I’ve spent most of my life on the East Coast,” says the homeowner of a new Paradise Valley, Arizona abode, who recently moved west with his wife and three young children for a new job. “This is so different.” That’s definitely an understatement, as making the jump from the suburbs of New York City to the Arizona desert is a bit of culture shock. But he isn’t complaining. The lot he and his wife found not only overlooks pristine golf greens but also offers scenic views of the region’s most picturesque mountains. “The West has captured my imagination—wild and untamed,” he adds. “We spend more time outside, and we cook and look at the stars every evening. Pinch me!” If there’s a better endorsement for the Arizona lifestyle, it might be hard to find.
After searching without success for a move-in ready home, the owners realized they would likely have to build one—it was just a matter of finding the right location. When the perfect lot appeared on the market, the couple bought it the same day. It came with approved plans, but there were changes to be made, so they hired general contractor Tom Argue, whom the husband befriended after seeing one of his contemporary homes, along with architects Mark Candelaria and Vivian Ayala and interior designer Mara Green. “Tom’s a dreamer, like me,” says the husband. “He and I imagined some crazy ideas and Mark would put it on paper.”
Candelaria quickly understood their vision. “They wanted something that was Mediterranean but modern, not heavy or Tuscan,” says the architect. “Tom was the quarterback, and we jumped in and made modifications to the plans.” The goal was balance: contemporary but not sleek, rich natural materials but with modern steel windows and doors, dialed-down ornamentation but interesting accents. “Not too historic or contemporary,” says Candelaria. Working with Ayala, he also changed the original flat roofs to pitched roofs, softening the lines of the home to better blend with the landscape.
For the interiors, Green focused on creating a sense of harmony, bringing the owners’ different tastes (he prefers traditional, she likes glam) into a unified whole. The wife credits her husband for being the design visionary. “But we’re a bit like the TV show Green Acres: I’m city and he’s country,” she laughs. Still, there was plenty they agreed on. Both desired a big kitchen, a sauna-steam room, and a concept that embraced an indoor-outdoor lifestyle. Most importantly, they shared a vision of livability (something that was tested—successfully—with all three children at home during the pandemic).
“Balance can be difficult to achieve, and you can easily fall into trends,” notes Green, “but this was a completely fresh start with all-new furnishings.” To develop a cohesive plan, the interior designer studied images shared by the husband. “He was like an excited kid,” she recalls, “constantly finding things and asking questions.” Green, assisted by junior designer Brianna Megran, grounded the home with a neutral palette. “It’s timeless and a nice foundation for their individual tastes, plus it allows them to introduce new items as time goes on. Neutrals tend toward traditional, but they also complement the glamour of a polished look,” Green says, noting moments of sparkle such as the entry’s custom waterfall chandelier and the en suite bathroom’s mirror-plated soaking tub. There are rustic aspects as well, like wide-plank floors and wood ceiling beams, but the overall feeling is what Green calls “elevated Mediterranean, rich and sophisticated.”
The interior designer carried that aesthetic to the outdoor spaces with seating areas that reflect the living room furnishings—“soft feel, light upholstery, clean lines,” she says. It’s an informal yet elegant style that complements the landscape design by Jeremy McVicars. “We wanted an estate look,” McVicars says, explaining that he took the owners to local gardens to help familiarize them with all the possibilities of desert plantings. “The garden style is driven by the architecture, so it’s clean and classic.” Along with myriad courtyards and gardens, there are walkways, an allée, a citrus garden and, he says, “lots of ‘wow’ moments.”
“I used to have to travel to get out of the cold, but now I feel like I live on vacation,” says the wife. “Everyone put their blood, sweat and tears into this house,” adds the husband. “They made everything happen. This was a team that said yes.”