There’s nothing quite like Turks and Caicos, where a Paradise Valley couple travels with their three daughters every summer, paddle boarding among the islands dotted with historic stone houses much like those found in Morocco, Ibiza and the Spanish Riviera. The husband and wife envisioned a contemporary interpretation of this centuries-old style for their own home, so they teamed up with architect Matthew Thomas and designer Katy Schuman to create just that on a sprawling lot nestled at the base of Mummy Mountain.
Getting the stone just right was first and foremost on their list of musts. “It was important that the materials were very organic,” says Thomas. Builder Luke Wilson and project manager Gene Schmitz mocked up several versions of different stone arrangements and types of mortar before landing upon a custom blend of irregularly shaped stones. As luck would have it, this style wasn’t just aesthetically appealing, but also sensible considering their surrounding environment. “These homes lend themselves incredibly well to Arizona’s high heat and very dry climate,” Thomas explains, pointing to the dwelling’s thick insulating walls and deeply recessed windows.
That blend of stone was also used to build the retaining walls that define the front courtyard by landscape designer Jeff Berghoff, who ensured that the outside environment reflected the home’s architecture by incorporating lavender, rosemary, sage, roses and cacti alongside the century-old olive trees that Schuman purchased for the project. “They create the feeling that the house has always been there,” the designer says.
To infuse the clients’ desired modern take, Thomas juxtaposed the stone with pristine white stucco walls with minimal ornamentation and black metal windows, a restrained palette that also characterizes the interior with its hand-troweled plaster walls and mix of French oak and Belgian bluestone flooring. “It’s an exhale after a busy day,” Thomas says of the simple mix of materials, colors and textures. “There’s a logic to how the house is knit together.”
“From the get-go, this was a family home,” the architect adds. So, when it came to the interiors, comfort—and, yes, a little bit of fun—was in order. A diamond-encrusted painting by Hunt Slonem adds a splash of color and sparkle to the front parlor, where a quartet of wood-framed chairs with New Zealand sheepskin upholstery surround a live-edge wood cocktail table in front of the plaster fireplace, one of five throughout the property. “I call it the meeting of the fuzzy chairs,” Schuman says. “Every room has its own personality, but the house is cohesive.”
In the family room, that meant keeping things “simple and very relaxing,” the designer says, with a minimal material palette and lofted wood-beamed ceilings with clerestory windows. The mellow design fosters a serene, sophisticated backdrop for a sumptuous sectional sofa facing a low-slung gas fireplace hearth. That’s also the vibe in the clutter-free kitchen, where the counter appliances are stored away in a well-appointed pantry. Rather than outfitting the kitchen with traditional cabinetry, Schuman set the cupboards into plaster niches with simple plank wood doors that look as if they might have been handcrafted a hundred years ago. It’s an oasis for the wife, who notes that, with three kids and three dogs, “There’s usually a lot of chaos.” When the temperature dips, she often begins her mornings by turning on the built-in espresso machine and lighting the small fireplace in the breakfast area, which is surrounded by large windows overlooking the backyard. “Sitting in the breakfast nook is a nice quiet start to the day before the crazy starts,” she laughs.
The game and media room, complete with bluestone flooring and a groin-vault ceiling (“It has a Moroccan feel,” notes Schuman) offers up yet another area to relax. Recovering from a soccer injury and taking online classes, the couple’s 12-year-old daughter has taken advantage of this space, often working from the room’s teal velvet sofa. Other times, she takes her laptop out to a covered patio. When one of her classmates noticed the tall lavender behind her, they wondered aloud why she was in a meadow. Unlike most meadows, however, this one has a tennis court and a linear swimming pool with an integrated hot tub.
The effortless blend of old and new works for the family, serving as a retreat for the husband, who travels up to 250 days per year for work, and a comfortable, stylish home base for the wife. Despite the chaos that comes with a house full of children, “Everything is very Zen-like,” the wife says. “I’m living like I’m on vacation.”