If the consummate Arizona home delicately balances connecting to the desert landscape with shielding against the harsh elements, then the modernist North Scottsdale residence architect Douglas Fredrikson and Seattle designer Rose Capestany devised for a hilltop site is practically perfect. “Every area of the house has its own courtyard,” Fredrikson says. “And there are glass walls that open completely, so you can’t tell whether you’re inside or outside. But there are also massive sandstone walls that provide a feeling of refuge. My clients wanted privacy and protection from the sun, yet they also wanted their home to engage with the outdoors as much as possible.”
The homeowners, an entrepreneurial husband and wife who live permanently in Oregon, decided to build a vacation residence in Arizona after experiencing the area while their two daughters attended college in the state. “We fell in love with the Sonoran Desert,” the husband says. “It’s a uniquely beautiful place where the weather is contrary to what we’re used to.” The couple were looking for a part-time escape from the wet climate of the Pacific Northwest and wanted a desert house that would accommodate their large family, which includes plenty of grandchildren. “We needed room for everybody,” the wife says. “We like to open all the doors, swim and eat outside together—and then be able to retreat to our rooms.”
Just as important as ample space was a home that appeared to belong in the desert. “We asked for a design that looked like it could exist only in Arizona,” the husband says. So, inspired by ancestral Puebloan dwellings and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Taliesin West, Fredrikson employed walls made of sandstone sourced from a local quarry. “I took ideas of simple architectural expressions and added the massiveness you see in desert forms that give a sense of solidity,” he says. “Our region’s cultural history includes adobe buildings that are now eroding. The sandstone loosely replicates that crumbling adobe you see throughout the desert.” The large-scale stone is one of the defining components of the home. “We had as many as three or four masons setting stones that were 36 to 40 inches wide and 6 to 10 inches tall,” notes builder and construction supervisor Doyle Hostetler. To counter the heaviness of the stone, Fredrikson incorporated glass walls, some of which almost entirely surround spaces like the family, living and dining rooms and their adjacent terraces. The glass helps flood these rooms with views and sunlight and makes the ascending roof above each appear to be floating.
To further connect the sandstone-and-glass design to its surroundings, Fredrikson introduced a 35-foot-tall saguaro cactus with multiple arms. The plant, which stands in a covered courtyard off the main living room, pierces the roof via an oculus, integrating with the architecture and making an artistic statement. “The house is like a piece of art,” says David Coyne of Desert Flora, who helped place plantings on the property. Fredrikson also paid homage to the desert through another material: copper. “It’s one of Arizona’s natural resources,” he explains. “It ages so uniquely, turning brown and purple then turquoise. It’s like jewelry.” Fredrikson clad the fascia, the outdoor shower and the replaces with the burnt-orange metal.
To complement the architecture, Capestany selected furnishings that display rich textures and a neutral palette. Working with project assistant designer Tom Miller, she outfitted the living room with armchairs upholstered in cream-colored leather and a caramel-tone leather-and-suede sofa and ottoman. For the family room, the designer established an unmistakably midcentury sensibility by customizing a built-in walnut sofa, which she dressed with pillows covered in geometric-print fabric. She also sourced a one-of-a-kind boomerang-shaped coffee table for the room. “It’s Italian mosaic and was designed by Vladimir Kagan,” Capestany says. “I saw it at Ralph Pucci in Los Angeles and knew it would be perfect.” Like the coffee table, the Allan Knight and Associates pendants she selected for the dining and living rooms have great presence. “They’re 72 inches in diameter, but they kind of float within the spaces and don’t fight with anything else,” she says.
Throughout the house, Capestany helped design millwork crafted by Doyle Hostetler’s brother, builder Donald Hostetler, who also managed construction for the enormous project. He grain-matched each piece of walnut for the kitchen cabinetry and fabricated a walnut canopy bed Capestany conceived for the master bedroom. “It has a large curved form and was one of the most complex things we created for this house,” the designer says.
Also complex in their own way are the metal awnings on the exterior. In addition to providing coverage from the sun, the shading mechanisms feature graphic cutouts with a midcentury aesthetic, creating dynamic light patterns that shine on the terrace floors. Beyond the awnings of the rear façade are a pool, a cabana, 11 courtyards with fire and water features and rows of small and large cacti planned by Fredrikson and the clients and placed by Coyne.
With so many areas to enjoy the outdoors, the owners take full advantage of the house’s intersection with the landscape. “They have people over and open all the doors,” Fredrikson says. “Guests wander in and out, not really knowing whether they’re inside or outside. Everything flows seamlessly.”