A Clean Look Elevates An Arizona Mountainside Home


Architect Cavin Costello and designer Claire Costello transformed a traditional Spanish Colonial-inspired design into a sleek modernist dwelling. "It's very linear and clean, because we wanted the mountain to be the star," Cavin notes.

The new entrance, along with other areas of the front facade, was faced with unhoned vein-cut Veracruz travertine from Durango Stone.

The team, which included general contractor Erik Koss, gutted the interiors, then reconstructed the spaces to create a double-height living room. Claire worked with the clients to mix in new pieces, such as the polished aluminum Nemo Ellisse pendant light from YLighting, with furnishings they already owned, including the pair of Barcelona chairs by Knoll for Design Within Reach. The sofa is from RH; the custom coffee table is from Room & Board.

"You're right up-close and personal with the mountain," Claire says of the dining area, where a sleek walnut table from RH and acrylic chairs from Roche Bobois let the rugged backdrop take center stage. "The light against the mountain is always different; it changes throughout the day," she adds.

An upper-level water feature and spa spills into the swimming pool below, which echoes the form of the house. Landscape architect Charlie Ray framed the area with palm trees and sculptural plantings that tie to the desert topography and act as a screen for the outdoor area while allowing city views.

On the second level, the Costellos designed an open-plan library with floor-to-ceiling built-in shelving for the clients' extensive collection of books. Also important was a dog-friendly space for Waffles. The Moderno White Plains maple flooring is from Hallmark Floors.

The library features a plush rug from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, a marble-topped coffee table and a pair of upholstered low-profile armchairs. A custom steel-cut screen subdues the sun's glare without obstructing the view. "The two things you're always looking to do with the environment are embrace and escape," Cavin says. "The screens do both.

Off the master suite, the protected deck is made of ipe wood and furnished with a Blu Dot armchair and an Ebel sofa and coffee table from Today's Patio. Scott chose the screen's hexagonal pattern, says Cavin. "He wanted something fun and liked the way the play of light and shadow changes with the time of day and time of year."

Tucked into the mountain, the master suite features a Frank Lloyd Wright print that reflects Scott's longtime love of architecture. A headboard made of reclaimed wood along with a faux-fur throw and pillow on the bed bring texture and warmth to the space.

The enclosed outdoor entryway was designed with contrast in mind: The small "cave-like entry" opens up to panoramic views, Cavin notes, while textured concrete pavers, exposed wood ceilings and steel framing give way to smooth concrete floors and crisp white walls inside. "It heightens the experience of what's to come."

Tucked into the craggy red rocks of Camelback Mountain in Arizona is a minimalist limestone, steel and glass house that’s at once a contrast and a complement to its rugged setting. “We wanted a clean, linear facade, because the geometry of the rock behind it is so dynamic,” notes architect Cavin Costello, who collaborated with his wife, designer Claire Costello, on the renovation. “And we saw the limestone as almost a line or a vein that’s a layer in a sedimentary rock.”

The residence, which today seems so at ease with its site, had once been an awkward fit. “The previous incarnation of the house had a Spanish Colonial Revival style,” Cavin says. “There were thick columns, heavy wood beams and clay tile roofs. It wasn’t taking in any of the views.”

The homeowners wanted to change that. Andrew Bridge, a lawyer and the author of the best-selling memoir Hope’s Boy, and Scott Young, a radiologist and architecture buff with a particular love for Case Study Houses, had bought the home with an eye to remodeling. “You’re so elevated from this vantage point that the city is spread out like a sort of green carpet, which is unexpected in Phoenix,” Scott explains. “We wanted to take advantage of that.” Andy was onboard. “Having a peaceful space and these kinds of views to look out to is helpful to me as a writer.

“Scott’s appreciation for fat roofs and an uncluttered aesthetic was the starting point for the new design. Working with general contractor Erik Koss, the team removed all gingerbread from the existing structure, paring it down to its simplest form: a two-story stucco-clad rectangular box. Cavin then stretched the footprint, adding a bedroom wing to the west and an entrance to the east, and gave it a new facade with unhoned, vein-cut Veracruz travertine, black steel and foor-to-ceiling windows. “This was by far the steepest site we’ve ever worked on,” says Koss, who had the herculean task of moving materials up and down the mountainside. “At one point we had to close the street and use a crane to bring up the steel.”

The house’s minimalist aesthetic is punctuated by a singular decorative element: a bi-folding steel-cut screen with a gradient geometric pattern that shades the upper-level terrace. “It filters the sun and allows in breezes.”

Claire notes. Inspired by Moroccan prints and midcentury forms, the hexagonal pattern is more open in the middle and dense at the top, adds Cavin, “so when you’re seated, you’re shaded, but you still have a perfect eye-level view of the Phoenix skyline and South Mountain.” The pattern also allows for the dramatic play of light and shadow on the decking and walls.

Inside, Cavin removed walls and relocated the staircase to allow for sight lines through the house to the valley beyond, while Claire worked with Andy and Scott to dress the interior architecture and select finishes. “It’s a simple, neutral palette,” she says. “Subtle materials keep the attention focused outward.” Polished concrete floors extend throughout the first-floor living area, dining area and kitchen, as does built-in white cabinetry. For the stucco fire surround, Claire chose shiny mosaic tiles that resemble sunlit stone. On the upper level, she incorporated warmth and texture in the form of wide-plank maple flooring and a cantilevered walnut vanity in the master bath, where an expansive window is up-close to the rock. “The use of natural materials here creates consistency and seamlessness,” she says.

Furniture includes modern pieces the couple had collected over time, such as a pair of Mies van der Rohe-designed Barcelona chairs in the living area and an Eames aluminum desk chair in the office. New wood credenzas and plush sofas provide texture and counter the sleek finishes in many of the rooms. “We like things with clean lines that still have warmth,” Scott says. Also among the new items is the living room’s Italian light fixture, which is composed of three aluminum rings and reinforces the overall minimalist fair.

The renovation includes 2,000 square feet of shaded deck and patio space, as well as a new pool surrounded by a limestone patio that steps down the mountain. Outdoor walkways throughout are flanked by built-in limestone planters and beds filled with indigenous vegetation by landscape architect Charlie Ray.

With each design they create–or recreate–the Costellos aim to connect people to the world around them, and this house is the perfect expression of that goal. “The desert landscape and this site are dynamic and unique,” Cavin says. “Scott and Andy are able to use the house as a vessel to explore and experience all that surrounds it.”