An old farmhouse sat on the lot now home to the sprawling 4,700-sq.-ft. single-family home designed and built by Carlson Homes in Scottsdale, Ariz. The lot is one of three 1-acre lots developed by Carlson, on a 3-acre plot of flat land that was never annexed into the city of Scottsdale. The property is an island of privacy in the middle of a busy city.
The three parcels form an L, and this lot forms the elbow on land which formerly was a rural farming community. The home’s owner says farmers harvested melons and cotton on this property. True to the rural roots of the land, the style of this home, and the other two near it, is downplayed. Less was spent on the front, so more could be spent on the backyard and the inside. The neighborhood comes off well, not overdone. “I think homes like this, more downplayed, will be more timeless than others designed with the hot trends and elements of today,” says Gary Carlson, owner, Carlson Homes, who also built the home on this issue’s cover.
“We tried to give it a broad ranch feeling, nice and wide. There’s not a lot going on besides the shutters, or the fireplace and court area to the right of the front door where the wall hides anyone sitting there at night. Its unimposing nature is part of the grandeur. It feels like a house from that area, like it has been there a long time,” he says.
The style of this home is Santa Barbara, which is a loose term to describe eclectic that is reflective of different styles used in combination, Carlson explains. In the southern to mid-part of California, the style follows a relaxed interior design. “We wanted to tone these homes down to fit the pastoral nature of the three-lot subdivision,” he says.
Subtle details and simplistic styling is characteristic of the style, says Taco Schmid, project manager and principal designer of this home. The Cattletrack area in which the home sits has such a historical atmosphere that Carlson Homes committed to making this and the other two homes in this development feel like they have been there for a long period of time. “We wanted nothing to stand out where people can identify it as being done in 2000 or 2002, or whenever,” Schmid says.
Follow the line of sight
The easy flow through the house creates a strong estate feeling, reminiscent of homes from the ‘20s and ‘30s, like the originals on this lot possessed. As one walks through the house, the rooms are separate but flow nicely together. A bit of soffit work makes the home feel warm and comfortable.
Getting the home to feel warm and comfortable was a challenge for the design team, whose goal was to create a soft, nondescript look on the outside, and a wow factor when you open the door. For instance, the way the pool in the back yard lines up with the front door is perfectly centered, to draw people inside and to make them feel comfortable. “The pool alignment brings the outside in, so the eye doesn’t stop at the end of the house. It continues through the yard,” Carlson says.
The Carlson team wants visitors to be welcomed by something in every room, like the pool through the front door. “Another challenge was making sure the trades understood that the focal points were central throughout the building, and to make sure everything lined up properly, and centered to the inch,” Schmid says.
Creating centralized lines of sight isn’t the only subtle detail in this house. The soffits at different heights, for example, are more expensive and take more time to create, but produce a more dramatic look, especially at night, by casting more shadows. “It’s important during design that you consider what will happen when you’re sitting on the sofa and it gets dark outside. Elements like soffits should be designed so people appreciate the effect but won’t be aware of what you did to achieve it,” Carlson says.
Another subtle ceiling effect is accomplished with different heights from room to room. Ceiling heights vary from 14 ft. to 12 ft. to a 10-ft. soffit to give the dining room, for example, a more intimate feel compared to the living room. “These effects enhance the use of the rooms. People in these rooms like what they see, but they might not know why,” Carlson says.
The soffit work causes a bit of shadowing and creates architectural interest. “It’s a way of making a simple box more intriguing with more levels,” Schmid says. “The ceiling, soffit and walls are painted slightly different colors to create visual interest as well. The contrast in colors makes sure the shadowing occurs stronger on the darker walls. It tends to warm up a room a bit more when you have more going on in that space.”
With so many attractive design elements enhancing the comfort of visitors, gatherings last a long time and tend to become noisy. Luckily, in this house, the master wing is truly its own wing, separated by a study, a hallway and a closet. Guest rooms are separated by a pocket of privacy consisting of a pantry and closet in between the kitchen and the bedrooms. “The teenagers can be on the other end of the house and not disturb you in the master suite,” Schmid says.
“Occasionally in a home a great room wall is shared with a bedroom wall. “In these situations we insulate all the interior walls of the home so they are sound-deadening. In circumstances where you need privacy, there are simple construction techniques such as to double-stud a wall to create two walls within a wall so sound doesn’t vibrate through,” he adds.
Outdoor space Many of the line-of-sight details, so crucial to creating flow on the inside of the house, incorporate design elements on the outside. The pool acts as a reflection pond, and upon entering the study one sees the spa outside, which is raised with a water feature that bubbles and catches the eye, Schmid explains. “The centerline of it is on the centerline with the door of the study. You’re drawn through the spaces with different framed settings in each location. There’s a central focal point in each room.”
It’s easy to create such interesting elements outside when the lot size provides the ability to design an expansive back yard space. “We were able to push the pool back from the house, which gave us the opportunity to expand the sitting areas. Having so much patio space gave us two or three areas for people to sit and congregate,” Schmid says.
The outdoor area is near the kitchen and family room, and the barbecue area directly outside these rooms includes a bar, a grill but not running water. “It has a high countertop where you can pull up a chair while someone is standing and grilling, or you can use it as a buffet to serve food,” Carlson says. Other elements of the outdoor space include the dining area, the bar, the formal seating area, the pool, a sitting area at the far end of the pool, and a private master patio around the corner. The barbecue area is covered by trellis work with ivy that will grow to create a nice intimate setting, he adds.
Seamless synergy The synergy between the design and build teams at Carlson Homes is key to the company’s success, Carlson says. “Everyone is talking about the whole house — all the time — so the work is seamless. Our production manager is talking to our designer, and we can build things more cost effectively.”
While designing a house, Schmid can grab a construction manager in the same building and ask for his input on any issue, at any time. “I get critical information upfront, which makes it easier to solve problems, before a client ever knows about it.
“When challenges arise, we gather as a team,” Schmid adds. “We’ve been cultivating that close team relationship for almost 10 years now, and we anticipate the areas where each other will have concerns. This familiar relationship does not hinder me toward getting the design I really want. We try to step out of the box every so often, and we can do this with confidence because of our long, close relationship.”