By many accounts, the plot of land was an unusual place for a Midwestern couple’s winter home. “It was a bit of a sleeper site,” says architect Erik Peterson of the neglected section of an Arizona golf community at the end of a long driveway overgrown with dense brush. It offered no views whatsoever and was at risk for floods. Says the architect, “I think over the years people must have walked out there and said, ‘Oh no, this lot is horrible.’”
“Originally, we didn’t intend to build,” says the wife, one half of the couple that ended up buying the lot after searching for a house in a Scottsdale golf community. After admiring a number of homes designed by Peterson, they quickly realized, she says, “This is the guy we need to meet.”
For the interior design, the clients knew what they wanted: that much-coveted indoor/outdoor livability; an open concept with a contemporary feel. For the architecture, they were more open to exploring the possibilities, eventually choosing a style Peterson calls “rustic Mediterranean.” But before any of Peterson’s designs could be realized, there was the daunting task of elevating the property in order to protect the home from potential water runoff.
In all, the property was raised anywhere from seven to nine feet. But before engineers moved that first bit of soil, Peterson grabbed a ladder and brought the clients out to the to the site to show them exactly what the views were going to be. “Their reaction,” says the architect, “was, basically, ‘Wow.’” Below their house-to-be were the golf course, and to the west, the mountains and, as they would later discover, a seemingly endless array of breathtaking sunsets followed by the twinkling city lights of Scottsdale.
Peterson, who was joined on the project by general contractors Dan Couturier and Kim Klassen, relies on local materials in his designs to give them the feel of that particular place. For this project, he used stucco, as well as stone–again, very much from the site, with a color and texture that feels familiar to Arizona. He also incorporated wood both to soften the structure and lend it some warmth.
To design the interiors, the clients turned to Kim Scodro and Elise Miller, entrusting them to envisage a look that reflected a modern sensibility while still having an aged air about it. The entryway they designed–which is distinguished by an eye-catching, round copper artwork strikingly set against the stone walls–immediately sets that tone. “That entry just gives you a hint of the textures and muted colors you’re going to experience as you walk through the house,” Scodro says. Glass doors guide the eye through the stone foyer into the backyard, which overlooks the pool. “It is really quite dramatic,” says the wife. “There’s a very open feeling to the house when you walk in.”
The walls throughout the home also played an important role in the design. For the public space, Scodro and Miller chose a cream-colored plaster finish. “The textures have so much impact that too much color would be a shame,” says Scodro. The softness of the shade they selected, she says, “gives a gentle, ever-so-slight departure from stark drywall.” For the master bedroom, they chose to go with wallpaper, to the slight concern of the wife. “I’m thinking, ‘God, no,’” she recalls, “because that’s a lot of wall. But Kim and Elise picked a grass cloth with the exact same coloring as the plaster-finished wall, and it added a subtle warmth and texture. It just flowed.”
The outdoor space features an infinity-edge pool, spa, fire pit, and areas for lounging, dining and cooking, along with a stunning landscape designed by Chad Norris. “My favorite part about the outdoor space is the backyard, where we added grass,” the wife says. “I didn’t want it to be all cacti, so we brought in a synthetic grass that looks absolutely stunning–it softens the whole exterior.”
In the end, from an awkwardly shaped piece of land sprang a tasteful, uncomplicated and intimate home, built for two but able to accommodate family members or guests seeking sunnier climes. Notes Peterson, “Anybody from the Midwest who has a house out here suddenly has a ton of friends.”