Attachments to places can run deep. And so it was for the owners of a Paradise Valley, Arizona, residence in the foothills of Camelback Mountain, a neighborhood in which the husband grew up and as a teenager would ride all-terrain vehicles through the desert mesquite and prickly pear. When he and his wife, also an Arizonan, wanted a new home in the area, they turned to interior designer Jana Parker Lee to interpret their fondness for the Valley of the Sun in a residence designed for extended family gatherings.
Now empty nesters, the couple had lived in a Paradise Valley residence before, but the house was ornate and European in feel and wasn’t a perfect fit for the two. “It had lots of heavy stone and faux-rustic elements,” says Parker Lee. “So much of the Southwest look gets reproduced, and these clients like casual but not anything rustic. They wanted a little a bit of refinement.”
The couple’s new house, whose interiors Parker Lee characterizes as “streamlined classical,” features rich details brought to life by builder Dominick Abatemarco, such as weighty walnut doors with pure bronze hardware and Venetian plaster walls, polished and mottled to provide “a clean old-world finish,” he says. The design–which originated with architects Mark Candelaria and Meredith Thomson yet evolved along the way–boasts clay roof tiles that are flat, in contrast to the region’s prevailing Spanish-style barrel aesthetic. “They’re not showy people,” Abatemarco says of the clients. “Those kinds of sharp details were key.”
To put the rooms together, Parker Lee and the wife visited showrooms in Los Angeles and Arizona, settling upon traditional and modern pieces interspersed with antiques and custom-designed furniture and cabinetry. “My favorite thing is to create a mix that feels personal and collected,” Parker Lee says. In the living room, contemporary leather lounge chairs commune with an antique limestone mantel and small lamps set on custom Wiseman and Gale etageres. In the formal dining room, custom-built oak cabinets root the room while serving as the perfect foil for a handblown chandelier with shell-shaped crystals by John Pomp.
Shades of blue and gray are dominant, a palette chosen by the wife “who has always loved blue,” Parker Lee notes. Though Paradise Valley is an elite province, the couple prizes the area’s “neighborliness.” Their priority was providing an array of gathering and dining spaces for their extended family, including relatives nearby. “Our dining spaces allow everyone to have a seat at a table and sit comfortably, which was very important to us,” says the wife.
Various shades of teal, cornflower and navy blue permeate the adjacent family room and custom-designed kitchen, including an enormous kitchen island. The kitchen is the family’s center of gravity, with an office and sitting area to one side–the perfect space for mulling over recipes. Metal pendants and walnut shelves add an earthy feel. The space is deliberately oversized “so that everyone can congregate there and share in the cooking,” says the wife.
When the brutal triple-digit summer heat is behind them, the couple throw open the retractable doors to the patio and the gardens beyond, which are the vision of landscape architect Jeff Berghoff. “During construction, a majority of the site was disturbed and had to be recreated,” he notes. “We blended in native trees and shrubs transitioning to a lusher botanical look as you approach the home.” The negative-edge pool was situated to take in views of the city and mountains; in an architectural sleight of hand, visitors arrive through the front gate, which has views of the back patio, and wend their way up a drive to the main entrance at the back.
At sunset, the mountain’s rust-red boulders become luminous, the foreboding aspects of the desert landscape giving way to something almost tender. In such moments, this thoughtfully designed residence brings to mind the spirit of a Navajo blessingway, enabling the couple and those close to them to “walk in beauty.”