When a Chicago couple were looking to build a second home in Marana, what they imagined was a house that would embrace the Southwestern landscape, take in the expansive sky and celebrate the contours of the surrounding desert hills and valleys. “I think the overriding design principle was that we wanted the outdoors to be our artwork,” says the husband.
Although the homeowners favored a clean-lined contemporary style with ample amounts of glass—to view their artful landscape—they didn’t want the house, which sits hillside in Dove Mountain’s Canyon Pass, to be a modernist box. Instead, architect Marc Soloway’s design is all about functional curves, whether in the undulating shape of the roof or how different portions of the house rise and fall with the terrain. The garage, for example, is buried partially underground so the main living areas can enjoy a 180-degree panorama. “This also creates a grand entry to the front door,” Soloway explains. “You have this beautiful staircase that leads you up.” The same is true in back, where the pool is placed a few steps down from the patio in order to preserve views.
Once through the glass-and-steel front door, guests can see in any direction through walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. Meant to evoke the landscape, the home’s wide-open interior spaces are clad mostly in wood and stone, from the travertine floors and granite kitchen countertops to the alder cabinetry and pine ceiling. “With all the windows, we needed to add some warmth,” explains interior designer Lori Carroll, who brought in color via comfortable furnishings in hues of blue, green and taupe.
For dramatic effect, Soloway and Carroll placed a sculpture-like fireplace in the great room; its monumental form covered in hand-chiseled alder and bands of steel. “As you walk in, you see the water from the vanishing-edge pool out back and the fire from the fireplace inside,” builder Bill Updike says. “Then we put another fire pit down in the pool deck. We tried to incorporate all of these natural elements in a smooth transition between indoors and out.”
This idea continues in the dining area, where an up-close-and- personal view of the hillside includes an 8-foot-tall waterfall created using natural rocks from the site. “That turned out to be my favorite part of the house,” says landscape designer Tray Gers. “The mountain and the hillside are so close to the back of the house, and that glass allows the owners to really experience it.” Surrounding the residence, Gers placed a series of native plantings. “It’s a very desert feel with a minimal amount of flowering-type shrubs,” he says, “but we used a lot of different varieties of yucca, agave and golden barrel clusters for punches of color.”
The most impressive views, though, just may be found in the master suite. Occupying one whole wing of the house, the bedroom gives the owners the tranquil privacy of a secluded oasis with a reading area, terrace and a sanctuary-like bathroom whose centerpiece soaking tub sits at the corner of two glass walls. “The sense of sight, considered the most complex of our five senses, played an important role in the overall design of this space,” says Carroll. And the owners agree. “I think one of the neatest things we have is the sitting area in the master bedroom,” says the husband. “It overlooks the valley, and we can see out for miles. After the sun goes down, it’s just an incredible view with all these twinkling lights that we can see night after night.”