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By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photo: by Bill Timmerman | April 4, 2018
Two landscape architects make the garden the focus of their new Paradise Valley home.
At Kristina Floor and Chris Brown’s Paradise Valley home, birds gather in the entry courtyard to splash in a subtle, Zen-like water feature shaded by the gnarled branches of ironwood trees. Their cat darts through an open glass pivot door, headed for the backyard, lush with agaves, aloes and Cereus cacti. The living room’s floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the pool.
“When you’re doing a house for two landscape architects, the landscape is the star,” says Scottsdale architect Philip Weddle, who designed the couple’s modernist, transparent house. “There’s no two ways about it—it’s all about the indoor-outdoor connection.”
Brown and Floor are principals of Floor Associates, the Phoenix landscape architecture firm known for such award-winning design projects as Optima Camelview and the Scottsdale Waterfront. After years of living in a renovated 1950s home in Phoenix, the couple—parents to a college-age daughter—wanted a change.
“I grew up knowing [modernist architect] Al Beadle’s architecture,” explains Floor, “and we always wanted to live in a modern house in the desert.” They found an acre-plus property in a desert setting, but its 1970s-era home didn’t quite fit the bill.
While they contemplated a renovation plan, Floor and Brown began working on the landscape, updating the pool and replacing non-native trees and plants with palo verdes, mesquites, ironwoods and creosotes. “Even before we touched the house,” recalls Brown, “the first thing we did was remodel the pool. We’re landscape architects, after all.”
Not long into their planning, the couple realized remodeling wouldn’t achieve the simple, indoor-outdoor home they desired. They decided to start from scratch and asked Weddle, with whom they had collaborated on projects such as the McDowell Sonoran Preserve’s trailheads, to design the new house.
Weddle, whose firm has created projects ranging from the Rio Salado Audubon Center to Ralph Lauren retail locations in New York, Paris and Hong Kong, crafted a subtle, minimalist design for the 4,300-square-foot home that blurs the line between inside and out.
Weddle’s plan organized the H-shaped house around a series of courtyards and gardens. The home’s main element, a glass-walled “bridge,” includes the entry, living and dining areas, which have views of both the entry courtyard and the backyard. The master suite is on one side of these living spaces, while the kitchen, family room, library, three bedrooms, garage and guest casita are on the opposite.
Sandblasted block walls, glass and steel make up the building palette. Indoors, dark basalt floors ground the setting, while a tongue-in-groove walnut ceiling adds warmth. A major design element in the home is a custom walnut pantry “cube,” a free-standing structure that includes storage; a linen closet; and, on the kitchen side, cabinetry and a walk-in pantry, tricked out with wine storage, a second refrigerator and dishwasher. “The pantry is perfect for entertaining,” says Weddle. “You can keep the mess out of view.”
The home’s interiors are uncluttered and serene, with many of the furnishings coming from the couple’s previous home. Tailored, classic Knoll sofas and a cherry coffee table crafted by Brown anchor the living area. The master bedroom’s dimensions were dictated by the length of a low-profile cherry dresser that came from their Phoenix house. In the kitchen, Bertoia chairs surround a glass table. Artwork, including a collection of framed, vintage rock-concert posters, add visual punch to the setting, as does a 1970s-era Sputnik-style chandelier over the dining table.
Outdoors, the series of patios and courtyards serves as expanded living spaces. The pool, its adjacent rectangle of lawn and the patios have worked well for entertaining and outdoor dining. The entry courtyard, with its concrete bench and water feature, is a quiet spot for entertaining. In the master bath, the outdoor shower has won a popularity contest over its indoor equivalent.
The landscape keeps evolving, with Brown and Floor planting more desert natives culled from nurseries, salvage sites and cuttings. “I had to get this house photographed soon,” sighs architect Weddle, “because I know with these two as the owners, it will soon be obscured by plants and trees.”
Philip Weddle, FAIA
Kristina Floor, FASLA, and Chris Brown, FASLA, Floor Associates
Brian Stark, LOCALstudio
Wesley James, RA AIA, Line Lab
Pivot and sliding glass doors
BEDROSIANS TILE & STONE
DESIGN WITHIN REACH
Family room sofa and console, kitchen table, barstools, Arco floor lamp and Eames chair
Bathroom sinks and tub
Integra Block for walls