The story behind a couple’s striking house in the DC Ranch community of Scottsdale began while they were searching for a place to remodel. “We stumbled upon a casita at the Boulders Resort and said, ‘Wow, look at this,’ ” the husband relates. “The interiors were contemporary but had a timeless yet androgynous feel. We wanted something of a similar style.”
The first step in that direction was connecting with David P. Turner and John G. Martin, who created the interiors of that casita. “The owners were enamored with the design but not the location,” Martin says of the house, and as the prospect of remodeling drew bleaker due to lack of available structures with the right bones and palette, the concept of going ground-up became more appealing. “They knew we could do what they wanted anywhere and started looking for a lot.”
In time, builder Tom Archer, whose home projects the owners had also seen and liked, was brought on board. He in turn recommended Bob Bacon, the very architect who designed the Boulders Resort casitas. “As we created a team, things began to fall into place,” says Martin. “We could all see where the design was to go.”
Up against the McDowell Mountains in the high desert, the chosen lot boasted city views and natural solitude, and the importance of connecting with and respecting the surroundings was duly noted in Bacon’s architectural plans. “I’ve always held that deserts are visually fragile environments and that their natural beauty is valuable,” the architect says. “It was important that the home respond appropriately.”
To that end, Bacon designed the structure with a stone spine wall that runs parallel to the terrain. On two sides, the stone element extends past the house into the desert to reinforce the integration of the house with its site. A combination of organic materials and industrial elements— locally harvested cobblestone laid in a random rubble pattern, oxidized steel, glass, concrete, and highly textured and variegated terra-cotta tile—reflect indigenous building techniques. Broad overhangs reduce glare and provide protection from direct sun and heat, while a series of patios are visually connected and open to each other.
Inside, Turner and Martin created beautifully composed neutral spaces and accentuated the entire interior with “conversation pieces,” including the dramatic, internationally influenced artwork they curated from Costello-Childs Contemporary Fine Art, some of which Martin created himself. “The first impression is masculine-looking, but then it takes on more feminine, softer lines,” Martin explains. “The play of hard and soft edges against one another and the defining of smaller spaces with large elements and artwork gives an unexpected look and feel.”
For furnishings, Turner and Martin borrowed from designs the owners had initially been drawn to, but they incorporated “a unique stamp” at every turn. In the great room, which they consider the driving force of the home, they custom-designed sectional sofas and upholstered them with cotton and ax fabric to match the coloration of the stone walls. In the kitchen, they paired a Cambrian black satin granite-topped counter with bamboo cabinetry that has an ebonized finish. In the master bedroom, Turner and Martin custom-upholstered the headboard in a linear- patterned black patent leather and floated it on a custom cotton-sisal-and-jute rug.
Throughout the home, and in the two semi-attached guest casitas, a sense of cohesiveness and richness was achieved with the addition of carefully selected and placed accessories and organic accent pieces. Often, specific design elements were meticulously detailed in partnership with the owner and Archer. The husband, an engineer, “was so bright and knowledgeable, and he wanted things done in a certain manner,” says Archer. “It was a challenge to make sure that when we did something, from tile to light fixtures to floor layouts to the welding of the exposed steel, the details were worked out way ahead of time. It was like an amazing arts-and-crafts project.” Acknowledges the husband: “It can be cumbersome to have so much participation from the homeowner, but Tom and John were willing to work with me in that regard, and it worked out well.”
Furthering the connection of the home with its surroundings were the efforts of landscape designer Donna Winters, who spent a great deal of time up front becoming familiar with the plans. “When we live with spaces, we really are able to speak to what’s unique about home and how it blends into the bigger picture of things,” she explains. In response to the magnitude of the house, Winters specified sizable, indigenous accent material, such as cacti and box ironwoods, for the exterior and subsidized them with area planters. “It’s like living art,” she says.
Reflecting on the project, Martin notes, “It’s such a dramatic house, and the main thing is it’s an homage to the relationship with the client, designer, architect and contractor. It’s a reflection of everyone’s palette.” Adds the husband: “When you walk into a room, your blood pressure drops automatically. It’s very soothing and relaxing.”