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19 Dec 2014 Last updated
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A lesson in desert living with contemporary Arizona home

Finding an oasis of contemporary cool in the midst of the Arizona desert

By Ayesha Khan
Added 00:00 | September 11, 2013
  • The warm amber walls in the dining room are a perfect example of how the home’s colour palette is inspired by the Arizona desert.

    Source:Bill Timmerman Image 1 of 7
  • The design reflects the architects’ desire to create a seamless transition between the house and nature.

    Source:Bill Timmerman Image 2 of 7
  • Positioning all the rooms inside a ‘glass box’ creates a seamless transition between inside and out.

    Source:Bill Timmerman Image 3 of 7
  • The formal living room with Brueton couches is elegant and uncluttered but comfortable.

    Source:Bill Timmerman Image 4 of 7
  • A serene grey and taupe colour scheme was chosen for the master bedroom to complement the brushed concrete floor.

    Source:Bill Timmerman Image 5 of 7
  • The inspiration for this Arizona home was to create a modern interpretation of the Southwest combined with the technology of steel and glass.

    Source:Bill Timmerman Image 6 of 7
  • Positioning all the rooms inside a ‘glass box’ creates a seamless transition between inside and out.

    Source:Bill Timmerman Image 7 of 7

If there were ever a desert equivalent of the posh adventurer’s wonderland that is Aspen, Colorado, Arizona’s Scottsdale area would be it.

Here, miles of golf courses, hiking trails, canyons hewn from deep, red rock and miles and miles of picturesque cactus-laden desert await.

Building homes in this arid and dusty environment is full of challenges. You might think a house that appears to be made entirely of glass wouldn’t be ideal, but Ted Flato of Lake Flato Architects set out to prove it could work.

“Our inspiration was to create a modern interpretation of the historic adobe structures of the Southwest combined with the technology of steel and glass,” Ted says. “The composition is one of simple, grounded, earth-coloured stucco boxes that support delicate rusted steel and glass pavilions that have broad eight-inch overhangs to shade the glass from the summer sun.”

Given the breadth of the overhangs, the unforgiving
beams of the desert sun never make their way into the rooms. 

In addition to the tricky topography and climate at the site, the architects also faced the challenge of creating the illusion of miles of unspoilt landscape in a densely populated housing development.

Ted explains his solution: “The intent was to create a sense of privacy, choreograph movement through the site and edit views. You enter the site in a protected motor court [driveway]. The sense of mystery is heightened by a slow revelation of the views. After travelling down a covered walkway, with an axial view to the protected court, you pass through the front door that is in the direction of the view, but is blocked by an art wall. The final view is fully present on entering the living room and family room. The goal was to use courtyards as ‘blinders’ to create privacy from the neighbours, while emphasising the unique view. The careful editing of the views gives the impression of being on endless acres of native landscape.”

In order to blur the space between interior and exterior, Ted carried the concrete tiles into the entry foyer and other public spaces of the home. 


Designer Robyn Menter was charged with creating an interior that was in perfect synchronicity with Ted’s exteriors.

An avid art collector, Robyn shared the clients’ view that their art collection needed to play a central role in the home’s design story. In fact, the first thing that guests see when they enter the Brown residence is Tony Magar’s handsome oil on canvas entitled Greenpeace II.

They are then ushered into a large open kitchen and informal living space on one side, and more formal dining and living space on the other.

In order to delineate the formality of the latter, a warm-toned wood floor and wall panelling were used.

Robyn’s design philosophy was to remain fresh, modern and for the interior to take a back seat to the views, landscape architecture and courtyard spaces. 

“My idea was to incorporate the concept of inside/outside living – every room has great views of the surrounding landscape,” explains Robyn. “The formal living room is my definite favourite – the expansive Brueton couches upholstered in white with the glass coffee table to display the family’s collection of books and objects. Elegant yet very comfortable and uncluttered.” 


In the bedrooms, Robyn employed neutral colours in cool tones to offset the warmth of the landscape outside, and to complement the concrete floors.

Sleek, streamlined furniture furthers Robyn’s fresh and modern design ethos.

In the master bathroom, an impressive slab of sea foam green limestone covers the entire back wall and is a shining example of the interior designer’s desire to work with only natural materials.

By Ayesha Khan

By Ayesha Khan