Form follows fashion. That may be an admittedly unsubstantiated variation of the form follows function architecture principle, but anyone who tracks design trends knows when a color or fabric appears on the runway it won’t be long before similar tones and textures invade the world of interior design. So, when structured gold jackets and evening dresses laced with silver threads started making fashion headlines recently, interior designer Laurel Pfannenstiel and her clients likely took notice. “The wife is very fashion-forward and her love of that industry inspired so much of what we did,” says Pfannenstiel. “One of the first finishes we selected for the remodel of their Paradise Valley home was the kitchen backsplash: The mix of gold-and-silver hand-painted tiles set the tone for the ample use of metallics throughout the house.”
But before silver pillows and gold-leaf accents could be layered on, the sophisticated backdrop the Midwestern couple desired needed to be established in the 1980s Spanish Colonial they purchased. “Most people would have scraped it,” says Pfannenstiel. “But they opted to remodel and invest in the details that would instill the original structure with warmth and character.” The extensive renovation began on the front exterior, where architect Matt Thomas introduced steps and retaining walls to create an entry sequence more elegant than the existing concrete path and added a patio with views of Camelback Mountain. “We also removed and redid the front element in a scale more appropriate to the architecture,” says Thomas about the new curved arch that frames the front door. Inside, the floor plan was reshaped to open the entry to the living room and to free the isolated kitchen. “Now the kitchen opens to the dining room and a large sliding steel door provides access to the patio,” adds Thomas. Similar steel doors and windows were introduced in strategic locations such as the family room, and for consistency, the remaining wood fenestration was painted to match the steel frames.
With the backdrop reorganized and revitalized, it was time to bring on the character, and Pfannenstiel, along with design assistant Jessica Taylor, prepared six vision boards to illustrate her plans for the interior architectural details. “The boards included plaster moldings and reclaimed beams,” says the designer, who relied on builder Nancy Brunkhorst and her son and project manager, Brock Brunkhorst, to execute everything from the intricate hand- detailed plasterwork on the fireplaces to wrapping the existing beams in the family room with timbers from a tobacco farm in North Carolina. About the latter, Nancy explains, “Structurally, the ceiling could only carry so much weight, so the heavy new beams had to be milled, fitted and secured properly.” Her team also handled integrating an array of found items unearthed by the wife and the designer during forays to antiques stores around the country. “In the dining room, we framed metal-grill window panels with reclaimed wood,” says Brock; they also retrofitted a pair of antique door handles from a Chicago bank to serve as refrigerator and freezer door pulls in the kitchen.
In advance of any furniture or fabric selections, Pfannenstiel settled on the remaining interior finishes, including stark-white plaster walls and French-oak floors with a soft gray finish. “The wood floor selection was critical because we knew we wanted to mix traditional and modern elements, and the floor supplies that warmth,” says Pfannenstiel. She then introduced touches of turquoise for a modern contrast. In the dining room, for example, vibrant turquoise velvet fabrics breathe new life into the surrounding chairs, while ottoman cushions in the adjacent living room sport a similar lighter tone. When it came to layering on the shine, Pfannenstiel didn’t hesitate to imbue every space with a little glam. In the family room, chairs wear a taupe-gray velvet shot through with metallic threads, while a quartet of living room chairs topped with animal-print velvet pillows—another runway reference— faces a custom bench sheathed in a sparkly cream fabric. Elsewhere, the blue kitchen island features gold-leaf accents, and the sheer linen draperies seen throughout have a whisper of shiny filaments. Even the new white tiles in the pool shimmer. “We purposely used hints of metallic to create subtle elegance,” Pfannenstiel says.
According to landscape designer Jeff Berghoff, along with new tiles, the pool was further refreshed with an Indiana limestone patio surrounded by artificial turf. “After tearing up all the existing decking, we didn’t want there to be a sea of stone between the house and pool, so we created a ribbon of green to break things up,” says Berghoff, who worked on the home with project manager Keith Oetjen. “The owners travel a lot, so low maintenance was important, and the turf doesn’t require mowing or watering.” Berghoff also salvaged senitas, cardons and other cactus varieties and replanted them in a cluster to form a drought-tolerant garden. “You can see them from the house, and at night, we light them, which adds an element of drama,” Berghoff says.
Come nightfall, thanks to thoughtful lighting and all those metallics, as well as personal touches by the wife including candles and Lalique accents, the interiors also glow. “It was important for me to show how an older home can be updated with exquisite interior architecture and beautiful finishes,” says Pfannenstiel. “I have a fierce passion for well-curated interiors and an unfaltering belief that one’s home should be an enthralling culmination of the client and everything they love.”
— Mindy Pantiel