For this Paradise Valley family, the journey to finding their dream home began with a single property tour accompanied by designer and general contractor Kaitlyn Wolfe. The clients—a real estate broker, his wife and their two teenage daughters—had not yet purchased the house, but they were already confident that Wolfe could conceptualize and plot the transformation of the dated Tuscan residence into a light and crisp space.
“There was purple Venetian plaster in the dining room,” recounts Wolfe of the 6,300-square-foot home with dark and heavy features spanning brown-and-white mosaic bathroom tile, squiggly wrought-iron sconces and dusty-yellow Venetian plaster walls. “Clients usually come to us right after closing, but since the home was far off from their style—which is white, clean and minimal—they were thinking, ‘This has good bones, but we need to be sure we can revamp it.’ ”
One month later, Wolfe jumped into the reimagining of the early-aughts interiors. The key, she explains, was to make the original architecture work with the new design. “It was about lightening everything up,” the designer says, “but keeping some of those existing details.”
Three features became the impetus for the overall scheme: the hallways and bedrooms’ many arches (the spaces have more than 40), an elaborate coffered ceiling in the living room and intricately carved wooden interior doors. “Because the ceilings and doors were dark wood, they weren’t necessarily something the clients would’ve chosen if they had started with a blank canvas,” Wolfe notes, “but these details brought so much character to the home. Since we wouldn’t typically design a ceiling like this, it was exciting to start with it as our inspiration.”
The wood is not the only material Wolfe chose to preserve. “We basically gutted the entire home,” she recalls, “but we kept the Cantera stone and distressed limestone.” And simple changes such as removing iron figurines from the doors and painting the trims on arched windows black made a big impact.
But, while working with existing elements was central to the design, so was incorporating new ones to reflect the clients’ sophisticated, contemporary leanings. Calacatta Viola marble serves as a focal point in both the breakfast nook, where it’s used as flooring, and in the primary bathroom as a surround. And agglomerate marble on the kitchen’s perimeter countertops and hood adds depth to the white space.
It was important to continue the modern vibe with the furnishings, but also to make sure there would be a feeling of warmth. “They didn’t bring a single piece of furniture from their old place, we filled their entire house top to bottom so they could move right in,” notes Wolfe, who gravitated toward neutral pieces in a range of materials that established a layered coziness. Leather and fabric seating, a cement coffee table and travertine cocktail tables all add interest in the black-and-white living room. Light wood and nubby seats make for a laid-back dining room. And wood, rattan and velvet provide texture in the subdued primary bedroom.
To suit nearly every family need, the designer carefully incorporated custom touches such as a kitchen with a coffee bar and a built-in pet depot equipped with motion-sensing LED lights that illuminate the water and food bowls for the family menagerie (two dogs, Chako and Boi, and a cat, Sphynx). An existing wine closet became a walk-in library and she created a Jack-and-Jill bathroom with a convertible chair-within-the-vanity design. “The girls’ bathroom gets me every time because it’s just so unique,” says Wolfe of the space where, with a cabinetmaker, she designed two pull-out chairs that neatly tuck away and appear as part of a 10-foot-long floating vanity when not in use. It allows both girls to have a seated area to get ready together, yet still looks clean and minimal when the chairs are pushed in.
Wolfe, along with the entire family, could not be more pleased with the final result. “It came out even better than we could have imagined,” she enthuses, pointing to the many custom details that still keep with the original architecture. “We took several design risks and tried new things, and it’s one of the most innovative projects we’ve ever done. We still talk about this, and it’s one that we will never forget.”