“I love Spanish Colonial-style homes,” swoons designer Lauren Wallace. So, when the chance came to update one in Paradise Valley built by architect Mark Candelaria in 2005, she felt a genuine wave of excitement. The house had been lovingly maintained and needed only minimal work, something the new owners, a couple from Chicago who were already experienced renovators, knew they could easily manage.
The husband and wife had been lured to the Southwest by the promise of a different lifestyle and a return to the state in which they wed. “We’d been living in a late-1800s brownstone in Chicago, a vertical box, and we realized that our children had never experienced a yard, grass or kids running up and down the street,” the wife recalls. So, they approached realtor and general contractor Frank DiMaggio, who also happens to be Wallace’s husband, to help them find their dream home. “The Spanish style just called to us,” the wife continues. “We thought, let’s embrace living here and be true to the history of the area. And when we saw this house, it had such good energy.”
It also had great bones. “Our clients loved the existing warm textures and patina, but they wanted a cleaner take on the style,” Wallace says. “There’s so much soul in Mark’s architecture, and we wanted to keep that: plasterwork; the richness of the Saltillo tiles, wood and iron details; the brick staircase; the arches.” While there weren’t many structural changes needed, the team “updated the lighting, countertops, wall tile and paint, and cleaned up some of the more ornate detailing throughout the residence,” DiMaggio notes. “We also did some framing and new cabinetry in the kitchen.”
The floor plan remained largely unchanged too, although they did rearrange several spaces, including the upstairs gym, which became a tree house-like hideaway for the couple’s children. “It was really all about making things lighter and brighter,” Wallace says. The result is an airy flow and a soothing environment. “We wanted a remodel that looked like nothing had been renovated, and now the place almost looks older than it is!” the wife notes happily.
While the owners did bring a few furnishings with them, this was very much a clean slate because it was an entirely different aesthetic from their Chicago abode. “Shopping at local showrooms, especially places that really embodied the feeling of the home, gave them the chance to dream and play,” Wallace explains. It also gave the couple a unique welcome to Phoenix. “We were able to explore the city by meeting Lauren at all of these amazing places,” the wife says. A trip to Wallace and DiMaggio’s own Spanish-style dwelling helped the couple further define their developing Southwest style. “This house is like the cooler, older sister to our home, and visiting it helped the clients see the potential of their own place,” the designer notes.
Throughout the interiors, Wallace used a neutral palette for subtle elegance. “Texture is my way of adding character,” she continues, pointing to the living room. “Natural materials speak to each other—the unfinished wood and iron of the built-in cabinets against the soft linen of the sofas—and create depth.” A similar ease of spirit pervades the dining room, which retains the original homeowners’ impressive Spanish-style trestle table. “With the wood table and more original built-ins, we didn’t want to go too heavy, so we painted the ceiling white—it had originally been a colorful design—and slipcovered the chairs,” the designer explains. “We pared things back, editing what was already there.”
But some additions were necessary to breathe new life into the spaces. The floor-to-ceiling corner fireplace in the couple’s suite now shimmers with glossy tile, and contemporary light fixtures brighten every room. “Lighting is a great way to tailor a home to a client’s style while maintaining the original feel,” Wallace says. “It just makes rooms feel current.”
The project, DiMaggio notes, reflects a recent trend he and Wallace have observed in the Phoenix area: “We’re seeing clients favor a more traditional Arizona style than we have in the past but always with a modern take,” he says. The duo couldn’t be more excited for this development. “My first thought when I saw this house was how beautiful it was, and how relevant it still felt,” the designer reflects. “I was so inspired from the first moment and knew we could enhance the interiors while honoring this classic example of Arizona architecture.”