They wanted a rock star house,” says architect and general contractor Andy Byrnes of the Paradise Valley dwelling he designed for homeowners Deborah and Kevin Pshebniski, a couple with one teenage son. “It needed to have a wow factor in terms of execution, finishes, furniture, art and the views.” Indeed, when the Pshebniskis decided to build their brand-new abode, they imagined a hillside setting with dramatic vistas. “We wanted a glass box that would hang off the land,” Deborah says. Situated high up on a hill overlooking the mountains in the distance and the city lights below, the concrete-glass-and-steel structure was designed specifically for the rocky site. “The home is truly dug into the property,” Byrnes says. “We had to install almost 30 rock pins to hold back the excavation. It’s a modern example of desert hillside architecture.”
Although the owners originally hired Byrnes to remodel their previous home, it wasn’t long before the trio were touring empty lots together. “Andy persuaded us that renovating our prior home wouldn’t get us exactly what we wanted,” Kevin says, noting that Byrnes’ expertise in manufacturing his own door and window systems was also a selling point. “His use of industrial-grade materials such as cast concrete, steel and commercial-grade glass really resonated with me.” The exposed concrete walls and steel beams create an industrial backdrop for sleeker surfaces like the terrazzo floors as well as white cabinetry in the kitchen. “In terms of materials, there’s a really good push between rawness and refinement,” Byrnes says. To emphasize the home’s rectilinear lines, custom powder- coated panels—that line up with doors and windows—were used to clad the exterior as well as the interior ceiling. “Each decision reinforced the previous one,” Byrnes says. “There’s this rhythm to the structure, and each element talks to the others.” For example, zinc strips in the terrazzo floors and horizontal veining in the living room’s marble fireplace coincide while further enhancing the home’s architectural lines.
From below, the structure appears to float above its concrete foundation. “I wanted the house to feel like it was magically transported to the mountain with as little disturbance as possible,” Byrnes says. During construction, Byrnes tinkered with the placement of windows to emphasize certain views while disguising others. Floor-to-ceiling expanses of glass, for instance, provide unparalleled vistas in the main living areas. The guesthouse above the garage, on the other hand, has high and narrow windows that frame the mountain range while cropping out neighboring houses. “Because of the way it’s sited, you never experience the neighbors from inside the house,” he says. “Being both the architect and the general contractor allowed me to execute subtle ideas, such as window placements, during the construction that we might not have been able to do otherwise.” Actually constructing the house, however, was not without its challenges, as site constraints forced Byrnes to build the foundation a little at a time while the team worked its way down from the far end of the lot. “Since we couldn’t build the house from the bottom up, we had to start at the top of the site and work our way down,” he says.
A glass bridge connects the main living areas with the master suite, providing a bird’s-eye view of the lower-level art gallery. Here, the owners’ paintings and sculptures are displayed against a concrete wall. “The concrete walls are holding back the mountain,” Byrnes says. “I wanted the house to tell its own story about what’s structural versus what’s not.” The couple’s striking art collection flows from here to the rest of the house, such as in the living room, where a ceramic figure looks as if it could have been carved from the rock that was excavated to build the home. The contemporary pieces harmonize with the sleek Italian furnishings selected by the Pshebniskis. “We wanted to make the interiors our own,” Deborah says, noting that they often turned to Byrnes for advice on the interior finishes. “Our styles really mesh well together.” Also in the living room, the owners paired leather swivel chairs with a long purple sectional that takes advantage of the expansive view. They maintained that minimal, modern approach in the master suite, as well, with a platform bed and a streamlined armchair and ottoman placed in front of a steel fireplace. “We sought a sleek, clean- lined interior, which complements the contemporary use of the steel, glass and concrete construction materials,” Kevin says.
Behind the house, a swimming pool resides near a lower-level living area featuring a fireplace. Here, landscape designer Stephen Bardorf incorporated a variety of materials to construct planting spaces, some more utilitarian than others. “The design inspiration for these planting areas come from the house and the rock upon which it sits,” Bardorf says. “There’s a distinct transition between the house, as fabricated by human hands, and the geologic site conditions, which were not. They meet in the middle, partially outside, at the garden.”
In the end, the homeowners achieved their ideal haven. “It’s an amazing home, and we love everything about it,” Deborah says. “Andy was really fun to work with. We’ve become great friends, and I think we always will be.”