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For The Garden

Desert Dream

Author: Michelle Jacoby
Issue: April, 2017, Page 112
Photos by Art Holeman

The living room, with its rustic, wood-beamed ceiling; striking floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace; and large picture windows and doors that allow the outside desert landscape to become part of the interior design, is a true example of Southwest living at its finest.
A Dilapidated Horse Property Is Transformed Into an Art-Filled Homage to Its North Scottsdale Surroundings

Good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue. It was a labor of love. While these sayings may be cliché to some, for one couple in North Scottsdale, the words helped get them through a long—albeit, they say, exciting—journey to finding their dream home in the desert.

Situated on 10 acres in the North Scottsdale desert, the home is fronted by a lush landscape filled with native plants.
Ten years ago, while looking for horse property in North Scottsdale, the husband and wife stumbled upon a true diamond in the rough. As was the case with many properties during that time, the home was a foreclosure that had slipped into and out of a number of prospective buyers’ hands. “It was an up-and-down emotional roller coaster,” says the husband, who owns a local tile and stone business, of the process of making the home their own. “But when we finally got it, we knew it was the one.”

Granted, the property had fallen into disrepair. The landscape was completely overgrown, and the home, which stood empty for several years, was crumbling. The couple had originally planned to remodel, but soon decided it was better in the long run to tear it down and start over from scratch.

They were completely committed to the project. So much so that they immediately sold their current house and moved into the property’s existing guest casita. They wanted to be on-site, to collaborate with the architect and builder on plans and work alongside the contractors, craftsmen and designers to make decisions on the spot.

The spare, contemporary and museumlike feel of the home’s foyer provides a showcase for the intricate tile and iron work that is found throughout.
An homage to the hacienda-style abodes of southern Arizona, the new home blends effortlessly with its surrounding landscape. Its exterior features a natural stone facade, Mexican tile roof, crafted iron accents and dramatic arches.

Inside, the couple wanted to showcase work from some of the finest artisans in the state. In the powder room, a mesquite burl counter made in Tucson is complemented by a dramatic wall piece made with Grand Canyon onyx found in northern Arizona. In the bar area, the copper backsplash and sandalus leather quartzite countertops were made in Phoenix. The couple also used a local artist to create a knocker for the front door, and bells designed by Paolo Soleri hang in outdoor spaces.

But it was the homeowners’ abundant assemblage of fine art and sculpture that served as inspiration for the interior design, which was done by Susan Hersker and Elaine Ryckman.

“They wanted a nice background for their art collection, which includes a wonderful mix of Western and African art,” says Hersker. “Even though the styles of the pieces are worlds apart, they work beautifully together.”

Made by local artisans, the wood table and decorative ironwork serve as works of art and complement the homeowners’ collections.
Hersker and Ryckman created a cohesiveness between the diverse artworks and the furnishings, accents and architectural elements. Soft cream-colored walls serve as a backdrop for solid elements with classic lines in earthen colors and natural materials, including woods, leathers and dark metals. 

“Every piece in the homeowners’ collection is special to them and has meaning,” Hersker says. “We wanted to make sure the interior design not only complemented the art but also revered it.”

In the living room, a pair of bronze cat statues from the Ivory Coast in West Africa stands sentry to a stunning painting by renowned Arizona artist Ed Mell that hangs over the fireplace. It is just one of several pieces by Mell, including a bronze statue of a horse and rider in the entry, an original poster for Arizona Opera’s production of “Riders of the Purple Sage” and a painting of a desert rose made personally for the wife’s 40th birthday.

Also displayed proudly throughout the home are cherished photos of the couple’s children. While all are grown, the husband says their doors are always open to them. In fact, the home was designed specifically to create separate spaces—or “destinations” as the couple likes to call them—for friends and family.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: Showcasing the couple’s diverse taste in art, a pair of bronze cat statues from the Ivory Coast in West Africa keeps watch over an original Ed Mell landscape painting in the living room.

A reflection of the couple’s love of cooking and entertaining, the kitchen features custom wood cabinetry with ample storage and plenty of counter space for prepping and serving. Decorative finishes, such as ornamental tile work used in the backsplash, a wood-grained ceiling with inset lighting and iron pendant fixtures, give the room a warm and inviting feeling.

No detail was overlooked when building the home. Even the powder room is an eye-catching feature, with its mesquite burl counter and Grand Canyon onyx wall.

An ornate handcrafted chest is the perfect backdrop for some of the homeowners’ art, including a mix of African pieces and an original painting by renowned American artist Jimmy Swinnerton.

The main home has four bedrooms, some with en suite kitchens and baths, as well as separate entries. The living areas are open and inviting, with large windows welcoming the outside in. At the heart of the home is the kitchen and dining area, a true point of pride for the homeowners.

“We love to cook and entertain, so we designed the space to be a cook’s kitchen,” the husband says. With its large double-faucet galley sink, vast counter space and cabinets, and sizable island perfect for gathering, serving and dining, the kitchen is both efficient and welcoming. The adjacent dining area comfortably seats six and features a climate-controlled, walk-in wine cellar.

The ornate walk-in bar is a dramatic centerpiece in the downstairs living area. A handcrafted wood surround looks into the large interior space designed with sandalus leather quartzite countertops and a forged copper backsplash.
The property includes two guest casitas—with a possible third being planned for the future—as well as a number of outdoor spaces and patios where guests can gather, lounge and dine. “Our ideal was to be able to walk out to these different locations in and around the home,” says the wife. “Every area is its own place to be.”

One of the wife’s favorite spaces is the barn, which houses two of her three horses. An avid horsewoman, she spends as much time as she can tending to her equine companions, training for competitions and going for trail rides in the desert.  

At the end of the day, the couple retreats to their expansive, resortlike master suite, which comprises most of the second floor. Decorated in hushed, neutral tones, the space is calm and comfortable. An adjacent short hallway—featuring a small kitchen area with a coffee/wine bar—leads to a walk-in closet/dressing room and bathroom, a stylish sanctuary filled with beautifully crafted stone and tile work, as well as favorite art pieces.

The dining room is inherently comfortable and traditional. A pedestal-based table accommodates multiple chairs and all types of gatherings. An original Ed Mell painting hangs above a grouping of Native American pots.
“It is our haven—where we go to unwind from a long day at work or to spend the weekends,” says the husband. “We can make our breakfast and coffee or pour a glass of wine. We never have to leave, actually.”

And why would they? Separate patios with views of both east and west allow the couple to wake up to stunning views of majestic Pinnacle Peak and Troon Mountain, and end the day by watching the sun set in the western sky.

“Their vision was Old Arizona ranch-style living that is true to the spirit of friends and family,” says Ryckman. “The home is a genuine reflection of who they are and how they live their lives. They are gregarious and engaging, and truly live life to the fullest.”

At more than 5 feet long and almost 2 feet wide, the stainless steel kitchen sink/workstation features double faucets and rails for specially built cutting boards, colanders and baskets. “It has changed the way we operate in the kitchen,” the husband says.

The house features a number of outdoor spaces, including this patio off the master suite. Decorative arches frame stunning views of the valley below, which the couple can enjoy over a lovely morning breakfast.
The expansive master bath showcases a matching pair of finely crafted wood sink vanities as well as an array of stone and tile work from the husband’s business.



A true respite from their busy days, the master suite is where the couple retreats to relax and unwind. Troon Mountain serves as a stunning backdrop to the patio, where the couple can enjoy coffee and breakfast as the sun rises.

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