now that they have settled into their new mod-Med home, the couple is enjoying having family and friends over for long stays in the guest quarters, hosting informal parties and relaxing when it’s just the two of them. “We love this house,” says the wife, “and we make a point of using different spots for lunch or dinner, like it’s a resort.

“What’s life about if you can’t have fun and let your hair down in your own home?”

For more information, see Sources.

1. A teardrop-shaped leather-and-crystal chandelier echoes the circular form of the custom rift-sawn oak dining table. Metallic accents on the table legs and chairs reflect the cheerful fuchsia tones of the rug. A floating credenza with textured insets adds a modern touch to the room, which opens onto a patio that’s perfect for viewing sunsets. 2. Interior designer Sloane Marshall kept the walls a neutral gray throughout and added vivid color with accessories. In the guest wing sitting room, which connects two bedrooms to a patio, teal accents play off the pink-and-blue area rug and contemporary furnishings. 3. Colorful art energizes a guest bathroom, which features a custom floating vanity with dual sinks and undermount lighting. 4. Pops of color from art and textiles enliven one of the luxurious ensuite bedrooms in the home’s guest wing. Textural accents, including a leather bed frame and headboard, plush linens, and furry pillows and a throw provide additional visual interest.

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