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Anita Lang and Swaback Associates Blur the Lines Between City and Desert Modern Home Design

photography by KARYN MILLET

modern master bedroom by IMI Design
Interior designer Anita Lang and Swaback Associates bring us a beautiful and modern home design with a custom estate that seamlessly blends the indoors and outdoors.

Hiring the right interior design firm and architect is an important decision, especially when so many different elements of modern home design need to harmonize. The exteriors should blend in with the region’s distinctive geographical elements. The interiors of the home need to flow into the structure’s architectural lines while serving the lifestyle of its occupants. For those who pursue a customized home or remodel, there are many options to consider, from the right building materials to the exchange of ideas between specialized modern home design professionals.

It’s best to invest in talent—interior and exterior design professionals—who can truly take your preferences and desires and translate them into something even more elevated.

modern great room design by Swaback Associates

Scottsdale-based interior designer Anita Lang feels the creation of the perfect home works out best when it’s a team effort. For one of her latest projects, commissioned by a Paradise Valley couple, she joined forces with architect, John E. Sather and Swaback Associates, who share her desire to create a seamless flow between indoors and outdoors.

“Honestly, I think it’s best to invest in talent—interior and exterior design professionals—who can truly take your preferences and desires and translate them into something even more elevated than what you had in mind when you started planning your remodel or new construction,” Lang said.

“The end result is that you will be delighted to see exactly what you wanted, or something that transcends it. Something you didn’t even know could exist. This is why creatives create better when they work well together.”

modern styled home design by Swaback Associates

When Lang collaborated with Swaback Associates, they decided the home holistically needed to become one with the staggeringly steep hillside site. The dramatic visual impact had to perfectly fit the individual and collective personalities of the couple. She added that, as the couple expressed different tastes and sensibilities during discussions about the project, they had to achieve “a kind of oneness” to go beyond the balance of nature and man-made beauty in this modern home design project.

“I went with simple lines, clean composition and texture to marry the couple’s tastes. I believe everybody should view one’s home modern interior design process as a curation of meaningful items that speak to us and have intrinsic design quality. These items turn into a collection throughout life and reflect our journey, making a space much more interesting than many ‘cookie cutter’ or mass-produced rooms,” Lang said.

“To accommodate the personalizations, simplicity is often an important element in classic modern design. While thoughtful detail, such as the finishing touches to the fireplace elements, is important, my job is to know when to edit and advise clients accordingly. This, I believe, is often a skill learned as a designer becomes more experienced and seasoned—not to chase every flashy new Pinterest post.”

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modern desert luxury home design by Swaback Associates

Sather, for his part, collaborated with modern home builder Tom Fisher to execute the complex terraced design plans. As the project moved forward, Fisher found that his biggest challenge in constructing the multilevel home was working with a paucity of staging space for building materials. The result was a long, low structure of silver travertine stone and powder-coated steel. Sather described the final design (achieved with colleague Brent Harris) as a “yin-yang concept,” with one face of the building overlooking Phoenix and the other revealing the desert panorama.

Looking for common ground was part of the modern home design process. While husband and wife both love to cook, for example, she prefers inside, and he prefers outside. The solution? Two fully functioning kitchens, one indoors and one outdoors.

“Team meetings and collaboration, brainstorming together on forms, materials and general design philosophy, and then building from each other’s input results in the best hybrid solutions with a harmonious flow. In our region, there is so much outdoor living in our premiere season,” Lang said.

modern home design by IMI Design

“Therefore, when creating indoor-outdoor connections to join spaces, it was important in this project to use congruous materials that are seamless, such as wall cladding and flooring. Exterior furniture selections should blend into interiors, especially with the luxurious new offerings in developed textiles and materials. I always tell my clients to avoid trends and follow good design principles.”

Even when those requirements are met, Lang admitted that coming up with a modern home interior aesthetic for this project that appealed to both owners was tricky, as the husband wanted a minimalist look, while the wife preferred a warmer, cozier ambiance. She also acknowledged that the furniture from the couple’s previous house was too bulky to suit the modern design of their new home. To remedy this, Lang created a number of custom designed pieces, including an almost triangular walnut table that fills the dining area and can accommodate a small group of guests.

modern entry desert home by IMI Design

“We used lots of steel but mixed it with copper and walnut for warmth. Warm tones blend with cool ones in the porcelain flooring with a concrete feel that flows throughout the main living spaces and the master bedroom,” she said. “Warm walnut, which appeals to the wife, makes up the walls in the dining room and kitchen, while clean architectural lines take into account the husband’s love of modernism.

Stone walls throughout add an earthy, indigenous feel, and the white-painted elements of the kitchen cabinetry create a cheerful tone. Throughout the home, I used white and creams to offset the desert-esque textures and keep the environment fresh and airy.”

Lang then detailed that, throughout the process, she inventoried the homeowner’s collection and figured out how to place some of the more unusual art pieces during the construction process to still have a modern styled home.

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art details and home design by IMI Design

“As the client’s journey also includes this collection of art and very singular meaningful pieces, such as a family wooden carousel horse, I created a specific composition to bring it to scale in the large staircase and also an interesting found object I turned into the ‘sofa’ table,” she said. “I hung abstract work by Robin Branham near the living area fireplace and a landscape by Louisa McElwain behind a sofa near the bar.”

Another shared objective among the clients, Lang and the architects was to take occupants and guests “on a journey,” through unexpected features woven into the interiors and exteriors. Some of the most striking features of this modern home design include a private outdoor courtyard with a copper bathtub, a lower-level wine room and a powder room with a live-edge walnut-slab countertop and a copper pedestal that doubles as a backsplash.

I also ensured that the interior design related to the home’s architecture. I reinterpreted the graphic, midcentury vibe of John’s entrance gate in the front door, with its pane decorated with metal ornamentation.

modern master bathroom home design by IMI Design

The master bedroom is built around a low-slung platform bed placed near a steel-wrapped fireplace and adjoins a master bathroom with a large soaking tub that Lang said plays with the negative space. The platform that holds the tub continues into the glass-walled shower, where it serves as a bench. The home is full of a plethora of strategic and creative choices that create an overall beautiful and modern home design.

“I always consider the surrounding environment, so I emphasized that this home’s design was appropriate for the desert vernacular. I also ensured that the interior design related to the home’s architecture. I reinterpreted the graphic, midcentury vibe of John’s entrance gate in the front door, with its pane decorated with metal ornamentation,” Lang said.

“We wanted to reference the gate and the material of the house while allowing in daylight. This and other things we did prove that good design is problem solving. It’s one big puzzle of client preferences, integrity and structural and functional issues.”

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