“When working with a piece of architecture that is as dramatic and commanding as this house, there is a choice to be made,” says interior designer Maika Winter. “Does one defer to that or does one make the interior powerful in its own right?” Winter chose the latter—and created an interior that speaks for itself while still respecting the whole as the sum of its parts.
Built as a primary home for a retiring couple in Scottsdale’s DC Ranch, the house is a study in angular details, natural elements and unmatched site integration with endless views of the desert and the adjacent golf course. “It’s not something that just fades into the background,” says architect Vernon D. Swaback, “yet it is still compatible with the land.”
Swaback, an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, worked alongside project architect Mike Wetzel and builder Jeff Lupien to incorporate some of the renowned architect’s most fundamental principles—echoing the landscape, the use of local resources and open, light-filled spaces—all of which effectively blur the line between indoors and outside. “We wanted to create a strong textural home that would meld the exterior with the interior and combine warm contemporary colors with a little surprise now and then,” says the wife.
“The challenge always lies in the execution of the fine details,” says Lupien. “Fully understanding the vision for the end product is critical, and we were very fortunate to have dedicated owners that could thoroughly articulate their ideas to the entire team.”
Upon entering the residence, the eye is immediately drawn to the living room’s multifaceted fireplace of quartersawn walnut flanked by corner stones reminiscent of Wright’s design, all set in sandblasted split-faced fluted masonry blocks with a polished concrete mantel that is repeated at a higher elevation. Deep red pillows accent a sofa and a pair of chairs covered in muted shades of tan and gray, while an ivory lampshade picks up the desert hues beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The living room is part of the home’s main structure, a large open space that also comprises the kitchen, dining room, breakfast area and bar. “It was a challenge to create intimacy within each space,” says Winter, who began the project alongside Studio V Interior Design and completed it after starting her own firm, Wintercreative. “Features like the ‘floating clouds’ on the kitchen ceiling and geometrically shaped countertops offer a spatial alternative to walls,” adds Swaback.
“The landscape directly influenced the palette of the home, which is fairly toned-down and neutral, with color brought in as hints of drama in each space,” notes Winter. Bright turquoise, earthy reds and butter tones, with warm gray walls as a backdrop, are repeated throughout the home and are given varying levels of prominence in each room. In the master bedroom, a pop of blue is provided by two armchairs and a bench covered in Glant’s Deep Lagoon.
A similar turquoise punch is repeated in a mixed media on reclaimed wood by Brad Huck in the dining room, where a chandelier explodes from the ceiling in a fluted spiral of acrylic leaves. Lighting was carefully addressed throughout the house to optimally showcase both the architecture and the art. “The challenge was the complicated ceiling design, composed of sloping and flat planes at various heights,” says lighting designer Nikki Holt, who, along with principal Walter Spitz, tackled the issue head-on. “Linear cove lighting highlights the intersections between ceiling planes, and carefully placed spotlights illuminate furniture and the owners’ extensive art collection.”
For all of the incredible moments of the house, the owners carry a soft spot for one in particular. “This project was born from the opportunity to work with Vernon, who I had been following for several years,” says the wife, “and it grew into an incredible symbiotic blending of teams that is evident by the end result.”