The way architect Mark Candelaria sees it, building a house is a lot like preparing a gourmet meal. Both involve assembling the right high-quality ingredients that, when expertly combined, evoke a feeling of great satisfaction. Perhaps most importantly, both endeavors are much more enjoyable when friends are involved.
That was the situation when Candelaria, designer Anita Lang and builder John Schultz joined forces to design and build a modernist home perched high above Paradise Valley. “We were all on the stage together jamming, and it was a lot of fun,” Candelaria says bringing yet another art form to mind. “The client picks up on that energy.”
That sense of zeal is clearly reflected in the outcome, a contemporary two-level abode clad with stucco, smooth tile and textural black-opal schist with flecks of mica that sparkle in the bright desert sunshine. It couldn’t be more different from the clients’ previous hacienda-style residence. But, says Lang, “They were intrigued by the idea of a modern mountain home.”
Adds Schultz, “The owners wanted the house to feel like it belonged there.” So Candelaria planned the abode to be perfectly positioned to capture the views of Camelback Mountain. To prepare the site for construction, Schultz made cuts as high as 30 feet up into the rock and then drilled 250 rods to pin the stone into place. It was well worth the monumental effort. With panoramic vistas on one side and a far more intimate view of the mountain’s cleft stone on the other, “It feels like the house really evolved from the location,” says Schultz.
The architecture creates two wonderfully different experiences, Lang notes: one of vastness and one of intimacy. She used these encounters to guide the materials, furnishings and textures within each room. A spectacular display of this thoughtful approach is the great room, a cavernous space with tall, walnut-clad ceilings and black leathered granite floors. To honor the room’s scale, Lang placed a large custom sofa and a quartet of walnut-framed chairs in front of a floor-to-ceiling granite fireplace. “The rich, warm walnut color is a beautiful juxtaposition to the cooler grays,” Lang says, pointing out that the ceiling’s 2-inch planks make it appear more modern and interesting. “The design is very pulled back—a study in editing.” That’s also true for the adjacent open kitchen, which features simple lacquered cabinets in a satin gray. The velvety finish is an ideal complement to the monolithic marble island with graphic gray veining and a unique beveled edge. “Even though there’s a lot of movement, it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly busy in the space,” Lang says.
The dining room is equally subdued, allowing the zen garden designed by landscape firm Greey|Pickett just outside to take center stage. Surrounded on two sides by tall glass doors that pocket into the wall, the space elicits the sense of alfresco dining, albeit at a contemporary table with elegant leather chairs. In the corner, a pair of handcrafted black metal sculptures adds dimension and plays off the native desert plants.
It’s one of the many ways the design team married the inside and outdoor spaces. The walnut ceilings flow past the envelope of the building. And the black opal schist defines not only the exterior but also a long, curved feature wall that leads to a stunning stairway with a glass railing that leads to the lower level. There, the bespoke wine cellar serves as a stunning backdrop for a cozy family room furnished with a dark blue leather sectional sofa and a channeled cognac leather bench in front of a low slung fireplace that combines black granite and travertine.
Every material used in the home, from the granite floor to the walnut ceiling, was deliberate, emphasizes Lang. “We wanted consistency and harmony,” the designer says. “Simplicity is luxury, and that was guiding me. Every choice was made with specific intention.”
Naturally, that includes the final celebration. To commemorate the end of the 18-month project, Candelaria threw his clients a party in their new abode late last year. As music played and wine flowed, the architect, who hosts a virtual monthly cooking show on Instagram Live, prepared a seafood paella dinner that the guests happily devoured. “It’s so rewarding to share in the experience of ‘living’ in the home you designed for your client,” he says. “It’s nice to see and be a part of the what lies beyond the finish line.”