It goes without saying that a home with peach-colored ceiling treatments is likely in need of a renovation. “It was very ’80s style—everything was so outdated,” says designer Heather Ryan, recalling the state of the Paradise Valley home when she took on the project. Fortunately, the residence had plenty of redeeming qualities she was able to work with, including a huge floor plan and a stellar location. Ryan’s task was to make it feel contemporary without being too trendy.
The homeowners, a family of five, had returned to Arizona after 15 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Golden State was still dear to their hearts. So it was only fitting that the design team—which also included architectural designer Damon Wake, architect Mark Candelaria and general contractor Mike Murphy—instilled the renovation with a distinct California feel.
Working with the Spanish Colonial style of the home, they opened up the floor plan even further and added fresh, modern touches. “We wanted to keep the style true but update everything and make it a little crisper and cleaner,” Wake says.
Of course, the peach ceiling treatments had to go—and fortunately, what lay beneath the numerous layers was a huge improvement. “When you strip beams that have paint on them, you don’t know what they’re going to look like underneath,” says Ryan. “But the natural raw tone was exactly what we were looking for—they didn’t even need to be sealed because the paint had been there for so long. It was a little unexpected miracle.” There was also the matter of the dark red Brazilian cherry hardwood floors, which were distinctly un-Californian. “The floor is everywhere—you can’t ignore it,” Ryan says. “So, it’s going to set the tone no matter what you do.” Mindful of both budget and environmental impact, the team stripped and restained the floors in a lighter, neutral shade rather than replace them completely.
After stripping the outdated peach color from the ceiling beams, Ryan opted to keep them in their natural state for a more organic feel. In the entryway sits a modern white center table by Palecek atop an Elitis rug from Made Resource Group.
While the house’s floor plan neared 7,000 square feet, the kitchen was comparatively tiny and nowhere near big enough for a family of five and their guests. On top of that, it was dark and dated. “The initial floor plan was kind of chopped up from the dining room to the kitchen to the breakfast room,” Wake says. “So, we opened it up. Now when you come in from the entry, you turn, you have the dining room and then it leads you straight into this beautiful kitchen and breakfast room full of light.” To bring a coastal elegance to the space, the team installed white cabinetry and hand-painted gray and white clay floor tile. “I think it’s really important that your palette is cohesive with the desert,” Ryan says. “Your house has got to feel calming and cooling. You don’t want to have really bright colors inside and then walk outside into 120 degrees.”
In an especially familial touch, Ryan positioned the sink in the corner of the kitchen so that the parents could enjoy watching their kids swim and play in the backyard. She had a similar intention in mind when designing the game room, which adjoins the family room. “It’s a place to go where there’s no TV, but you can still be part of the family because they can see you,” she points out. “It’s in plain sight, but it’s quiet and peaceful.” An elegant game table wrapped in shagreen leather, a cushioned bench and a neutral limestone fireplace imbue the room with coziness.
While the owners gave the design team ample freedom, they were wary of the home feeling too contemporary. Since they planned to be there for the long haul, they needed the house to age gracefully along with them. That meant going with a mostly neutral material palette—limestone, clay, cerused wood—and a black and white color scheme that’s crisp and elegant without trying to be outwardly sophisticated. “The design details are really subtle, but they’re everywhere,” Ryan says. “Good design doesn’t need to jump out and slap you when you’re walking in the door. And over time, you continuously notice and enjoy different parts of your home. To me, that’s success.”