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Two Families Share This Upgraded Vacation Abode in Paradise Valley

The home’s facade and outdoor spaces were reimagined to maximize views, usability and style. “We wanted a contemporary garden feel to complement the exterior finishes of the house,” says landscape designer Craig Giffen. “It’s dynamite in a small package.”

A once-basic ranch home’s chic redesign maximizes space and style for its dual owner.

By Shannon Severson | Photography by Julianne Palmer McKay

Finding the perfect vacation retreat that meets the needs of a single family can be a challenge for one family.

That’s why when two couples from Oklahoma decided to purchase a winter abode that they all could share, they ended up taking a chance on a diamond-in-the-rough in Paradise Valley that they could renovate into their ideal getaway.

“We wanted to be able to come to Arizona and just enjoy it,” says homeowner David Birdwell, who purchased the modest tract home with his wife, Amy, and their friends, Jim and Carolyn Odor. “We have always loved visiting the Valley, and the Odors have family in town. We made an offer sight unseen.” The 2,410-square-foot house originally featured a low-slung roof, choppy layout, 8-foot-high ceilings and small windows—with enviable vistas of Camelback Mountain and a nearby golf course. “It took about a year to get the plan together to figure out what we wanted to do with the property,” David adds.

Comfort was a key element of the redesign, as was the need for two master suites and ample space for cooking and entertaining. “We leaned toward a style that was contemporary but also timeless,” David recalls. “We wanted something timeless with a mix of textures, materials and desert influences. Exposed steel does well in Arizona, and it’s something we couldn’t do in Oklahoma. Keeping the project small allowed us to incorporate a lot of details and nice finishes on the inside.”

The couples hired builder Jim Audiss, who connected them with architect Mark Candelaria and project manager Tim Mathewson. While Candelaria, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner, is best known for his grand estate-sized homes, he notes that more compact dwellings can be just as stylish and dramatic as their larger counterparts.  “A lot of people don’t realize the opportunities for creativity that can be found in small spaces,” he says. “A little bit of design can go a long way.

“What was fascinating about this particular house was that its low-slung roof eave completely blocked the spectacular views,” Candelaria continues. “It was clear that we needed to open up the box to take full advantage of the location. The idea was to lighten and brighten the space, giving it a more modern feel.”

The low eaves and small windows completely obscured mountain and golf course views. “We realized the home would feel brand new if we raised the roofline and centered the visual axes toward the scenery,” says homeowner David Birdwell. The large organ pipe cactus was saved and successfully split into two plantings.
The entry courtyard serves as an organic front room. A carpet of Mexican beach pebbles interspersed with concrete pavers is softened by carefully arranged plantings of golden barrels, agaves, aloes and lush groundcover. Large folding doors connect the interior dining room with an outdoor seating and fire feature.

“We wanted something timeless with a mix of textures, materials and desert influences.”

—David Birdwell, homeowner

The dwelling’s main volume was completely demolished to make way for a raised roofline and vaulted ceilings. Gone are the small rooms with poor flow, windowless galley kitchen and uninspired front entrance. The new open layout is bright and airy, thanks to accordion glass doors in the kitchen, family and dining rooms that open to the front and back yards.

“As a designer, it’s exciting when the owner has a really fun vision,” Mathewson remarks. “David wanted to transform the home into an energetic space that showcased nonstandard materials.”

He adds, “Open concept is a buzzword, but it’s not as simple as that. To make a house as open as this one is without having many load-bearing walls, you almost have to use steel. David said if we were going to use the metal, we ought to expose it.” Large I-beams serve as lintels above doors and the ridge beams of the home’s vaulted ceilings, as well as frame windows and openings throughout. “We vaulted the ceiling in different directions to really define the spaces,” Mathewson notes. On the back porch, concrete pedestals anchor steel support beams; integrated lighting illuminates the columns at night.

Throughout the home, warm organic elements balance the industrial building materials. Slate flooring is complemented by rich woods, including a custom mahogany entry door, an island countertop crafted of African wenge and the striking tongue-and-groove pine ceiling that soars above the great room and extends outside to the covered patio.

“Using a continuous ceiling material inside and out really connects the interior and exterior spaces,” Audiss says. “The kitchen now feels as though it truly is in the center of the home instead of at the edge. All of the materials work in harmony, so you don’t feel the transition.”

“Because of the slate flooring’s lively pattern, we wanted the other surfaces to be quiet, without a lot of motion,” David explains. “Our goal for the home was to keep it small but to incorporate a lot of details and nice finishes throughout.”

When it came to decorating the new abode, David scoured Arizona and Oklahoma for stylish and unique furnishings, fixtures and art. Eye-catching pieces, such as an antique stone trough imported from Spain that has new life as the powder room’s sink, introduce color and inspire conversation. And no matter where the owners or their guests sit, they’re greeted by awe-inspiring views.

“It’s important to think about the entire site, not just the footprint of the house,” Candelaria says. “We created pretty vignettes to look out onto. In Arizona, you can enjoy outdoor living nine months out of the year, so why not make every part of your home special and a pleasure to spend time in?”

“In Arizona, you can enjoy outdoor living nine months out of the year.”

—Mark Candelaria, architect

1. With steel-framed windows and a cathedral ceiling that extends outside to the back patio, the living room feels like an extension of the outdoors and makes the home feel much larger than it is. Organic materials, such as the sculptural wood coffee table, balance the decor’s industrial glass and metal elements. 2. The open kitchen is warm and cozy thanks to contrasting dark wood and white cabinetry, a wenge-topped island and glass tile backsplash. The lantern-style pendants are custom. 3. The glass wall opens the kitchen completely to the outdoors. The lush green views lend an almost treehouselike feel to the comfortable space. 4. The expanse of the golf course fools the eye into seeing the green acreage as an extension of the home’s backyard. Giffen chose saguaro spears and Texas sage shrubs to delineate the property. Homeowners Amy Birdwell and Carolyn Odor found the comfortable outdoor furnishings. Evenings around the fire pit with the sunset glow of Camelback Mountain in the distance have become a welcome routine for the families.

Prior to renovation, the front yard was drab and did not take advantage of the fact that it looked out toward Camelback Mountain. To create a more welcoming feel, the nondescript sloping sidewalk was replaced by broad steps that lead to a gate made from steel beam remnants. Guests now enter into a charming courtyard, complete with a fire pit and textural desert landscaping. The verdant space, an outdoor extension of the home’s dining room, reflects David’s love of desert gardening.

Now when they’re in town, the Birdwell and Odor families can be found relaxing on the home’s patios, gathered around the convivial kitchen island or enjoying the community’s pool and golf courses. The Odors christened the house “Restalot,” a play on “Camelot,” the fabled, romantic castle of Arthurian legend, and for all the homeowners, the desert “palace” that they took a chance on turned out to be everything they hoped for—a comfortable, stylish retreat where they can relax, entertain and enjoy the best that Arizona has to offer.

The steel beam construction of the back patio showcases the spacious feel of the home. David hand-picked a granite tabletop that would tie in the color and texture of the home’s interior flooring.
Prior to renovation, the backyard was confined by a cinder block wall. The bump-out housed a tiny breakfast room.

Architect: Mark Candelaria, Candelaria Design Associates. Builder: Jim Audiss, Eagle Luxury Properties. Landscape Designer: Craig Giffen, Southwestern Native Landscape Inc.

For more information, see Sources.


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