The contemporary ease of being able to travel and live anywhere in the world, combined with our overscheduled lives, often scatters families, making coming together—over dinner, a hike or just a board game—progressively harder. A Midwestern couple who decided to build a sprawling second home in Phoenix decided this would not be their own family’s reality. “They wanted a place where they could gather with their children and grandchildren,” says interior designer Lissa Lee Hickman.
To make the residence both intriguing and relaxing, “the homeowners expressed a desire for a French Provincial feel that was rustic but refined,” Hickman says. The community’s design guidelines already skewed toward historic styles, says residential designer Gary Wyant, who looked to architecture examples in the rural Mediterranean for inspiration. “Homes there have been in families for generations,” he explains. “They would start with one central building and add onto it over many years as families grew.” For Wyant, this dictated multiple clay tile rooflines and alternating wings of stucco and stone to convey an organic evolution. To avoid the perception of a new home, the design team gave the residence patina, liberally deploying reclaimed materials inside and outside. Salvaged bricks, antique white-oak floors, European limestone and old fireplaces imported from France were sourced locally. The team even flew to Idaho to handpick the repurposed barn wood beams used throughout.
The old-world authenticity and materials, however, had to adapt to the family’s modern lifestyle. “Proportions of rooms are generous but comfortable rather than grand, and we used all-natural materials throughout,” Wyant says. And for large gatherings, the need for privacy was kept in mind. “Secondary bedrooms were designed with en-suite baths and separate living areas,” the residential designer says. “We created lots of cool spaces. There’s a casita that’s separate, a ramada with a barbeque, decks on the upper floors and patios all around the house.”
Other modern updates fell to Scott Edwards, who handled the construction. “We introduced a lot of new technology,” he says. “The HVAC system is one of the most advanced we’ve ever used. But aesthetically, the house had to look like it’s been there hundreds of years.” Case in point: A ubiquity of Arizona fieldstone known as DC Cobble was used for both interior and exterior application. Rather than stacked whole, the stones were cut into about 11⁄2-inch slices. “We had to constantly monitor it so the size and color of the stones had the variety Gary intended,” Edwards says. “We also hand-broadcast a mix of sand and gravel into the grout to make it appear the way it would have years ago.” Outwardly the structure appears solid, yet the deceptively lighter material reduced the size of structural beams required to carry the weight.
Another tricky feat, Edwards adds, was executing the enormous spiral entry stair. The carriage was fabricated in Texas and reassembled on-site. “Coordinating the way the iron banister, the reclaimed French white-oak treads and the rift-cut European oak panels on the sides came together required craftsmanship,” he says. The entry hall unquestionably makes a statement, Hickman says, but it does so in a calm way: The space is outfitted with limestone that was honed instead of polished, an iron chandelier rather than a crystal one and a vaulted ceiling crafted from brick, not plaster. As a result, “the room’s natural materials and finishes soften the space,” she says. Adding to the feeling is the fact that the entry hall opens into the great room, which is swathed in more prosaic fieldstone.
Everywhere, the juxtaposition of rustic finishes and high-toned accents strikes a skillful equilibrium between welcomingly casual and sophisticated. In the great room, the tailored pleats of a sofa and its patterned blue Fortuny toss pillows fit right in. “The clients love blue,” Hickman says. “So we used different shades throughout the house—royal blue, navy blue, powder blue.” As for the furnishings, “many of them are reproduction antique, which feels timeless,” the interior designer says. “Real antiques usually require rebuilding, and they’re not as durable for young children or grandchildren.”
One place Hickman upped the ante is the master suite, where “we used a little more polish,” she says. Here, the clients asked for a cream-and-gold color scheme, which the interior designer carried out with her signature poise. Silk rugs “promote softness and texture on top of wood floors,” she notes. Antiqued French bombé-style tables sit bedside, and the master bath boasts not one but two crystal chandeliers. The space’s Calacatta Gold marble surfaces are honed instead of polished, and the floor is herringbone oak with a simple oil finish.
Outside, landscape architect Jeff Berghoff complemented the architecture with hardscaping, drives, paths and walkways, a pool, a spa, a firepit and fountains. “The landscape was designed around the home’s panoramic views of the city lights, so we were strategic in placing large trees to block neighboring houses but frame the city lights,” he explains. “The main courtyard areas of the home have more of a Mediterranean feel, with drifts of rosemary, lavender, white iceberg roses, dwarf olive shrubs and a rose cutting garden.”
From the expansive grounds to the comfortable spaces for gathering, “this home is designed for family and entertaining,” Wyant says. And indeed, that is just what the residents use their home for, bringing together their children and grandchildren for special occasions and new memories. “Come holiday time, every room in the house is full,” Hickman says.
— Jorge S. Arango