A Courtyard Estate Embracing the Arts and Equestrian Life


With a 1926 Steinway piano as the centerpiece of this Arizona courtyard estate, one might assume the owners love music. Indeed, the wife, Catherine Hayden, is not only the great- niece of legendary Senator Carl Hayden and the great-granddaughter of Charles Trumbull Hayden, the founder of Tempe, but she also is a pianist and cellist with a passion for chamber music.

But beyond the piano, it’s clear, there is a lot more at play in this contemporary composition. Positioned on 2.5 acres in Tempe, the home is a testament to architect Hugh Knoell, who “wanted to create a low-profile, relaxed and comfortable space,” he says. “It was important to incorporate features that were protective of the family’s privacy, as well as have them be energy-efficient.” So, Knoell created such details as oversized cedar eaves that shade the home’s wide expanse of glass from the summer sun while allowing just enough in during the winter months.

Set on a flat piece of land, the chosen plot included a small house and barn, which was perfect for Hayden and husband Lawrence Hudson, who needed space for a horse on-site. “We wanted a symmetrical courtyard home, centered around a lap pool, with a barn in the back,” Hayden says. “I also wanted to be able to accommodate small chamber music concerts yet maintain privacy from neighbors.” Knoell, along with interior designer Sandra Seward, delivered in more ways than one.

Knoell began the project by first bringing on builder Greg Hunt, who built the house from the ground up using stucco, steel and concrete as influencing materials. He also provided input on the functional aspects of the home, including choosing block construction. “The home is durable and virtually maintenance-free,” he says. Steel makes its impact in the structural framework as well as the fence wrapping the property. Rusted by nature, the 8-foot-high fence belies the gracious interior beyond. “When you open the gate, you enter another world,” Hayden says. “It’s magical.”

As one walks up the concrete path, Hayden and Hudson’s passions cannot be denied. While the trough-inspired fountains bring to mind Hudson’s love of horses, the piano seen through the glass door reminds one of Hayden’s musical pursuits. “I placed the piano in the center of the home to give the eye a rest before looking back outside,” Seward says. Smoother polished concrete continues in the floors of the great room, which functions as both a living and dining area and chamber concert hall. To the left of the great room are the private spaces, and to the right, the public spaces and guesthouse. “The great room has extraordinary proportions,” Knoell says. “Though large in scale, it feels intimate.”

Empty-nesters Hayden and Hudson had permanency in mind when envisioning the interior. “We’ve traveled and moved so much, so we wanted a house that would represent everywhere we’ve lived,” Hayden says, referring to their previous homes in Tokyo, New York, London and the French Alps.

Seward welcomed the task of finding a new home for their collected furnishings, such as the Louis XVIII-style host and hostess chairs and country-style side chairs in the dining room and the elephant stools from Hong Kong that greet guests in the entry. Eighty-three engravings also had to be thoughtfully displayed throughout. “They give an interesting cohesion to a very modern home,” Hayden says. In addition to placing the owners’ furniture and art, Seward designed a few standout pieces, such as an 18-foot steel-plate desk for the husband’s office and a solid- steel dining table weighing 800 pounds. “My concept was to honor what Hugh had created outside, inside,” she says of her symmetrical design.

References to the rural environment can be seen in the antique farm table in the breakfast area and hardwood countertops in the kitchen. “It adds warmth to the concrete floors,” Hayden says. Even in the bedrooms, warm touches, such as coverings sewn by Hayden, dress the beds in comfort.

Outside, landscape architect Gordon Wayne Jones chose plantings suitable for the area. “Where possible, we used colorful, low-water-use favorites typical of the Southwest,” he says, noting the variety of bougainvillea, red bird-of-paradise, plumbago, ruselia, Valentine bush and hybrid Texas sage that fits well into the existing neighborhood and their new life here in Arizona. “This home not only suits the owners but celebrates them,” Knoell says. “You get a sense of what they really care about from the moment you walk through the door.”