Accessible only by a rocky, unpaved road, the pristine mountaintop lot overlooking Phoenix was not easy to reach. But that did not deter two savvy, determined real estate investors (partners in both life and business) from checking it out. Unable to drive, they hiked up the mountain, scrambling over boulders while making the often steep ascent—a heart-pumping endeavor they compare to scaling Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon Trail. They were well-rewarded for their effort. “I was taken by the views in every direction,” one of the now-owners says. “It’s quite an amazing lot.”
Eager to preserve the sense of privacy and unobstructed views, the couple purchased both the property and an adjoining one—a total of six acres—and recruited architect and builder Andy Byrnes to design their new abode. “We wanted a clean, simple modern home, and that can only get pulled off when the details are perfect,” the client explains. “We knew that Andy could build the house that we wanted.”
“The site is amazing. There are no bad views,” project manager Marissa Mendoza says. At the same time, the location—at the top of the mountain in a valley between two higher ridges to the east and west—was uniquely time-consuming and challenging. “I don’t think I’ve ever walked or climbed that much in my entire life,” she laughs.
The homeowners were deeply involved with the design every step of the way, making for a home that “was uniquely theirs,” Mendoza says. Armed with detailed computer renderings filled with finishes and furnishings inspired by their favorite five-star resorts, they met the construction team there for weekly site visits and worked closely with project architect Drew Bausom to ensure the plans met their exact specifications.
Shaded from the harsh western sunlight by the mountain, the home appears to be nestled into the site—an effect enhanced by the boulders and native plants, such as salvaged creosote, brittlebush and saguaro cactus, that landscape architect Stephen Bardorf carefully placed around the property. “The cactuses create a mood alongside the massive rock faces and transitional boulder work,” Bardorf says.
Containing a jumbo-size garage, an entrance foyer and utilitarian spaces, the lower level’s split-faced stone exterior juxtaposes the airy, atrium-like second level’s expanses of glass. A floating staircase leads up to the main living areas, where visitors are greeted by unparalleled vistas. “It’s magical,” Byrnes says. “The site had such an amazing opportunity to have full city views to the south and full mountain views to the north, which is a very unique thing.”
In deference to such sight lines, the owners selected a neutral color palette accented by large-scale manufactured-stone tile flooring and warm wood details, such as the tobacco-stained cabinetry in the kitchen. “The views themselves are the art,” the client says. “We didn’t want the interior of the house to be a distraction.”
Blackened-steel detailing delineates the materials, creating crisp lines. Likewise, hidden lighting accentuates the various textures, creating a moody glow reminiscent of a luxurious hotel lounge. “The overall feel is very simple,” says Byrnes. “But to get that simplicity takes a tremendous amount of planning.”
Byrnes and his team also fabricated the window system, which includes sliding glass doors that open to the patios surrounding the house. Enamored by the warm desert breezes the area enjoys for much of the year, the owners often slide open the doors between the living room and the poolside patio atop the garage, creating a sprawling indoor-outdoor space that’s ideal for entertaining.
A 10-foot-tall glass slider also opens to a patio in between the main house and a standalone office, its ebony-stained, wire-brushed oak cabinets separating the work space from a living area. In between them, a steel-framed bar with a smoked-glass backsplash adds a touch of glamour. “It’s very sexy,” the owner says.
Thrilled to be living in their new home after the nearly three-and-a-half-year project, the owners still marvel at the attention to detail, cohesive design and astonishing outlook over the city and mountains. Indeed, rather than watching TV at the end of the workday, they often sit at the kitchen counter and enjoy the vistas. “It’s pretty relaxing,” the client says. “We could not be happier.”