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Design Idea File: Social Connections
Old World style for the young at heart.
With its rustic stucco and stone façade and cozy, al fresco entertaining spaces, this 5,575-square-foot custom home recreates the charm and character of a Mediterranean hillside retreat in the Arizona desert.
Designed as the primary residence for an active retired couple, the home's old world style is a favorite for its builder, Phil Nichols.
"This style of home has a very informal feel to it, but is still very elegant. I call it 'sophisticated casual'."
Nichols, who builds an average of eight high-end custom residences a year, attributes the success of this project to a good working relationship between client, architect and builder. "These clients had very specific ideas about what they wanted to see in their home. They had traveled extensively throughout their lives and wanted their home to capture the ambiance of a classic European village. Our challenge was to make sure that the selection of materials and the execution of the work met their vision."
The home features abundant carved woodwork, beamed ceilings and hand-plastered walls. But its outdoor rooms, including a fireplace-oriented sitting area in the entry courtyard, an outdoor dining room and a partially covered pool terrace which wraps around the rear of the house and includes several distinct conversation spots, are his client's favorite spaces, he says.
"Because they have a large family, they wanted to be able to accommodate frequent visits from their children and grandchildren," says Nichols. "One of their key requirements was to have a lot of outdoor entertaining space so that they could all really enjoy the great local climate."
The pool and spa are intended to serve as the focal point for the rear entertaining area, says Nichols. "But my clients were also very concerned about safety issues so both are designed with automatic cover systems." All of the mechanical and filtration equipment necessary for the pool and spa operation is located in a specially-ventilated subterranean room to keep it out of view and to minimize noise.
Because the home is located in a golf course community, special care was taken to internalize the outdoor space through the use of privacy walls, says Nichols. "They wanted to be able to enjoy the outdoor spaces any time they chose, year round." A roof deck provides views of the golf course and mountains that are not available from the ground floor living areas.
The home's façade, fireplaces and distinctive archways feature a rough stone finish that is actually a custom, cultured product, says Nichols. "We did not go with a man-made stone as a cost-saving approach but because it gave us the look that we wanted to achieve. We went through a lot of samples before everyone was satisfied but the result is that it really looks and feels like just like the real thing."
The artificial stone was also much lighter and easier to work with than natural stone, says Nichols. "If this had all been real stone we would have really had to beef up the structure to accommodate the additional weight. We would have had to use a tremendous amount of steel for support."
The home was completed in October 2003.