For most Arizonans looking to experience the French countryside, a long transatlantic flight is inevitable. However, for one Scottsdale family, the thought of creating their own slice of rural France right in the desert seemed the better choice. The family had been living in Arcadia, just around the corner from a 2.3-acre horse property. Long, narrow and unusually large for the area, the lot was the ideal place for their new dream home, and when it became available, the couple quickly pounced.
The owners’ first task was to turn the property into a country French-inspired residence that would combine the charm of an older-looking estate with the conveniences of modern day, and after interviewing architect Jim Blochberger, the couple promptly engaged him to design the home that they envisioned. “We knew right away that he was the one we trusted to make our vision a reality,” says the husband. Also enlisted was interior designer April Lozevski, who has known the family for more than 14 years. “This is my fifth house with them and their first custom home,” she states.
Besides a country French feel, the owners also requested a kid- and pet-friendly environment for their four children and four dogs, as well as a home suited for entertaining both inside and out. Blochberger began by siting the house in the center of the property. “By placing the home in the middle of the lot, I was able to design a long oak-lined drive, which, when incorporated with a meticulously manicured landscape and lawn, provided that estate-like ambience the owners were looking for,” he says.
For the design of the house, the architect looked to classic elements of country French style, incorporating pitched roofs, dormer windows, brick window heads and sills, wood shutters, copper chimney pots and gutters, and wrought-iron details. Contributing to an aged feel are terraces paved with reclaimed bricks and the natural texture of plaster walls and rubble-stone bases. The final touch is a wooden shake roof that offers warmth and a less formal, more countrified feel.
Inside, the architectural charm continues, with each room’s ceiling boasting its own unique look. A groin-vault ceiling with custom stenciling imparts elegance in the breakfast room, while the living room features a high-pitched, sloped ceiling embellished with artful wood trusses. “The wood trusses were designed with a curved bottom chord to add softness and a custom detail,” Blochberger says. Natural light flows throughout, thanks to the architect’s strategic placement of doors and windows and a thoughtful configuration of rooms. But perhaps the most dramatic element is the foyer’s curved staircase. “We wanted the design to be classic with a sense of anticipation,” says the husband.
Although the 22,000-square-foot residence—with detached pool cottage—lives large, it exudes an intimate ambience. Much of this is thanks to Lozevski, who focused on devising a timeless design for the interiors that wasn’t too fussy and could stand up to a busy family. “While both the husband and wife like a traditional look, they didn’t want the rooms to feel too formal,” she explains.
Imparting tranquility is a palette of pale hues—sea glass, celadon, butter yellow, ivory, greige and camel—along with the subdued shades of natural linen and jute, fabrics that were selected for textural interest, staying power and washability. Plaids, toiles and florals were thrown in as accents, as well as wall treatments: wood wainscoting, rustic reclaimed brick and wallpaper. “We used wallcoverings in several rooms as a little surprise,” says Lozevski. “It plays nicely with the warm parchment-colored Venetian plaster walls.”
Elegant and rustic materials mingle and enrich the overall design, particularly in the kitchen. “The wife loves the look of all-white kitchens, while the husband prefers wood,” says Lozevski. “So we compromised, blending a tk wood butcher block-topped island with creamy white cabinetry and Calacatta Gold marble countertops.” Flooring is primarily a combination of foot-worn, honey-colored walnut and brushed Galala limestone.
Furnishings throughout are a combination of new pieces—many custom designs—and family heirlooms. “The homeowners have some wonderful antiques that have been handed down,” says Lozevski. “We used as much of their furniture as possible, sometimes reupholstering or refinishing them so that they worked in their new setting. It gives the home a little extra soul.”
Landscape designer Jeff Berghoff—known for creating verdant estate-style settings—came onboard to create the home’s picturesque surroundings. To lend an illusion of age, Berghoff incorporated lush plant materials and mature specimens, including the live oaks forming the drive’s allée and the pear trees populating a grove in the auto court. “We created a layered, tousled look with an organic feel in some places, and in other places, we did a more ordered impression,” he explains. To take advantage of the lot’s slope, Berghoff designed a series of cascading terraces. “The upper veranda is off the home’s main living areas. Then you go down to the pool terrace and then down to a kids’ play area,” he says.
Today the poetic residence fits the family like a glove. “I think it’s accurate to say that we have succeeded in creating a home that captures each family member’s unique personality and seamlessly blends style and functionality with an essence of the French countryside,” says Lozevski. “The house offers just the right combination of relaxed luxury that the family loves.”