From the moment they moved from Iceland to Arizona to study architecture and interior design at Arizona State University, Kristjan Sigurdsson and Inga Vals have succeeded at marrying both their personal and professional lives. Along the way, the husband-and-wife design duo discovered that in addition to creating functional, high-end living spaces for their clients, they enjoyed fashioning homes for themselves as well. “Over the years, we’ve built or remodeled five houses for ourselves alone,” says Sigurdsson. “We just really love the process; it’s our work and our hobby.”
The couple’s most recent efforts have resulted in the revitalization of a period home in Lincoln Hills, a hillside subdivision of about 50 houses overlooking downtown Phoenix that had been developed in the late 1960s and early ’70s. “It was a rare find, with great bones, sunrise to sunset views and an open layout that we could work with without having to totally tear it down,” Sigurdsson relates. The caveat? The home hadn’t been remodeled or upgraded since it was originally built—in 1971.
Undaunted, the couple dug in. With the help of general contractor Brad Bryant of Bryant Contracting & Development, a personal friend and someone whom Sigurdsson describes as “a great craftsman,” deconstruction began of all but the home’s exterior lines and roofline. Flooring, fixtures, cabinetry and some interior walls were removed; window and door openings were expanded and replaced; siding was re-stuccoed and the roof re-clad with custom panels; and the pool and patio areas were redone and finished with porcelain tile. “The goal was to remodel the house, staying true to its original midcentury-modern style, but make it current, warm and inviting, and very livable, with all of the amenities of today,” Sigurdsson says.
With the main living spaces oriented toward the side of the house with the striking views, Vals created a white-on-white color scheme to accentuate the home’s clean lines. The neutral palette also serves as a backdrop for the couple’s vast collection of modern art and the designer’s knack for adding interest with accents of color and texture. Grounded by highly polished walnut floors, the open living and dining rooms offer comfortable and relaxing spaces clad in mostly white and wood furnishings. In the living room, a grouping of white leather chairs and a black sectional sofa were organized around the purposefully redesigned hearth. “The fireplace makes a big statement,” Vals explains, “designed with bold black-and-white detailing for contrast.” In the dining room, art on the walls make for a more colorful statement against a walnut table paired with white leather chairs.
Surfaces change in the kitchen, where porcelain tile floors set the base for a white Poliform cabinet system. Cabinetry is topped with Caesarstone quartz and includes custom panels that disguise the Sub-Zero refrigerator. “It has a really nice clean flow,” notes Vals. Doors opening to the adjacent patio and pool area extend that flow. “It feels like we’re cooking and dining outside,” she adds. “And the outdoor space makes for a great place to entertain.”
Private areas include a generous master suite, softened by walls painted in a muted green hue and adorned with a striking four-poster bed brought from the couple’s previous house. The adjoining bathroom is sleek yet soothing, with a separate vanity space for Vals and extra storage for Sigurdsson. “Sometimes when you remodel a house you have to compromise a little,” says Vals. “My husband’s closet is smaller, so we had to add lots of drawers.”
Remarkably, the entire project came together in just four months, versus two years for their last house. “It was a full-time job and quite a process,” says Sigurdsson. “But we were organized and had the bonus of being able to run everything by one another. If we disagreed about something, we’d just hassle it out and move forward. Sometimes, when you’re your own client, you’re your best client.”