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Desert Oasis with Great Texture
Organic textures and international accents create a welcoming retreat for globetrotting empty nesters in the Arizona desert.
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When you design several homes for the same clients, you naturally assume you know them pretty well. So designer Suzanne Biers Harrington was surprised when the couple who owns this sprawling desert vacation home in idyllically named Carefree, Arizona, announced they’d bought a property that came with architectural plans already approved by the community’s review board. None of the three homes Harrington had designed for the couple in the area had conformed to the regulation Southwest mold that characterized these plans.
In the entry, a center hall table with an iron base and highly lacquered ash top is a modern counterpoint to a French-style chest of drawers and a rustic wrought-iron chandelier. A hall with creatively clustered family photos leads to the master suite.
Photography: Werner Segarra
Produced by Jessica Brinkert Holtam
Interior Designer: Suzanne Biers Harrington, The Suzanne Biers Co./Style Source, 15551 N. Greenway Hayden Loop, Suite 135, Scottsdale AZ 85260; 602/999-1550; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; sbiers.com.
Builder: Dick Lloyd, Dick Lloyd Custom Homes, Inc., 12308 E. North Ln., Scottsdale, AZ 85259; 480/585-2466; dicklloydhomes.com.
“Adobe walls, beehive fireplaces, and low ceilings—this was not my clients’ style,” Biers Harrington says. It fell to her and builder Dick Lloyd to alter the plans to better suit the owners’ tastes without removing any exterior walls. They reconfigured some rooms and replaced all but one kiva fireplace, which Biers Harrington made less predictable by covering it with glass tile. “We also did a lot of architectural changes to clean it up, make it more contemporary, and to soften the vernacular aspects,” Biers Harrington says of the design.
Living Room with a View
In keeping with the homeowners’ penchant for world travel, the house draws its inspiration from a variety of cultures, periods, and styles. The master shower appears to have been lifted from a contemporary North African hammam, while the dining room features a yellow-lacquer console influenced by Asia. Trumeau mirrors flanking the bed in the master suite nod to the French, a hammered silver-and-bronze trunk in the living room speaks of Morocco, and an armchair in the library references Art Deco lines. “We didn’t want to be locked into any particular style or make it look like it was all off a showroom floor,” Biers Harrington says.
The living room is an enveloping tactile global experience. Earthy, multicultural textures include more Belgian linen seating, a natural timber coffee table on a metal base, a hide rug from Texas designer Kyle Bunting, a Moroccan chest covered in hammered bronze and silver, a French-style limestone mantle against a leather tile wall and an organic chair carved out of a single trunk of wood. Phoenix is visible beyond the pool.
Kitchen with Texture
Beyond stylistic lines, the secret to the home’s sense of ease and comfort springs from its tactility. A panoply of textures grounds and envelops the interiors. Rough-hewn beams, distressed surfaces, leather, oil-rubbed bronze, hide, lacquer, stucco, and river pebble tiles are just a few of the materials that add character to the rooms. “There’s no synthetic fabric,” Biers Harrington says. “Everything is made from natural fibers. I didn’t want anything to be fussy.”
A Calacatta Oro marble slab provides work surface on an island of dark-stained wood with leather pulls (repeated on the refrigerator door cabinetry behind). Biers had the range hood painted rich “hot cocoa.”
A concrete table on the terrace off the kitchen has a glass pebble insert for gas flames, which come in handy on cool desert nights.
Neutral Dining Room
Belgian linen, in particular, served as the designer’s go-to fabric. “To me there’s something casually elegant about it,” she says. “There’s nothing nicer, and I don’t care how wrinkled it is.” And because the desert gets so hot, Biers Harrington selected a cool neutral palette that makes everything feel open and airy.
Antiques, says designer Suzanne Biers Harrington, were all “to delicate, too refined or not the right scale.” So for a sense of timelessness she relied on texture. In the dining room, a distressed Asian sideboard and a reclaimed elm plank atop a charcoal-painted baroque base impart age to contemporary art and comfortably slipcovered linen chairs and a settee.
A reclaimed elm chest, a mahogany-burl desk, and mahogany-stained wood paneling imbue the library with masculine appeal.
As it turns out, Biers Harrington knows her clients well enough that they gave her free rein. “They were 90 percent surprised when they came into the house after it was finished,” she says, noting that the surprise was an extremely pleasant one.
For a twist on a traditional trumeau, Biers Harrington applied decorative metal elements to reclaimed wood mirror frames in the master bedroom. The rusticity of the pieces is elevated by a settee with beaded eyelash trim. With its timber posts joined by narrow iron stretchers, the bed is earthy and elegant.
The master bedroom’s stone fireplace has a Gallic vibe, but the chairs are contemporary and a stone angel and forged-iron candelabra designed by Jan Barboglio are Mexican-inspired.
A trio of square windows floods the master shower with light.
An Art Deco-style desk set against a mirrored wall serves as a vanity in the master bath.
Rustic zinc-top chests serve as bedside tables in a guest room outfitted with a nailhead-trimmed bed and a lush silk rug.
A guest bath achieves a modern Zen-like elegance with simulated-wood porcelain flooring, pebble and glass tile walls, and a concrete vanity.
Biers gave the home’s cliché Southwest kiva fireplaces imaginative makeovers. The one in this loggia-like space—which is appointed with a jute rug, linen seating and an oversized polished linen ottoman—is faced in porcelain stone-look tile and pebbles. Sliders open the room completely to the outdoors.
A metal sphere by Canadian artist-designer Martha Sturdy sits on the lip of an infinity-edge pool overlooking the Sonoran Desert.