A Paradise Valley Desert Dwelling With a Stucco Facade

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A desert dwelling built into a hillside in Paradise Valley was “the one” for Nikal Conti, principal of PHX Architecture, and her husband, Robert. After all, for the chance to own this early work by Albuquerque-based architect Antoine Predock—one of Nikal’s greatest inspirations—the couple abandoned the design of their own desert dream house. “It was definitely difficult not to build the house that I designed for us,” says Nikal. “But I haven’t regretted the decision since, not even once.”

More than two decades after the home was built, Predock still recalls its design easily: the coy way in which the T-shaped house unveils itself and how it respects its surroundings with sand-colored stucco that gives the house a low profile within its desert environs.

“The site wasn’t easy to build on because of the slope,” says the architect, who notes that because the home is partially lodged into the hillside, it is naturally cooled by the earth, a welcome boon in such a scorching climate. “We carefully adapted the house to the topography,” he says, “working around as many boulders as possible.”

One of the home’s most unexpected features, a 48-foot-long steel bridge, is a good example of how the architect added square footage without disrupting the land. In the event of large parties, the span is often used as a dramatic extension of the dining room, and during overnight visits from Nikal’s young nephews, it is transformed into a one-of-a-kind campground. By Predock’s estimation: “It’s the bridge that goes nowhere, but takes you everywhere.”

For designer Dana Lyon, Predock’s masterpiece was not to be messed with. In fact, dated embellishments unleashed by previous owners were immediately removed to restore the home to its original glory. “We really wanted to celebrate the bones of the house,” says Lyon. “That meant one thing: simple interiors.”

To represent the surrounding landscape, Lyon embraced a neutral desert palette for the furnishings. In the family room, for instance, a sofa covered in taupe leather is paired with white Barcelona chairs from Design Within Reach. Live-edge wood tables and crystals from Nikal’s mineral collection further enhance the vibe, while a damask rug by Stephanie Odegard picks up on the crimson hues of a contemporary painting.

The home seems well suited for the Contis’ extensive art collection; Predock intentionally created large unadorned display surfaces for the original owner’s museum-quality pieces. Today, a stone sculpture by local artist Alan Hochman presides over the living room from its post within an indoor water feature, while an abstract painting by Anthony Banayat energizes the dining room, which Lyon appointed with linen-upholstered chairs and a custom dining table crafted from reclaimed barn planks.

“Often when you’re doing a remodel, a custom piece can make the most of a space,” says Lyon, who points out that the table, which can seat as many as eight, is “a rectangle, but not by much. Anything longer would not have worked.”

Indeed, the vital geometry in the home seems to be the humble rectangle—from the simple T-shaped footprint and the “bridge to nowhere,” to the slew of glass portals specially framed to capture the magnificent views of nearby Camelback Mountain. Such chic minimalism is a hallmark of modernist finery. “I know people who think this house is the newest, hottest thing on the block,” says Nikal of the 26-year-old home. “In reality, it’s just timeless.”

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