It was really about making a house for the two of them,” says designer Anita Lang, who, along with architects Vivian Ayala and Mark Candelaria, was brought on by builder Rod Cullum to create a home for a Paradise Valley, Arizona, couple that celebrated their daily life, impressive art collection and surrounding vistas of Camelback and Mummy Mountains. The empty nesters were ready to start anew—beginning with a modern, open abode that veered away from their former Tuscan-style residence. As the wife puts it, “I wanted a home for adults.”
There’s nothing better than clients who know what they want, and this couple had a definitive wish list, starting with an industrial open staircase that provides a framed view of Mummy Mountain and spans from the sexy subterranean lounge to the balcony-like top level. The staircase serves as a spine to the home, with the soaring two-story great room, kitchen and dining area flowing off into one continuous space from there. This design decision wasn’t just about style—it was also about function. Ayala and Candelaria took their cues from the contoured landscape. “The limited lot size and setback restrictions required us to think outside the box,” explains Ayala. “A key design element was creating circulation and connection between rooms without wasting space on hallways.”
The result is a home that feels nearly sculpted out of the landscape where the Arizona sunlight ricocheting off of the mountains can be seen from nearly any angle. This is thanks to not just the open staircase but also to the oversize windows in the great room and the upper-level master bedroom. “Every moment, from sunrise to sunset, the red rock has a different look,” says the wife. “With large glass walls, we see the mountains all around us.”
Lang, who is known for combining clean, simple lines with natural woods and earthy materials, understands that even though a home is modern it should never feel cold. “I want to evoke warmth and livability,” she says. So she introduced a paldao wood wall in the great room that intersects the kitchen and anchors the vast space. “The clients were so articulate and gave great input, but they also gave me a lot of leeway. It was a leap of faith to let me do a wall in wood,” says Lang. “I love the strong horizontal lines and beautiful graining. There’s a controlled elegance.” Custom rosewood swivel chairs echo the rich wood tones, and black granite flooring with a dark leather finish adds earthy texture and contrast to the crisp white walls and masonry blocks that encapsulate the rest of the room.
Lang served up warm wood in another dramatic way with a custom entertaining bar crafted from black marble and wrapped in a walnut form—a sculptural centerpiece that greets everyone in the foyer. “It’s the first thing you see walking in from the entryway, and it’s really a showstopper, my very favorite thing in the house,” says the wife, who had difficulty visualizing the concept. To convince the couple, Lang’s team spent a week creating a mock-up model. “It far surpassed our expectations,” the wife says.
Because the couple owns such a vast array of notable art (think abstract painter Jamali and minimal expressionist Palo Klein Uber), the design team wanted to be sure it could be viewed from throughout the home. On the upper floor, the hall space was turned into a gallery with the owners’ contemporary paintings and sculptures viewable through the glass barn doors of the office on the same level or from the great room below through the open railing. “We love being able to look up and enjoy the gallery from all the living areas,” says the husband. But it’s not just paintings and sculptures the husband wanted to display. The team designed what they refer to as a “car bar” in the downstairs lounge where his car collection can be viewed through a peek-a-boo window. “It’s brilliant,” the husband says.
Of course, that could be said for the rest of the house as well. “That was the benefit of working with Vivian and Anita,” he says. “They managed to create an environment that is contemporary yet inviting. They got us to step outside our comfort zone, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome.”