All custom houses call for ingenuity, but the one Jim and Catherine Olsthoorn wanted to build in the Silverleaf community as a respite from the chilly Canadian winters was particularly demanding. Situated close to the entrance and highly visible from the street, the home needed a style that would walk the line between the owners’ modern leanings and meeting the stated design guidelines.
“Silverleaf doesn’t allow contemporary homes, so we had to come up with a design that would fit the community’s standards yet still work for the clients,” says builder Tom Argue. “It made us all think deeper and harder and more creatively.” The formal Mediterranean mien that they came up with would be the first of its kind in a section known as The Parks. “Silverleaf didn’t originally have a plan for this style of house,” explains Argue, who collaborated with architect Scott Carson on the design. “This home pushed the envelope and has since made them think about opening up their style rules.”
The couple first fell in love with Scottsdale in 2011 when they were looking at places for a getaway. After an exhaustive home search, the couple opted to go custom— and with good reason. “My husband and three boys are all over 6 feet 7 inches tall and that means everything—beds, ceilings, doors and vanity heights, furniture, pool and spa depth—had to be designed to accommodate their height. You can only home in on that level of detail if you custom build,” says Catherine.
After they toured several vacant lots, it was synchronicity that led to the perfect site. “My husband was invited to play golf at Silverleaf, and as luck would have it, one of the players had an empty lot for sale,” says Catherine, noting that the site had 270-degree mountain views. “The property closed 30 days later, which happened to be my birthday. It was a wonderful confirmation that it was meant to be ours.”
When it came it assembling a design team, Catherine knew she needed people who would allow her to take an active role—and Argue met that requirement. “Both Tom and Brad Kern, who oversaw the building process, afforded me creative expression from the start,” she says. Argue then introduced the couple to Carson, who also honored Catherine’s ideas, including one for a formal entry façade. “The exterior is made of stucco with cutstone details, and the overall massing is very simple, in keeping with the classic Mediterranean style,” says Carson. For example, the chimney caps punctuate the simple roof forms and the entry courtyard tile is laid in a herringbone pattern.
The lot’s size constraints also mandated inventiveness. “The lot is not very large, and it’s also located near the main entrance to the community, where there’s constant traffic,” says Carson. “Our job was to create a private, tranquil environment where Jim and Catherine could experience the wonderful winter climate with indoor-outdoor living and not notice the hustle of cars and people.”
The backyard’s aesthetic is all about decompressing and spending time together. Along with a pool and spa, there are several covered patio areas for sitting, lounging, entertaining and eating. Two sets of sliding pocket doors—one in the great room and the other in the kitchen—connect the interiors with the patios. The architect’s careful siting, combined with landscape designer Jeff Berghoff’s strategic use of walls, plantings and water features, resulted in tranquillity on both sides of the house. “The overall design inspiration for the entry’s limestone water feature was classical in nature,” says Berghoff. “I wanted something that visitors could engage in and walk around as they approached the house. From the street, it draws your eye upward to the front door, and the sound of the streaming water
is inviting as one walks past.”
Tailored, understated elegance defines the interiors, which meld beautifully with the classical surroundings. “My preferred aesthetic is a clean modern approach,” says Catherine, who conceived the decorating plan on her own. “For this home, I focused on relaxation.” To engender a serene spa-like ambience, the neutral palette commingles ivory, biscuit and oatmeal hues with muted shades of silver, champagne, gold and black. Subtle accents of turquoise in the master bedroom, as well as salmon in one of the guest rooms, judiciously enliven those spaces. Throughout the house, a Savant home automation system, installed by Via, controls everything from interior and exterior lighting to the fountain and pool systems.
Carefully conceived finishes reinforce the home’s custom feel, starting with the linear fireplace lined with iridescent glass that provides the focal point for the great room and kitchen. “The façade is a unique architectural element, and I love how it balances the room,” says Catherine of the plaster tiles set in a geometrical pattern. Other finishes include textured Italian porcelain flooring and Brazilian-granite kitchen countertops selected for their natural beauty and easy maintenance. The drama of the granite inspired Catherine to bookend two of the slabs for the backsplash and create a waterfall-style island that seats five.
The family now makes regular treks to Arizona, but for Catherine the real magic of the home lies in its ability to help her husband and sons unwind and reconnect. “We are so happy with the way it turned out,” she says. “It feels like our own private resort—a desert oasis that we can escape to and relax together.”