A Revamped 1978 Residence With an Angular Structure


Sometimes, a house simply seems destined for a certain owner, as was the case with this 1978 Frank Lloyd Wright-style residence in Phoenix. When the home was new, a young girl visited a high school friend who lived in the house at the time and fell in love with it. Some 30 years later, she and her husband bought the residence and set about redecorating it to suit their family of three teenage boys.

The new owners wanted to be true to the vision of the home’s original architect and Wright apprentice, John Rattenbury. They also wanted to pay their respects to the nearby Arizona Biltmore, a 1929 landmark hotel also designed by a student of the famed architect. Yet the homeowners took their time—living in the house for three years before calling upon designers Kristin Fredstrom and Stacy Meisterheim to refashion the interiors.

Although the house had lived through eight owners and had been remodeled several times, the original architectural elements and foot- print remained untouched. “Our goal was to honor the architecture while acknowledging the homeowners’ style and way of life,” says Fredstrom. Adds Meisterheim, “We also wanted to make sure the interior and exterior melded, so we maintained that open feeling of being outdoors even when you are inside.”

The designers essentially started with a clean slate: Aside from the master bedroom suite and family room, the other spaces that they were called upon to redesign—the living room, dining room, powder room and his-and-her offices—were largely unfurnished save for the owners’ eclectic collection of contemporary art. Using the architecture as their guide, the duo devised a color palette of cream, charcoal and chocolate with rust and copper accents, and designed furnishings that give more than a passing nod to Wright.

Their only modifications were to the fireplaces. In the living room, they clad the upper portion of the brick hearth in honed black granite and bands of Venetian glass tile. In the master suite, they dressed the fireplace in linear glass tiles of earth tones and fashioned a metal surround.

Most of the furnishings throughout the home are custom pieces by the designers, such as the living room’s leather bench with visible seat rails and movable bolster pillows. “Everything in the house had to look luxurious, but it also had to be durable enough for the three children,” Meisterheim says. “And so we used sturdier fabrics for several of the furnishings found throughout.”

This elegant-yet-accessible theme continues with two matching sofas upholstered in rich rust-colored, tone-on-tone striped Vervain velvet. “We designed them to have wooden arms that are perfect for holding cocktails,” says Meisterheim. The geometric design of the silk-and-wool area rug celebrates the angular details of the room, which include a pair of stepped square coffee tables. “Their shapes mirror the windows,” Fredstrom says. In the nearby dining room, a five-tiered chandelier continues with the same forms.

The conversational seating group that surrounds the living room fireplace, a favorite spot of the owners, is a prime example of the designers’ homage to the home’s history. A wall of both vertical and clerestory windows defines the space; the three chairs—one for each son—are clean and low-profile so “they sit into the windows and don’t detract from the exterior view,” Fredstrom says.

The resulting redesign brought the home full circle. “This house really means something to me,” the wife says, “and everybody loves to hang out here.” Just as it was meant to be.