An Old World Oasis Amid the Sonoran Desert


With views of the city lights twinkling from one direction and golf courses, mountains and the natural desert lying in wait from others, an East Coast couple found their personal oasis in the picturesque Sonoran Desert. The Scottsdale location offered the perfect backdrop for a second home that was to reflect a love of both the desert and the old-world stylings of Tuscany—a home that will eventually serve as a permanent residence for the former attorneys, as well as a welcoming getaway for their now-teenage triplets, family and friends.

The project, however, was not without its challenges. “The site was basically just a knoll,” says architect Lee Hutchison, who worked on the project along with associate architect Jessica Hutchison-Rough. “So we had to be creative in how we developed it.” By grading the property and reorienting the lot, Hutchison was able to produce the views the homeowners so deeply desired. The owners were drawn to Hutchison in part because of the architect’s mastery of ceilings with notable impact. “Floor plans are how the house functions,” Hutchison says, “but the ceiling can dictate how the house feels. The height, the textures: They can make the space warm, cozy and intimate or wide open to the outside.” The ceiling in the great room, for example, features a radial beam pattern that draws one’s eyes to the stunning views, whereas in a hallway that connects to the detached master suite, tiled barrel vaults run perpendicular for visual separation. Douglas fir is the predominant choice of wood throughout, with differing details and finishes to define each room.

An artisanal appearance is also prevalent in the home’s stonework, a mix of limestone, travertine and granite, which flows from the front courtyard, through the entryway and back outside. To achieve this effect, builder Randy Arnett-Romero employed the techniques of ancient stonemasons, mixing mortar with grittier sand for an older impression and washing the final product for a look that appears to have stood the test of time. “The idea was to get a newly built home to appear as though it had aged over time,” says Arnett-Romero. “The owners had witnessed this warmth in their travels and really wanted to recreate it.”

A natural wash running through the property brought about one of the home’s more interesting features: the isolated master suite accessed via an interior “bridge” that crosses the arroyo and provides a retreat for the homeowners. The exterior of the bridge was amplified by landscape designer Jeff Franklin, who helped cut in a natural water feature to enhance the arroyo. Franklin also worked to add privacy to the property itself without interfering with the views. He kept existing plant life, such as saguaro cacti, already in place and added 13 mature trees that would screen the home from the street and surrounding houses. “We wanted to keep what was there and match the existing plant materials and densities while also creating a sense of seclusion,” says Franklin.

Personal touches at every turn work to enhance the welcoming feel of the overall space. The homeowners’ own photography and art purchased on travels play off the personalized ceiling plans and custom-made furnishings, including an armoire in the great room and a chandelier crafted of mesquite wood in the kitchen—both of which were conceived by designer Paula Den Boer. “The request was to have the home look and feel as if it was transported from Italy to Arizona,” Den Boer says, noting earth tones were selected for the home’s interiors because they are “a true Tuscan palette.”

That palette paired with the exquisite craftsmanship throughout resulted in precisely the environment the homeowners set out to achieve, a place where family and friends could comfortably gather and enjoy a little bit of old-world style amid the breathtaking backdrop of the desert.