he architecture made for an amazing backdrop,” interior designer Laura Kehoe says of the Paradise Valley, Arizona, home she recently remodeled for a couple moving from the East Coast. “We were essentially just creating an extension of what was already there.” She may make it sound easy, but the project required a skilled approach to gathering furnishings that reflected her clients’ aesthetic while taking them in a new direction palette-wise, with neutrals that wouldn’t compete with the gravitas of the architecture.
The house, built several years earlier by residential designer Gary Wyant, “was designed as a European-style retreat,” he says, adding that the original owners’ focus had been on entertaining. To that end, Wyant conceived an open floor plan that flowed easily to expansive patios and a serene garden created by landscape designer Jeff Berghoff. “The pocket doors, breaking the barrier between indoor and outdoor living, were a must for us,” afirms the wife. Adds the husband, “We knew upon the first viewing that the level of this home’s quality made it incomparable.”
The architectural proportions–large rooms, high ceilings–were the most critical factor in Kehoe’s design. “We had to get the scale right,” she explains. “It’s a pretty formal home, and I didn’t want to take away from that, but it needed to be livable. I wanted the furnishings to work with the architecture, not overpower it, so I toned them down with neutrals.” The couple’s previous house was a colorful Spanish adobe–“the polar opposite of this one,” says Kehoe–so they agreed to jettison their existing furnishings, including a hot-pink sofa, and follow the designer’s lead. “Bright colors wouldn’t have matched the sophistication of this grand house. We stuck with neutrals as a basis, adding reds and blues–classic American colors–because that felt appropriate.”
Since the couple was based on the East Coast and not available for frequent in-person meetings, Kehoe came up with turnkey options that helped them make decisions quickly. She started by repainting the rooms and adding new lighting and mirrors. When it came to the furnishings, she says, “I shopped independently and found great items locally, like the wood bench in the living room.” Ample wood pieces were used to create warmth throughout. “After we chose all the main pieces, we went back through to see what was missing and then layered in all the accessories.” The designer also opted for unfussy window treatments, explaining, “Traditional homes here are going cleaner now. It’s not about heavy, ornate fabrics anymore.”
Kehoe also encouraged the homeowners to showcase their personal interests through the design. They’re a horse-riding family, and, notes the wife, “We’d found the Drew Doggett Sable Island wild horse photographs we wanted to incorporate. We weren’t entirely certain where or how to do so. Laura worked that out for us, then suggested other ways to tie aÂ subtle equestrian theme into the great room space.” Leather chairs, nail-head trim and woven blankets lendÂ a subtle feeling of the Old West and infuse spaces with a sense of ease. “We wanted a home that felt cozy–with ourselves, our dog and our guests free to sit or lounge anywhere,” remarks the husband.
In a spacious guest bedroom, Kehoe again focused on scale. “It’s a long, rectangular room and we could ft a lot in,” she says. A pair of queen beds fill out the space while leaving plenty of room for pretty upholstered end benches and a leather club chair. While the prevailing palette here is neutral, through a coral and salmon carpet, Kehoe says, “We were able to get in a little of the wife’s favorite pink.”
Just outside the French doors is an enclosed patio with a table and chairs. “I love that there are private little areas all around the house,” Kehoe says. “The outdoor areas are charming. And the back patio, with its dining table and seating area by the fireplace, the pool and the outdoor kitchen, and those views of Camelback Mountain, is perfect for hosting holidays.”
“Laura achieved a rare combination of elegance and livability,” observes the wife. “She’s adept at listening and responded to the ethos we described wanting for our home. She has a wonderful designer’s eye–with wonderful ears to match.” With everything now pulled together, the husband adds, “We’re looking forward to making the house feel ‘lived in’ by actually doing so.
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