Thanks to 25 years of sun-filled family vacations, Desert Mountain has long held a special place in the hearts of one Washington state couple. So, with retirement in close sight, the empty nesters decided to look for a second home in the area. The search wasn’t as easy as they hoped, but when the wife drove by a hillside lot on a hunt with their real estate agent, she knew she’d found the one. “It spoke to me,” she says, pointing to the stunning mountain views that drew her in. “We’re very much people who like to be in nature. We love to hike, ski and snowshoe. That’s our jam.”
While the property came with its own plans by residential designer Bryan Rains and general contractor Stephanie Fox, the couple—who are builders themselves—worked with the team to make modifications, shifting the house slightly to enhance the down valley view and increasing the size of the covered outdoor living area. Before construction could commence, Fox and project manager Carrie Vorwerk excavated the boulder-strewn landscape to create a flat building site. Working closely with landscape designer David Creech, the team carefully relocated many large saguaros. “Saguaros are prized possessions,” Fox notes. “We’re always very mindful of placing them in a location where they’re going to be frequently seen and enjoyed.”
Creech also selected the Mexican fence post cacti that line the driveway to create a sense of procession. It befits the stucco-clad contemporary dwelling, which is accented by stone walls and shaded by deep roof overhangs. “This house looks as if it’s embedded into the site and has a connection to the land,” he says.
The many floor-to-ceiling windows and doors—blurring the lines between inside and out—enhance that relationship. Visitors understand this immediately upon entry, thanks to the large expanse of glass in the front foyer. It frames a view of totem-like saguaros towering over an infinity-edge swimming pool, mountains in the distance. “It’s an unbelievable first impression,” Rains says.
Envisioning a warm, contemporary Southwest design that embraced those mountain vistas, the owners recruited interior designer Holly Wright. Working closely with Rains and Fox, the designer incorporated natural materials, such as wood and stone, with pops of black steel. “We kept it fairly simple and brought in elements that supported the views without distracting from them,” Wright explains. For the great room’s living space that meant oak flooring as well as a black granite fireplace set below a panel of cold-rolled steel. The materials offer a textural counterpoint to the clean white walls, as does the pair of paintings that hang behind the tailored white sectional. “We wanted to bring in warm tones and create visual interest with art,” the designer says.
To foster a separate sense of space in the adjoining dining room, Wright lined a wall niche with an ebony-and-gold wallcovering designed to look like wood and installed a built-in eucalyptus console. Suspended above, a pair of modern pendants illuminate the long dining table. “It was such a big area that we needed to have some depth to let it hold its own,” Wright explains.
She continued the use of wood, stone and metal in the open kitchen, where a blackened-steel range hood contrasts with flat-faced rift-cut oak cabinetry and veiny white quartzite. Ideal for gatherings, the space includes both a large island and a posh bar with leathered black granite counters that opens to the poolside patio.
As with other rooms in the home, Wright used wood to add depth in the primary bedroom. Eucalyptus panels create a warm backdrop to a white plaster fireplace with a blackened-steel ledge. A pair of white chaise lounges, meanwhile, offer an intimate spot for the owners to relax in front of floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the distant mountains. “The earthy, restrained palette of the bedroom lets the greenery and desert colors outside shine,” Wright muses.
It’s these cozy finishing touches that make this a vacation abode that the owners can enjoy for another 25 years. “Holly truly made this house a home,” the wife says. “We feel so blessed to wake up to that view in this bedroom.”