In Phoenix, Jeff Berghoff and Mark Candelaria craft a Modernist jewel box on a tight lot.
On a leafy street in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, a rustic wood door serves as a portal to a secret world—an airy, minimalist, light-filled house that embraces a carefully plotted landscape, shaded by sycamore trees and given structure through cactus and agaves.
This new, two-story, 4,000-square-foot house is the latest collaboration between Scottsdale, Arizona architect Mark Candelaria and Phoenix landscape designer Jeff Berghoff, who are both well-known for creating lux estate homes and gardens that are detailed homages to traditional and European designs. This project was a chance for them to flex their Modernists muscles—on a tight urban-suburban lot.
The clients are a couple with two children, Candelaria explains.
“Their previous home was more of a traditional cottage style,” he notes. “They wanted something different, something modern, simple and desert-centric.”
The site they chose was a relatively small property—less than a quarter acre—occupied by an old house that was demolished, and set between two streets. For Candelaria and Berghoff, getting all of the clients’ programming needs, which included two garages, a pool, outdoor patios and a generous stretch of lawn, was like putting together a puzzle.
“The integration of the house and the landscape was important,” Candelaria says, “so we actually cut out pieces of cardboard for the house and its rooms, the garages, pool and the patios, then moved them around a site plan to make it all work. It was actually a pretty fast process.”
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The design team placed two garages toward the quieter residential street, providing privacy, and connected the two small structures with a portal that opens up onto the front garden. The T-shaped house was pushed back on the lot, closer to the busier street on the opposite side, leaving enough room along the sides for a metal canopy-covered outdoor dining and grill area, as well as a pool.
Working with builder Vista General, Candelaria designed the home to have steeply pitched, dark-hued roof forms, smooth gray stucco walls and glass walls that open onto garden spaces or frame landscape views.
“This is a modern farmhouse without being a farmhouse,” Candelaria quips, “and it was all designed to engage with the garden.”
Berghoff worked his magic on the site, connecting the street-side entry to the front door with a series of white concrete pavers, a pathway interspersed with rubble stone-filled gaps. A steel-edged lawn cools the setting, but is rimmed with native grasses, cactus and agaves. An outdoor fireplace, crafted of lime-washed slump block, echoes the neighborhood’s original building materials and doubles as a wall along one side of the garden. Slump block was also used as the back wall, with a bit of space behind for citrus trees, creating a barrier to the sounds of the busier street at the far side of the property. The pool, tucked into a corner, was surfaced with a mother-of-pearl-style tile for a bit of sparkle.
“I planted the sycamores around the house for verticality to match the height of the house,” Berghoff says. “When you’re on the second floor, looking out from the bedrooms, you feel like you’re in a treehouse.” Another Berghoff touch was using pea gravel to cover the roof of the canopy that provides shade for the grill and outdoor dining space. “You can see that roof from upstairs,” he says. “I wanted it to look finished.”
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Inside, the house is pared down and simple. A sculptural staircase anchors the entry and is visible through the glass walls at the front door and the second-floor landing. Pale wood floors underscore the furnishings, a mix of modern and traditional. The owners, who had worked with Scottsdale interior designer David Michael Miller on their previous house, brought some of their antiques and traditional pieces to the new setting and wove in furniture that speaks of modern design.
In the great room, a streamlined Florence Knoll sofa shares space with a tufted leather ottoman and an heirloom grand piano, while a flock of Eames molded fiberglass chairs surround the wood dining table. For the TV room, the owners added Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chaise and a Saarinen Womb Chair to mingle with a curvaceous traditional settee. Even with light-grabbing windows, the home has plenty of wall space for modern art and a photography collection, which includes an image shot by Berghoff, an avid photographer.
Recently completed, the house allows the family to live outdoors as much as in, without sacrificing privacy in the tightly knit neighborhood. It also contains all the bells and whistles of an estate, in a small jewel box. Pointing to a local nearby landmark, Berghoff says, “Look, you can even see Camelback Mountain from the house.”