Most people have a tale to tell when they build their dream home. But the owners of a majestic villa nestled in the lower reaches of Carefree’s Black Mountain can write a novel about their saga, which spans almost 40 years and began with love at first sight. “I fell for Carefree when I moved to Scottsdale in 1974; the land was absolutely breathtaking,” says the wife. “There was this little two-lane road going through the washes, and all you could see were boulders and desert for miles around.” By 1978, she had saved enough to buy a 2.5-acre lot in the budding town. “I just knew that I wanted to live there someday,” she adds.
During the next three decades, the homeowner married, had children and settled 20 miles away. “But I’d come up here all the time, watch the city grow, and think about what I would want to build,” she says. Later trips to Italy with her husband gave the couple clarity. “We’d see all these rustic, centuries-old homes, where everything from the architecture to the furnishings were time-honored, artisanal and enchanting,” says the husband, “and we wanted something similar.”
It was architect Bing Hu who gave them the knowledge to execute their vision. “He told us that homes are usually owned by the same family for generations in the European countryside. They start out small, and each generation adds on using different craftsmen and materials,” says the husband. “That’s what we wanted,” agrees the wife, “a house that looks like it’s been around for generations with rooms that seem to be added on using different building techniques instead of meticulously planned.”
Achieving that goal took close collaboration among Hu, project architect Steve Hall, interior designer Jana Parker Lee and builder Keith Bolock. “It sounds so simple to execute, but it took a lot of time to design a plan that had the right random demeanor yet incorporated modern conveniences,” says Lee. For starters, the entire team spent hours at the lot to develop a design that maximized its climbing topography and sight lines. For the resulting layout, “every space slightly steps up the rise and has been precisely sited to optimize the views,” says Hall. “We were painstaking about the size and placement of every room and window.”
With another trip to Italy, Lee and the homeowners took stock of the architecture and let the Provincial ambience sink in, but while there, the couple realized that the heavily carved furnishings most often seen were way too ornate for their taste. “They decided that they wanted something simpler that captured the same aesthetic,” Lee says. So, the designer sourced fixtures and furnishings that honored the couple’s wishes for comfort and warmth with a timeless yet clean-lined appearance. “Pieces are mostly new with a smattering of antiques, but all the fabrics are deeply textured to capture the right mood,” she says.
The authentic materials collected by Lee and Bolock—from perfectly weathered American barn wood and massive burnished European timber beams, to reclaimed French firebrick and limestone, wide-plank oak floorboards milled in Belgium, richly oxidized scrap steel and more—artfully craft the “aged” abode the couple desired. Bolock is especially proud of the layers-thick plastered concrete walls with bullnose corners and exterior masonry that imaginatively melds different timeworn stones and bricks with hand-tinted grouts in different hues. “We told the masons that we wanted everything to blend into the mountainside and encouraged them to get creative,” he says. A mix of plantings by landscape designer Donna Winters, including TK, deepens this connection.
In the end, the home’s delightful mix of materials and furnishings shapes the acquired look the owners desired while keeping with their modern lifestyle. “Every room tells a different story,” Lee says, denoting the epic tale that they hope will continue for generations to come.