A Modern Marana Structure with Desert Views


After living in high-density urban areas for their entire professional careers, a recently retired couple came to Marana for a more up-close relationship with nature, a chance to “become one with the land and the desert,” as the husband recalls. Working with architect Kevin B. Howard, the couple sought a glass-ensconced modern home that would act as one extended window onto the landscape. “What we really wanted was basically a piece of art to live in, and we wanted views everywhere.” And that’s what Howard delivered. “Now we can see peaks 60 miles away to the south,” the husband adds. “It’s just perfect for us.”

Though its design, in part, shows the influence of modern masters such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier in its clean lines and subtle integration with the landscape, the residence is uniquely configured. All living spaces are placed on the second floor, leaving only the garage at ground level. This was done not only to maximize views of the Catalina Mountains but also to tread lightly on the land. “It hovers, not high in the air but just off the desert floor,” Howard says of the house. “I’m always about preserving the natural things that our clients love about their lot. They didn’t want to move a lot of the existing cacti or boulders; they just wanted the home to fit right in.”

One enters neither at the house’s front nor back. Instead, one is guided underneath the structure and then up a flight of stairs to a front door that is actually at its rear, providing a clear view of the hillside into which the house is nestled. “As you climb the stairs, you’re scaling the hillside in an open atrium that looks up to the mountain behind you,” says Howard, whose team, including field superintendent Craig Johnson, was also responsible for the home’s construction. “When you come to the top, you get this massive view; it’s almost like coming into the house through a canyon. It’s really spectacular.”

Inside, materials such as wood, earth-toned concrete block and gray porcelain tile—on the ceilings, walls and floors respectively—are continued from outside, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living. The open floor plan centers on the kitchen, where Howard (who also designed the interiors alongside firm designer Gillian Turney) minimized upper cabinetry in order to allow tall windows to rise from the black Caesarstone countertops. 

“We wanted the desert to be part of the home,” the wife says. “We didn’t want too many things to interrupt it, and we didn’t want to look at walls.” Both the kitchen and the adjacent living room use contrasting dark and light tones—gunmetal steel ceiling beams and black leather chairs, cream-colored sofas and light wood cabinetry while splashes of color throughout come from the owners’ art collection.

To take advantage of the warm Arizona climate and landscape, the home has generous outdoor spaces, including a covered loggia with a television, cooking facilities and ample seating for lounging or dining. Just beyond the master bedroom’s glass walls are a pool and patio with a pair of chaises. The property often attracts wildlife, from bobcats and javelina to deer and rabbits, which come right up to the glass. “When we wake up in the morning, we have a fabulous view of the sunrise and the Catalina Mountains from our bed,” the wife says. “It’s almost as if you are outdoors, but it feels cozy.”

— Brian Libby