Once a pair of physicians discovered this peaceful spot at the base of Paradise Valley’s Mummy Mountain, the couple, parents of two, knew there was no way they would establish their new family residence anywhere else. “We always wanted a house on Mummy Mountain, so that we could look at Camelback Mountain,” the wife says, “but I didn’t want to be stuck with just a balcony. This lot was right where the mountain starts, so we could have a huge backyard and huge front space—we’d be using the whole property.”
The couple also had their hearts set on working with architect C.P. Drewett, interior designer Claire Ownby and builder Brett Brimley, longtime collaborators known for creating warm, approachable modern homes, in which it’s difficult to discern where the architect’s vision ends and the designer’s begins. “We had seen their work before in magazines; that’s how it started,” the wife says. “We saw a house of theirs in Estancia, New Mexico, and it was so stunning—contemporary, exceptionally functional, with beautiful clean lines and outdoor spaces that blended with the indoor spaces. We had never seen such a home before.” The couple’s admiration was so great, in fact, that they gave Drewett and Ownby free rein to capture those same qualities in a dwelling that would function as a private retreat. “We don’t entertain much,” the wife says. “It’s such a busy schedule that when we’re off, we just rest. This house was about the four of us just being together.”
With that in mind, Drewett, working in collaboration with project architect Rob Banach, designed “a collection of panels”—monolithic vertical limestone planes and horizontal expanses of glass and steel—that create a rhythm of solid and void. These frame a floor plan that gives the casual living spaces—great room, kitchen and informal dining area on the first floor; media room on the second—the most privileged views, not only of the natural surroundings, but also of a minimalist landscape and negative-edge pool conceived by landscape designer Jeremy McVicars to complement the clean-lined architecture. A window wall system allows for uninterrupted expanses of glass, while clerestories invite southern light to penetrate the structure. Just off the kitchen, a glass pocket door meets on an inside corner, which “allowed us to join multiple interior spaces to an outdoor room,” Drewett says. “It creates this pavilion feeling in that so much of the home can avail itself of the outdoor space—which is why we live here, after all.”
To get the kitchen’s twin quartzite-topped islands as close as possible to those surroundings, Drewett devised a clever back kitchen—“a big millwork box that floats in the space,” he calls it—that hides the pantry and secondary appliances. To define this focal point, Ownby and designer Rachel Stellwagen chose rift-sawn white oak paneling—a material they employed throughout the house to complement Douglas-fir ceilings and walls and floors of buff limestone. “There’s a lot of millwork here that’s been designed to be structural,” Ownby says. “By repeating the same material and keeping it simplistic in its application and monochromatic in color, we were successful in keeping with the home’s very restrained palette.”
“Restrained” is not, however, a term often used to describe the scale of Drewett’s designs. “C.P. likes to build very large volumes,” Ownby says, “and if the furnishings are not in proportion with that scale, they get lost in the interior.” Which is why the designers had nearly every piece in the house custom made, from the formal dining room’s wood-slab-topped table and glass-globe light canopy to the great room’s 6-by-8-foot coffee table, scaled to match a massive sectional sofa “that the whole family can pile on together,” Ownby says. To give the voluminous main bedroom a more intimate feel, they had the fireplace wall wrapped with a charcoal-colored, leather-look vinyl, then carried that textured material up across the ceiling and down the opposite wall, where it forms a dramatic headboard.
Throughout the property, integrated lighting—designed in collaboration with Susan Oster—draws attention to the architecture. In the prayer room, which displays a collection of carved-wood statues that represent the Hindu virtues, “We have four different sources of light,” Ownby notes. “We’re lighting the sculptures, the wallpaper on the back wall, the millwork and the room.” But it’s not the lighting that defines the room. For what’s most conspicuous here is simply a sense of calm.