Luxury was achieved for a private residence in Arizona with a diverse selection of natural stone. The homeowners sought the expertise of Jon C. Bernhard, AIA, senior partner at Swaback Partners pllc in Scottsdale, AZ, to create a stunning living space, including several floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces, which are points of interest throughout the home.
“This is an extraordinary property, located in a premier area of Paradise Valley, AZ,” said Bernhard. “Using native and natural materials, the new home was designed to integrate and blend into the hillside, taking full advantage of the vista views and climatic opportunities of the Sonoran desert.”
The architect explained he views natural stone as a premium building material, and applies it to all of his designs. “My designs always contain natural stone, and most often the stone is a primary design feature,” he said. “Natural stone has proven to be low maintenance, long lasting, sustainable and timeless. Of equal importance, the available colors, patterns and textures are broad and exciting enough to accommodate any palette.
“I believe in expressing the finish of materials based on the natural integrity of the material, as opposed to what is possible with technology and engineering,” Bernhard went on to say. “Stone should be expressed as it is occurs in nature. Imagine a primitive craftsman building a structure. The shapes and sizes of the materials used, due to and limited technology represent the purest example of a material’s natural integrity.”
According to Bernhard, the homeowner became a “co-designer” with regard to the stone selection. “Assembling color boards, selecting various stone types and ultimately selecting physical slabs was an enjoyable adventure that provided the owner with design ownership — and stories to share,” he said. “This co-design process with the owner was very efficient. Material limitations, unacceptable lead times, costs and scheduling challenges can be avoided when the owner and designer participate together in the selections.”
A primary material used for the residence is architectural masonry with a 4- x 16-inch face size. “The 4-inch vertical masonry dimension that occurs throughout the home was used as the basis of the implied stone thickness,” said the architect. “No seams were exposed that would suggest that the material was less than 4 inches thick, and in many cases, 4 inches was the thickness of the actual material used.”
The floor pattern follows a radial pattern of Oklahoma Pink granite — originating at the main entrance of the approximate 10,000-square-foot home. “The radial circles are spaced 2 feet apart,” said the architect. “Each piece is up to 4 feet in width and set in a running bond pattern. A 2-inch Absolute Black granite band occurs at uniform radial intervals. Some locations substituted the Oklahoma Pink with Jarrah wood, following the same radial pattern. All of the floor tiles are different sizes. Each was waterjet cut and numbered for a specific location.
“It should also be noted that there is extensive floor-to-ceiling glazing — celebrating the views and the indoor/outdoor experience,” Bernhard went on to say. “This experience is reinforced with continuous materials at ceilings and floors. To accommodate a floor that is acceptable as both an interior finish and as a slip-resistant exterior finish, the granite has a flamed finished.”
Various stone varieties were chosen for several large fireplaces throughout the living space. “The use of larger-sized material was a design objective, and design concepts were developed based on the material sizes available for each stone type selected,” explained the architect. “The larger dimensions provide opportunities to appreciate the natural movement of the material. Vertically, all dimensions were sized to align with the adjacent masonry joints. This is a design philosophy that was applied to all finishes and materials throughout the home.”
While the fireplace in the family room features Sapphire Blue granite, Café Imperial granite was used for the office fireplace — both stones were supplied by Cactus Stone in Phoenix, AZ. Blue Eyes and Absolute Black granite, supplied by AG&M in Austin, TX, were chosen for the fireplace in the guest sitting area, and the fireplace in the master suite was fabricated from Blue Gauguin granite, furnished by Paramount in California.
Moving to the master bath, the use of stone continues with Lavender Blue granite for the floor, countertops, tub area and shower. “The ‘Mrs.’ is fond of specific blues and specific shades of purple,” explained Bernhard. “This material appealed to this fondness. The color of the Lavender Blue also complemented the Oklahoma Pink granite that was used, along with Jarrah wood, as the typical floor material throughout the home.”
The floor in the master bath consists of large-format Lavender Blue granite pieces with steps leading to the tub that have a chiseled finish on their face. “The general concept of this home is use of thick massive materials — as opposed to thin tiles/veneer material,” said the architect. “The Lavender Blue was limited with regard to available material thickness. The chiseled finish concealed the seams that were accentuated with this particular material pattern, and was consistent with the thick material design concept — and it was a fun deviation.”
For the guest bath, a striking contrast was created with Thailos White marble and Passion Fruit marble. “The floor and shower walls are Thailos White marble, and the countertop and accent shower tiles are Passion Fruit,” said Bernhard. “This is a sub-level guest suite, and the space needed to be lightened up to avoid the look of being in a basement. White marble was the primary finish in the space. The art glass behind the vanity mirrors provides natural light from a light well to the exterior.”
Bernhard stresses quality installation is critical to the success of the intended design. “Reputable installers, with which we have had a great deal of analogous high-end experience, were used so supervision could be limited to initial consultation, describing and illustrating the design intent,” he said. “To reinforce the thick material intent, it was critical with regard to (blind) mitered corners, continuing material patterns around corners and similar techniques.”
The architect explained the owners were not enthusiastic at first about the burden of designing and building a home. “As the design began to evolve, the owners took an interest in participating in the various steps,” he said. “Ergo, the co-design process begins. This experience resulted in a rewarding finished product for both designer and owner. And as a final twist, shortly after this home was completed, I was contacted by this owner to ‘do it again’ for a second home. This second home was being created more for the enjoyment of the process than the need for another home — an architect’s dream.”
Paradise Valley, AZ
Architect: Swaback Partners pllc, Scottsdale, AZ
Stone Suppliers: Cactus Stone, Phoenix, AZ (Sapphire Blue granite, Café Imperial granite, Crystal Mahogany granite, Thailos White marble and Passion Fruit marble); AG&M, Austin, TX (Oklahoma Pink granite, Blue Eyes granite, Absolute Black granite and Lavender Blue granite); Paramount, California (Blue Gauguin granite)
Stone Installer: Stockett Tile & Granite, Co., Phoenix, AZ