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Modern Family | A Magnificent Scottsdale Home Nestled in the Desert

Photography by JESSE FITTON SMITH

Saguaro Grove

A family home takes root in the midst of North Scottsdale’s Saguaro cactus-filled desert.

In North Scottsdale, a modern desert ranch house was newly crafted to be both an elegant abode for entertaining and a practical, kid-proof residence for a couple with three young boys. But before the organic and stylish home could be conceived and built, several dozen desert “giants” had to be accommodated.

“This house sits on five acres,” says builder Brad Leavitt, founder of AFT Construction, who spearheaded the project. “It was filled with about 30 saguaros, which are protected by Arizona law. We had to tag and move them before we could clear a building site.”  

Leavitt moved the Carnegiea giganteas—which can grow to be 50 feet tall and up to nine tons in weight—and dubbed the home “Saguaro Grove” in their honor. Working with the couple to design and build their dream home, Leavitt put together a team that included architect Cory Wiebers, interior designer Kristen Forgione and landscape designer David Creech to hammer out a plan and forge a style.

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“This house sits on five acres,” says builder Brad Leavitt, founder of AFT Construction, who spearheaded the project. “It was filled with about 30 saguaros, which are protected by Arizona law. We had to tag and move them before we could clear a building site.”  

“The initial big question was, what is the perfect family house?” explains architect Wiebers, who bonded with the clients over the fact that he, too, had young children. “That drove the floor plan, and, in turn, the whole house.”

He came up with an 8,200-square-foot plan centered upon the U-shaped main house, with a owners’  suite to one side of the great room, kitchen and dining room; and a three-bedroom boys’ wing on the other side. A separate guest casita, which doubles as a home office, is attached to the main house via the porte cochére.

“While the great room and dining area are more formal, we included many family-friendly touches in the house,” says Wiebers. “There’s a family room that separates the boys’ wing from the rest of the house, a big drop zone off the garage that has five big lockers and a bench for everyone’s stuff, and a big laundry and craft room with windows that have views of the desert mountains.”

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Even the family Fido was considered—a dog room has food storage, washing facilities and access to a fenced-in dog run.

In elevation, the home makes a nod to the neighborhood vernacular with its smooth-plastered, sand-colored walls, double-pitched cement tile and standing-seam metal roofs, stone accents and corbel details. Inside the front courtyard, a steel-framed glass door makes for a dramatic entry element, while in back, deep roof overhangs shade the glass expanses of the home, which open up to the pool patio.

“The house was built with wood and steel beams to create all the open space,” explains builder Leavitt, who worked with his company team members Paul Lundgren and Susan Cenatiempo on the home. “We have many volumes with vaulted ceilings, clerestory windows and sliding glass walls that bring the outdoors in.” 

Saguaro Grove Scottsdale

Inside, Leavitt points out a background palette that includes whitewashed textured stone and brick accent walls, white oak flooring, tile, marble and natural wood custom cabinetry that is transitional in style. 

Interior designer Forgione and her team played off the architecture’s neutral tones and traditional-meets-modern design with a cool, earth-toned palette and comfortable furnishings upholstered in kid- and dog-proof fabrics. Wood and copper pieces add organic touches throughout. Contemporary art and super-graphics—including one in the boys’ wing that reminds them to “Work Hard + Be Nice to Your Brothers—add a finishing polish to the interior.

Saguaro Grove

Outdoors, most of the saguaros and other larger desert plants and trees were replanted, and landscape designer Creech created a modern planting scheme closer to the house in front and softened the pool patio and ramada with beds filled with other arid-region plantings and cactus. While the pool, with its generous baja shelf, and spa, are just outside the back of the home, the sloping site was terraced to include a large lawn area and a basketball court below the house. 

Completed in 2021, the house has become a comfortable home for its occupants and blends happily into the surrounding community. “The great thing about this house is how it’s filled with natural light,” says Wiebers, “and how it connects to the outdoors. You can see for miles through the windows and from the patios.”

And, adds Leavitt, “The saguaros are still there.”

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