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Tuscan Retreat

With its multiple rooflines and iron balcony, this stone-encrusted Arizona home summons visions of Tuscany.

Built with authenticity, this inviting home abounds in creature comforts.

By Roberta Landman | Photography by Werner Segarra

When he peers at the mountainous vista seen from an upstairs balcony, Reinhold Marsoner feels as if he is in Italy. The Arizona desert seems to melt away, and the houses with red-tile roofs he sees in the distance take on an air of Tuscany.

His own new home, on a craggy Paradise Valley hillside, might well be tucked away in some Italian idyll, the kind of peaceful setting the one-time immigrant remembers from his youth. “Half of my family lived in Austria and half lived in Northern Italy,” says Marsoner. Born and raised in Austria, he recalls, “In the summer, we kids would spend time in Italy, where there were old farmhouses made of stone. And that’s what we tried to re-create here.”

Clad plentifully in earthy stone inside and out, and built around a U-shaped courtyard, the residence was conceived by architect Allen F. Tafoya; built by Dan Madison; embellished with cozy furnishings and finishing touches by interior designer Dennis Johnson; dotted with naturalistic water features by Steve Oliver; and enriched with lush-looking yet desert-adaptive greenery by landscape architect Donna Winters.

After passing a grottolike lily pond, one enters the Marsoner residence through a gated central courtyard, where a bridge-covered streamlet sends its water  into the centerpiece swimming pool.

Inside the house, on the entry wall, an artist has painted the von Marsoner family crest, with a date of 1516, and, close by, the timber-ceilinged great room invites with a high lodgelike stone fireplace and walls that are faux-painted to look old. A wine cellar with a stone floor and arched brick ceiling, off this area, is reached by way of a winding stairway. It, too, has the atmosphere of yesteryear. The kitchen, high-tech but with old-fashioned flavor, was designed to suit Marsoner’s passion for cooking, and to make guests feel welcome. “In Europe, the kitchen is where everybody gathers,” the homeowner comments. Here, the ambience of Tuscany is re-created with a rustic tile backsplash in earthy hues and surprising architectural features—low tiled rooflike pieces that jut well into the room itself.

Explains Tafoya: “The roofing element gives the idea that the kitchen was expanded around the corner of an existing building. Tuscan homes typically grew over time, as a result of families growing and needing more space.” Thus, he indicates, houses and transitioned farmhouses seen in Tuscany today reflect the additions people made to them through many generations, and possibly centuries. The Marsoner residence, with its added-on look, has such a timeless aura.

1. The lily pond was designed by Steve Oliver. “You don’t expect this kind of water feature here in the desert,” notes homeowner Reinhold Marsoner. 2. In the central courtyard, rooms and outdoor entertainment areas flow around a sparkling swimming pool with boulder outcroppings. A waterfall spills from the lily pond beyond, through a stream, and into the pool. Since the 6,300-square-foot home has the added-over-time feel of a Tuscan farmhouse, some windows were given shutters and others not, architect Allen F. Tafoya explains. 3. Artist LuAnn Beardmore painted the homeowner’s family crest on a foyer wall. The console, topped with candlesticks and a crude jar, is flanked by greenery in ceramic pots. An antique reproduction chandelier hangs above. 4. A stone fireplace, one of nine at the home, is the focal point of the great room. Interior designer Dennis Johnson furnished the space comfortably with leather sofas and cushioned chairs, a sturdy coffee table, and lantern-style lighting overhead. 5. Organic materials such as concrete countertops and the island’s steel top add to the kitchen’s rustic appeal. Saltillo-like paver flooring, found in other areas of the home as well, has a timeworn look. The eating area is furnished with pieces that have an aged appearance.
1. In the sunny guest bedroom, a four-poster with a decoratively painted headboard is dressed in claret-color striped bedcovers and shams. 2. With its tall stone and brick fireplace and heavy wood mantel, this tucked-away outdoor spot off the great room seems a painted scene from long ago. 3. The game room’s ample stone fireplace invites with cozy warmth. The hunting scene on the broad overmantel was painted by Ferdinand Rojkowski, a friend of the homeowner who lives in Austria. The andirons were crafted by artisan Peter Sevin. 4. A curlicued painted frame surrounds an exterior window. 5. Ready for a barbecue feast, this outdoor kitchen is located poolside, under a sheltering ramada. Furnishings have a vintage European look. Randomly laid stone was used to form the ramada’s fireplace and walls.

But is it the Tuscan-style farmhouse the owner thought it could be?

Evidently so. “One of the reasons I wanted to have this home is so that when friends from Europe come here they can feel at home,” he remarks. Then, with a laugh, he adds: “And they are really surprised. They don’t believe this is in America.”

For Tafoya, meanwhile, the project was both a challenge and fun, he says—“given the sophistication of a European client who really knows what European architecture is about.” His own challenge, Tafoya adds, was “to make sure it was authentic.”


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