It all began as a business decision. Architect Andy Byrnes was looking for a piece of land to build a home to showcase the work of his design-build firm. So, he turned to his girlfriend, Shawna Glazier, owner of BeSpoke Real Estate, who found him the perfect spot—an unusual lot set against the landscape of Arizona’s Camelback Mountain. Byrnes knew the site would be challenging, but also that it would be worth it in the end.
And it was—in more ways than one. As the project began to take shape, and the couple’s relationship progressed to marriage, they began to rethink their initial goal. Maybe rather than a showcase, it was meant to be their home.
It’s easy to see why. The minimalist, monolithic house appears to float above the landscape, thanks to Byrnes’s architectural design, taking in views from Praying Monk all the way through the hump of Camelback. Byrnes’s priority was to capture every possible view from its best vantage point, sloping the roof so that it opened up the side of the house to be almost a continuous wall of glass. “The idea is that, at night, the base disappears and becomes black and there’s just this floating transparent box up against the hill,” he explains.
It was also important that the exterior, though eye-catching, required no maintenance. The house is clad in unfinished, hot-rolled steel, so that it patinas with age. Retaining walls of Cantera stone keep the structure stable. But, while minimalist in essence, the architecture is undeniably expressive. “One of my philosophies about architecture, especially because I’m also a builder, is that the structure expresses itself,” Byrnes explains, noting the columns on the building’s exterior that catch both the floor and roof structure. “You see that same rhythm inside the house. There’s this very obvious structural diagram.”
For the interiors, which Byrnes designed in collaboration with his firm’s lead designer Jessica Ruiz, they stuck to a limited material palette. Terrazzo floors provide continuity throughout, while the walls comprise various iterations of vertical oak—painted or stained white or black in some rooms and left natural in others.
Most of the furnishings and artwork are pieces Byrnes and Glazier have collected over the years, but new additions adhere to the same muted color theme, so as not to distract. “I was trying to stay low-key, with natural leather and tans,” he says. “There’s so much architectural detail that the interiors should be quiet. We lead our lives with a minimalist nature. There are four plates and four cups on the shelves in the kitchen—frankly, the house is full of empty cabinets!”
The home’s few flourishes exist mostly in its surrounding landscape—such as the ribbon-like metal Peter Deise sculpture fringing the Cantera stone wall above the pool—but most of them serve a function. In the yard, a series of sculptural spheres fashioned from rebar perched upon patterned rocks hide the septic system, while a trio of pipes act as roof scuppers to help with drainage during rainstorms, creating waterfalls much like those that run down the side of Camelback Mountain.
Much of the landscaping utilizes native plants that were already part of the lot—brittlebush and creosote bush and paddle cactus—but Byrnes and his team did bring in two large ironwoods and two palo verdes for an added touch of arboreal drama. “It anchors the whole house in a way that it seems that the house has been there a lot longer than it has,” he says.
Now that they’ve been living there a little over a year, Byrnes and Glazier have no regrets about making the home their own. In fact, Byrnes says that every day when he wakes up, he’s faced with an enviable conundrum. “It’s hard for me to decide where to have coffee in the morning. That’s for sure.” And while he is reluctant to name just one favorite spot in the home, he’s partial to the shower in the main bathroom, where expansive windows look out onto the slope of Camelback Mountain. “This morning there was a 60-pound coyote standing on the rock in front of me as I took a shower,” he says. “It was very cool.”
Architect Andy Byrnes kept the material palette of his Camelback Mountain home to a minimum, leaning heavily toward oak, steel and glass. The terrazzo floors are the work of Advance Terrazzo Co., while the millwork is by AK Studio.