t started as a minor remodel–just the addition of a pool-house bathroom and the redesign of the living room of a Scottsdale residence. But after seeing the unfolding vision of interior designers John G. Martin and David P. Turner, the homeowners “handed me the creative wand,” Martin says. Things took off from there. “My husband threw in the office,” recalls the wife, “and I added a bathroom.” Soon the renovation of the entire 5,000-square-foot getaway was well underway.
The clients, a Chicago-based couple looking to unwind, acquired the property just two years after it was built. “The architecture was beautiful, but the house came fully furnished, and it wasn’t to my taste,” the wife says, recalling the mustard yellow faux-finished walls, heavy brown leather and a surfeit of architectural ornamentation.
The couple’s design brief was simple: “They wanted clean lines and a more open, contemporary look,” Martin says. The wife, who studied architecture and design in college, raised the bar with her request for vivid color. “I know John tends toward a neutral palette,” she says, “and I definitely challenged him with brightening things up.” Known for his use of black and white, Martin confesses, “I had no idea where the color would come from at that point, but then it hit me–artworks would be the color.” Did the homeowners’ nonexistent art collection phase him?
Not one bit. An artist himself, whose work can often be found in his clients’ interiors, he curated a custom collection of pieces with intense paint-box hues that pop against the home’s foundational color theme of gray, white and black.
To prime his canvas, so to speak, Martin painted every room a soft matte white and exchanged the residence’s Tuscan-style fixtures for custom lighting with simple geometry, such as the contemporary metal-and-organza chandelier in the living room. “I knew I’d have to bridge several styles in this home,” he says. The existing flooring–taupe travertine and dark-stained walnut–was already a nice neutral shade to showcase the unexpected accents he had in mind, such as century-old cactus skeletons for the entryway arches. “I bought them from an antique dealer in San Francisco, of all places,” the interior designer says with a laugh. “I guess you could say they’ve returned to their native land.”
Nearby, earth tones prevail in the spacious living room, which Martin layered with a muted flokati rug, swivel armchairs in granite-colored linen and a low-slung sofa in white cotton that lends intimacy to the space’s grand proportions. On both sides of the fireplace, now framed by a simplified archway, paintings appear to float on smokygray mirror glass. “We didn’t see the art until the big reveal,” the wife says, “and when we walked in, it was spectacular.” The room also contains many furnishings of Martin’s own design, including leather stools and a sleek oak-and-steel bar cabinet that replaces a traditional corner bar. “It doesn’t scream ‘bar’ now,” Martin says, adding that it cues up the mix of warm wood and metal in the open kitchen.
The kitchen might be the most luxurious room in the house, according to Martin. He kept the space’s original layout but changed every surface and appliance with the help of general contractor John Malone. The wife marvels at Martin’s strategy. “John’s amazing, because he doesn’t have to rip everything out to make a statement,” she says. For example, the interior designer created strong focal points by choosing glossy black tile for the backsplash and painting sections of existing off-white cabinetry a luscious shade of black. On the cooktop and cabinet above the sink, a rough-hewn teak ladder from Bali finds new life as decorative trim–a typical Martin touch.
Bold black-and-white contrast continues in the master suite with one of several abstract canvases Martin commissioned from artist David Dauncey. “I wanted it to evoke a modern Native American blanket motif,” he says, explaining the piece subtly honors the home’s southwest surroundings. He also cleverly sliced an antique Chinese game table in half to create nightstands–“They fit perfectly,” he declares–and made the centerpiece of the master bathroom a theatrical backlit screen made of antique air vents from India.
Equally important were the changes to the exterior spaces, such as the striking desert garden envisioned by landscape designer Jared Morris and later enhanced by landscape designer Chad Norris. Outdoor features include a custom fire pit by the interior designers, stonework around the pool and a chic pool-house bathroom–the original request that launched the renovation. Altogether, the adjustments have made the house an idyll of indoor-outdoor entertaining. “We’ve been living with the new design for a while now,” the wife says, “and every day I still notice something new.”
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