Ancient Greek architects were known for their pursuit of precise design and excellent construction. They have become the hallmarks of that time and the techniques for building and design devised 600 years B.C. continue to influence architecture today. It’s no wonder, then, that they continue to influence modern-day architect Nick Tsontakis.
Tsontakis was born on the island of Crete and his award-winning Scottsdale-based firm, Tsontakis Architecture, has designed more than 400 projects in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. It’s interesting to note that ancient Greek architecture is best known for its influence on temples, and Tsontakis has two Greek Orthodox churches and a Greek Orthodox community center in his portfolio.
“I like exciting geometric forms which can produce high aesthetic impact,” says Tsontakis.
Typical to Greek design is raising a building on high ground so that the structure and the effects of light can be viewed from all angles. Nothing describes this casa, Casa 13 to be exact, better than its perch on the north slope of Camelback Mountain.
Countless design decisions were made to accommodate the existing 3,000-sq.-ft. structure and keep the home within the hillside design requirements for the Town of Paradise Valley. In order to maintain a front setback of 25 feet instead of 40, the team had to preserve at least 50-percent of the existing structure, and the decision was made to stretch the house on the site to 6,100-square-feet. Ceiling heights were maximized by adding a mechanical chase on top of the existing roofs, which preserved the flow of light into the home as well as optimizing the amazing views.
“There are a lot of intricate details that went into this, so that we could stay within the hillside guidelines. Another consideration was providing a negative-edge lap pool for our client, who likes to swim every day,” says Tsontakis.
The lower level features an exercise room with maid’s quarters and a cigar deck was added at the base of the raised pool from which the client could enjoy the view of Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain.
“The house was multi-phase because of the site conditions. We had a very easy time discussing the design of the home with the clients, and all agreed that the home would act as the backdrop to the views,” says Tsontakis.
In addition to the home improvements, the clients also purchased new mid-century modern furnishings. To highlight the artwork from their personal collection, interior atriums were designed to act as gallery spaces.
“The ideal client is one who understands and appreciates the importance of good design,” says Tsontakis.
Unique to the home is that most rooms on the north side have fabulous views of Mummy Mountain, the McDowell Mountains, and Pinnacle Peak to the north, Four Peaks and Weaver’s Needle to the east, and Praying Monk on the west. The exterior patios offer shading and protection from the elements without compromising natural light and views throughout the day. Additionally, the hillside elevation offers a breeze all day, making the home comfortable throughout the summer with or without the customized misting system.
When asked about his favorite part of the house, he says, “There are so many things I like about it. I like the patio railings; they’re very simple and transparent. The roofs are floating; they are not one continuous roof but raised in the center.”
He also loves the patio and pool, which were designed around natural elements like existing saguaros and mesquite trees. There are multiple seating areas where the clients can relax outside on three different levels with firepits.
The kitchen features pass-through windows for convenience to the barbecue area. For flooring, Portuguese limestone is paired with walnut flooring in some of the rooms.
“This house is timeless and well-integrated into its site. When you look at it from below, you’ll see it,” he says. How Greek, after all.