The Dwell Home Tour Came to Scottsdale on Saturday — Here's What We Saw

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Anyone who's gotten lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood knows there's more to the Valley's homes than faux adobe.

And while there's certainly no shortage of annual home tours dedicated to the central city's historic neighborhoods, those who enjoy peeking into and poking around strangers' homes had another opportunity to do so this weekend.

The second installment of Dwell magazine's Dwell Home Tours series came to Scottsdale on Saturday, May 21, for a look at modern living in the desert as curated by the publication's editors. Presented in partnership with the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (which, in conjunction with Modern Phoenix, helps produce the annual Modern Phoenix Week and the always-sold out Modern Phoenix Home Tour), the self-guided tour highlighted five distinct residences in Arcadia, Paradise Valley, and Scottsdale.

Tickets weren't cheap at $100 each, but the purchase of one got tour-goers into a separate "Meet the Architects" evening at SMoCA the night before. While the price-point was steep, it did make for a more intimate experience: Fewer people meant smaller crowds, and smaller crowds meant more architecture and the ability to engage with the homeowners, designers, and architects throughout the tour.

Known for publishing drool-worthy designs and being chock-full of architectural envy, Dwell is no stranger to Phoenix's stretch of the Sonoran Desert. Last year, in collaboration with the Monogram appliance company, the magazine brought its Monogram Modern Home to Scottsdale. The city was just one of six on the $325,000 prefabricated home's summer tour. Not to mention many of the Valley's most coveted homes have graced the publication's glossy pages or been featured online, like a half-historic, half-modern design in the Coronado Historic District and Christoph Kaiser's wildly popular grain silo-turned-homestead.

This weekend's event featured designs by Will Bruder Architects, StudioROEDER, Lightvox Studio, and Woolsey Studio (MAYA). Each represented a different interpretation of desert living with unique plays on form and function.

Byrne/Bills Residence
Built by Will Bruder Architects, 1998
3,316 square feet, Pinnacle Peak

The Byrne/Bills Residence is no stranger to publicity. Designed by Will Bruder Architects, the two-story single-family home is one of his most recognizable pieces. Built by Bill and Carol Byrne and presently owned by David and Martha Bills, who bought the home in 2010, the residence echoes its north Scottsdale desert surroundings, from the copper accents and metal walls to the large windows and concrete detailing.

Bruder, who designed Burton Barr Library in Central Phoenix, is known for creating buildings that are geometrically stunning with unexpected floor plans, like the small upstairs kitchen and downstairs living room that peeks out into the surrounding desert, as the house borrows from nature as its inspiration. The home itself is full of unique art, but its execution and the details of the design are pieces of art unto themselves.

Jarson Residence
Built by Will Bruder Architects, 2007
3,434 square feet, Paradise Valley

Nearly a decade later, Bruder created a similar experience on a mountainside in Paradise Valley, where expansive views of the McDowell Mountains and the natural landscaping of the lot take desert living to new — and literal — heights. The design uses steel, copper, and glass to create a facade that stands out without doing so loudly, while the interiors seem to play with light and subtlety: the floors are cork or concrete, and the living room feels almost exceptionally grand — despite its size, a washer and dryer is hidden behind cabinetry (which extends to the ceiling) in the master bath. A small, waist-high window looks directly into the rocks on which the home is built, and natural light, from the windows of the master bedroom to the hallways, is abundant.

Like Bruder's other designs, despite entering at the upper level (which houses the bedrooms and an office), the living space is cordoned off from the rest of the home, located downstairs and across from an open kitchen. A music studio and potter's room are also on the lower level, as is access to the pool. Bruder likes to play with space, giving the illusion of some when there is little and challenging expectations when it comes to a floorplan. With the Jarson residence, that makes for a dramatic touch — and an ideal home for two of the town's prominent real-estate professionals.

Heiny Residence
Renovated by StudioROEDER, 2015
2,427 square feet, Marion Estates

If the Jarson Residence is what happens when you design for real-estate agents (high drama, big picture), then the Heiny Residence is the result of an architect creating for himself. The homeowner, an architect, collaborated with StudioROEDER to update this 1958 home in east Phoenix, and the design is all about the details. 

"As an architect, you're always sketching your own home," says Scott Roeder of this Marion Estates renovation. The midcentury original, two separate masonry structures, was created by George Allan & Hugo Olson architects and has been home to the owners for 30 years. Though the buildings could feel small, with their flat roofs, low parapet walls, and eight-foot-high ceilings, the space feels open and airy because of an expansive courtyard in the center of the property. An improved layout, designed by Roeder and featuring construction from 180 Degrees Inc., bridges the main house and guest house by creating an indoor-outdoor compound, with heavy reliance on Arcadia windows, weathered steel siding, and cold rolled steel details. The inside is an homage to the Midcentury Modern lifestyle, from the purposeful furniture to the replica Eames lounge chair among a larger collection.

House on Marion
Built by Lightvox Studio, 2014
2,300 square feet, Marion Estates

Some houses are about the details, and some houses are about the overall experience, but the design for House on Marion is guided by one thing above all else: location.

The new construction was a ground-up project after the homeowners and design team, Lightvox Studio, realized it was impossible to save a deteriorating structure. The corner lot looks directly at Camelback Mountain, a view that architects Karin Santiago and Benjamin Mullings called the property's "saving grace" and knew they needed to capitalize on.

Which is why the design is simple: Clean lines, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a detached garage encourage the homeowners to be outside in nature — even if only going to and from their car. The full kitchen is at one with the living and dining areas, where sliding doors open directly onto the patio, for a full open space, indoor-outdoor touch. Everything looks out onto the mountain: the master, the guest room, and the office, encased in glass. The white box construction is a near-ideal desert home, reflecting light and heat, giving the desert surroundings, rather than the materials used, a chance to shine. 

Renovated by Woolsey Studio (MAYA), 2014
5,700 square feet, Arcadia

Arguably the most approachable home on the tour, this Woolsey Studio (MAYA) renovation of a 1962 is as much about preserving a space as it is about updating it.

The homeowners moved their family from south Tempe to Arcadia, falling in love with the potential of a large, ranch-style home near the heart of the city. Architect Kristine Woolsey highlighted the bones of the structure, taking advantage of its length and unique butterfly roof. A welcoming entrance with a floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelf leads guests to a great room, playroom, and open kitchen — the heart of the home. Dual narrow hallways on each side leads to bedrooms and a laundry facility, all with views out onto a deep green lawn, small garden, and modernized pool. New construction includes a guest house, a new garage, and a storage facility, and the large lot uses patios and yards, designed by Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture, on either side to bring the structures together. The subtle cream-colored brick, aluminum-clad wood windows, and exposed glulam beams of the houses blend in nicely with the lush green grass and desert succulent landscaping. It's a design that's deliberate and inviting, with each area playing its part to create a cohesive homestead.

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