On any given Sunday over the past 17 NFL seasons, fans who tuned in to watch the Arizona Cardinals play have witnessed the matchless brilliance of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald at work. Watch him speak to the media after a game and you’ll see that his sartorial game is equally strong. The three-piece suits he favors are impeccably tailored, made of luxurious fabrics and fit his athlete’s frame to a T.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Paradise Valley home he commissioned would be similarly bespoke and outfitted to his personality. “I was blown away by him,” says Sara Doto, who led the search for properties and served as his designer. “Larry is gentle and quiet, with a dry sense of humor and a passion for excellence.” As the pair looked at houses, Doto parsed his style. “I remarked, ‘When I see you before and after a game, you’re wearing a suit and tie,’” she says. “He responded, ‘That’s what I love,’ and I said, ‘That’s what your house should be—a well-tailored suit.’ ”
Doto introduced Fitzgerald to architects Mark Candelaria and Meredith Thomson as well as kitchen designer Christopher Peacock, who all quickly picked up on their client’s passion for fine details. “The directive was always that everything needed to feel right,” says Thomson. “There was an emphasis on great finishes, good proportions, privacy and capturing the view.” Adds Fitzgerald, “I wanted clean lines and timeless elegance—more European in design. Those houses have been in situ for centuries and don’t look dated.”
With that in mind, the architects took the house in a French-inspired direction, in part by cladding the structure in limestone quarried from France after samples from Texas didn’t make the grade. “We had stonemasons on-site to cut the slabs coached by a mason we flew in from France,” notes general contractor John Schultz. Furthering the Gallic vibe are bullseye windows at the entry and tall windows punctuating most of the façade, allowing light to flood the home. Candelaria also notes, “We positioned the house so you drive down a long road and feel like you’re transported to the French countryside.” The task of making sense of that backward approach fell partly to landscape architect Jeff Berghoff. “The trick was to allow the garden spaces to unfold and disorient the viewers from knowing they were entering through the backyard until they arrive at the formal cobblestone auto court,” he explains. “We created a winding, pea-gravel driveway and formal walls that embraced the cobblestone courtyard to let you know you have arrived.”
Inside, the architects designed the home on an axis with a long hallway connecting the pavilion-like main suite with the public spaces and kitchen—designed by Peacock, who also turned his attention to the main bathroom and Fitzgerald’s closet. Peacock tweaked the kitchen’s layout, putting the range on a wall opposite the sink so that multiple people could easily move about without crowding. To enliven things, he opted for a mix of materials. “When we discovered the beams would be oak, the natural progression would be oak cabinet elements to connect everything,” he explains. “The goal was to warm it up.”
With the structure in place, Doto, along with her associate Sue Lord-Peters, took on the interiors, choosing the finishes and furnishings right down to the luxurious linens on his bed. Doto went custom for most of the pieces, opting for simple forms along with a palette that leans neutral with the occasional splash of blue. “Comfortable furniture,” says Fitzgerald, “was a must.” Doto also worked with her client to build an art collection. “We started collecting pieces before a shovel went in the ground,” she recalls, and their efforts resulted in a collection that includes works by Larry Poons and a Tyler Shields photo of a dancer’s feet. “Larry said it was what his body felt like with his uniform on—that he did a lot of dancing on the field,” she notes.
The home took more than four years to complete, and the team reveled in the luxury of time. “There wasn’t a rush,” says Thomson. “We could think everything through in really great detail.” The result fits as perfectly as one of Fitzgerald’s suits.