If it weren’t 100 percent true, it would seem too on-the-nose: a beautiful new home rising from the literal ashes of its predecessor…just outside Phoenix, of all places. And yet it’s what happened to a residence in Paradise Valley, a family house which arose on theÂ site of a calamitous fire that had destroyed the owners’ previous home, just months away from the completion of a down-to-the-studs renovation. The story of how the homeowners, their trusted interior designer andÂ a thoughtful architectural team rallied afterward is a reminder that tragedy often brings with it the opportunity for beauteous rebirth.
“The heartbreak of that day changed me on both a professional and personal level,” says interior designer April Lozevski, whose relationship with the homeowners stretches back more than 15 years. It was Lozevski who stood–and cried–with her clients in front of the first house as firefighters attempted to put out the blaze. “The decision to rebuild took several years. It took time and a new spark of inspiration to jump-start the process of dreaming again.”
That spark came in the form of a serendipitous sighting: a house in Arcadia that had been built by architect Mark Candelaria–and that the homeowners “fell in love with,” according to Lozevski. Dreams were rekindled, contact was made, and a brief was born.
The experience of the fire had made the owners, who have two children, reconsider life on two floors: They immediately connected with Candelaria and project manager Vivian Ayala’s proposal to keep things to a single story, with the children’s rooms closer to the main living area and master suite. In Lozevski’s words the effect of the family’s ordeal on their vision for the new home was to make them want to “pull in the layout and the volumes to create a more intimate, close-knit relationship of rooms.”
In practice, that meant redefining the concept of the “family room” so that it encompassed a cluster of connected spaces, both indoor and outdoor, as opposed to a single one. This home’s family room, says Candelaria, is really more of a composite volume that “engages the kitchen on the one end and the outdoor loggia on the other to embrace the outdoors and to be a space to relax and enjoy living.” Of the kitchen, he adds that it’s “the hub of the home–definitely the center of the action.” As befits any hub, it has views in all directions, the most rewarding ones being those of the patios and gardens to the east, landscaped by Greg Trutza, and the courtyard to the south.
But there’s also plenty to see on the walls. The clients’ expansive and ever-evolving art collection meant that the architects, designer and general contractor Russ Mason would need to craft warm, livable rooms that could double as exhibit spaces–such as the long and high-ceilinged gallery extending from the house’s master wing to its guest wing. “Much like you would in an art gallery, we opted to keep the interior finishes neutral, with warm white walls and custom aniline dyed greige doors,” says Lozevski. “We stripped away traditional millwork and opted for sculptural plaster ceiling details, elegant beamwork and lots of windows for natural light.”
Some designers push their clients toward a particular look, but Lozevski is happy to let her clients pull herÂ into their visual world of beloved furnishings, fabrics and objects. Once there, she sees her job as “orchestrating all of these elements into a pleasing composition.” These owners love color, so Lozevski upholstered a pair of living room armchairs in a bright pink and yellow fabric inspired by batik. In the dining room, the chairs wear a cheerful green and white print. A powder room’s wallcovering is playfully patterned with bunny rabbits by the contemporary American painter Hunt Slonem.
In the master bedroom, a unique sculptural ceiling detail stands out: a central oculus whose carved plaster ridgesÂ suggest nothing so much as the underside of a protective umbrella over the bed. Steps away is the master bath, the goal for which was relatively straightforward, according to Candelaria: “Make it feel like you’re living at a five-star spa every day.” A well-placed Dutch door opens to the outside, letting in light and breezes but discouraging the entry of curious reptiles and other desert-dwelling critters.
The completed residence is now an example of how the best-designed homes are capable of stunning us with their beauty, impressing us with their sophistication, and transporting us with their inventive style. But they’ll never have a higher purpose than that of a shelter for ourselves and those who are most important to us.