A Sonoran Desert Home with Scenic Views


Contemporary Brown Front Elevation With Exposed Steel Frame

Built with masonry and a steel frame that had been allowed to rust over time, the home is sited among large barrel and saguaro cacti as well as native palo verde, ironwood and mesquite trees.

Contemporary Neutral Open-Air Dining Room

In the dining room, white leather Antica chairs from Design Within Reach join a custom walnut-and-steel table designed and fabricated by The Construction Zone. The firm was responsible for the light fixture, as well. A Tufenkian rug and Firefly Song by Deborah Bell complete the setting.

Contemporary Front Elevation with Elegant Rusted Facade

At the entry to the home, a custom galvanized-steel trellis by The Construction Zone helps to minimize both heat and bright sunlight. A starburst wall installation from Phoenix Art Group greets visitors; planters are from Phoenix Precast Products. The exterior cladding is from Metal Works.

Contemporary White Kitchen with Expansive Island

Bianco Montanha granite countertops and backsplash from Arizona Tile complement the custom rift-cut white-oak cabinets featuring stainless-steel pulls. A rug by Room & Board adds a hint of color. Appliances are from Arizona Wholesale Supply Company.

Contemporary Gray Living Room With Steel Panel Fireplace

A Bracci sectional by Bova Furniture and Room & Board’s Odin lounge chairs create a comfortable seating area in front of the living room’s Ortal fireplace, which features a surround of hot-rolled steel panels by The Construction Zone. A rug from Underfoot grounds the space.

Contemporary Outdoor Space With Custom Fire Pit

A quartet of Source Outdoor armchairs from MacAllister and Associates, sporting Sunbrella’s Meridian Lemon and Spectrum Dove fabrics, surrounds a custom fire pit made of a large welded-steel pipe with lava rock infill by The Construction Zone.

Contemporary White Bedroom with Panoramic Views

Just Shorn wool carpeting from Direct Carpet One creates a softer feel in the master bedroom. The headboard system with integrated side tables is made of hot-rolled steel and rift-cut white oak by The Construction Zone. Flos Lighting wall lamps illuminate the space, which also features a chocolate leather-upholstered bench by Room & Board.

Contemporary Neutral Shower with Desert View

Seemingly simple yet breathtaking in design, the master bathroom shower boasts silver-beige stone tile from Arizona Tile and polished-chrome Hansastela fixtures from Quail Plumbing. A window allows for spectacular views of the surrounding desert.

Contemporary Neutral Bedroom with Expansive Desert Views

A detached casita was designed to both house guests and take advantage of the scenic desert vistas through a picture frame-like window and floor-to-ceiling glass doors. The smooth-finish concrete floors are from Concrete Works; the Night Owl 3 wall sconce is by Edge Lighting.

Contemporary Brown Exterior with Desert Landscape

The home’s burnished-concrete block and weathered-steel exterior allow it to blend into the desert. The landscape—which includes rocks and native plants that were salvaged from the site, as well as architectural plantings and lighting—was conceived by Flo Design + Construction.

“I take a modern approach to desert architecture,” says architect Andy Byrnes of the home that he designed and built just outside Scottsdale. The owners, who were relocating to the area after decades on the East Coast and a short stint in the Midwest, wanted a contemporary home constructed with warm materials that would blend into the surrounding desert. According to Byrnes, the gently sloping lot allowed him to create just that effect. “We were able to set the house back on the property and sort of sink it down into the ground on the backside,” Byrnes explains. “That let the house sit low enough to keep a low profile but high enough to catch the city lights on the south view.”

Built with masonry and a steel frame that has been allowed to rust over time, the home is sited among large barrel and saguaro cacti as well as native palo verde, ironwood and mesquite trees. Although the desert environment appears untouched, landscape architect Stephen Bardorf says that appearances can be deceiving. “One of our goals was for the home to fit back into the existing landscape as much as possible,” states Bardorf, who prepared the site for construction by salvaging native plants, granite and rocks, which he placed into a temporary on-site nursery. Post-construction, Bardorf and his crew worked in reverse, carefully restoring the material and incorporating new plantings, yet making it look as if his crew had never been there.

Floor-to-ceiling windows in the main living areas provide expansive vistas of the restored landscape. On the southeast side of the house, they can be opened and slid back into the wall, offering the owners direct access to the exterior patio and pool area, which also includes a fire pit. The home’s flat, horizontal roof extends far past the envelope of the sprawling structure, creating shade over the patio dining area. Here, Byrnes purposely left the roof out of the structure over the spa so that it acts as an outdoor skylight.

Controlling the light was a key goal of the project. To that end, Byrnes designed the layout so that main rooms have windows on two or three sides. “When you only have windows on one side of the room, it feels unbalanced, especially in Arizona where the light is so strong,” he says. Natural daylight is also enhanced by a long, thin band of clerestory windows along two sides of the home, creating the illusion of a flat roof floating over the entire space. “The house is oriented just perfectly,” the husband says. “In the winter, the sun is so low that it streams into the living room.”

Because there are no hallways, light flows through each room and spills into the next. “It lives like a much larger home, because of the way it circulates,” says Byrnes, noting that the masonry block walls, oak plank ceiling and even the expansion lines in the concrete flooring continue past the building structure, blending the interior and exterior as if they were a separate living area.

Treating the entire project as a single element, Byrnes designed built-in cabinetry made of rift-cut white oak for the kitchen, master bedroom and office. To complement the owners’ existing collection of contemporary furnishings, Byrnes also created several stand-alone pieces, including a steel rectangular dining table covered in walnut veneer and a contemporary chandelier, both of which echo the home’s horizontal lines. “Everything is exceptionally clean,” the husband says. “What you see is the design, inside and out.”

After spending most of their lives back East, the owners are adjusting to the change of scenery quite well. “It’s paradise,” says the husband, noting that he and his wife enjoy hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities year-round. “We love it here. This house is exactly what we were looking for.”