Modern Italian House Architecture and Desert Design

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Desert + Italian House Architecture


Desert architecture and modern landscape Arizona
Desert architecture inspired by the charm of Italian countryside makes for a modern residential project overlooking a golf course of all things.

When a couple purchased a three-acre desert lot overlooking a golf course in Scottsdale, Arizona, they knew they wanted to build a comfortable home inspired by desert architecture—one that reminded them of rambling old villages in the Italian countryside. To achieve their vision of Italian architecture, they turned to architects Lee Hutchison, AIA, and Jessica Hutchison-Rough, AIA, partners in Scottsdale’s Urban Design Associates Ltd., a firm known for its contemporary interpretation of historic architectural styles, as well as its modern residential design work.

outdoor living desert architecture Arizona

“They wanted a house that looked like it had been built and added on to for generations,” explains Hutchison-Rough. “The owners also specified that they needed space for entertaining and a game room for some pool antiques they had collected over the years.” Collaborating with builder Randy R. Arnett-Romero of R-Net Custom Homes and interior designer Paula Den Boer of Ashley P. Designs, Hutchison and Hutchison-Rough developed a 6,000-square-foot plan for the house that incorporates seamless indoor and outdoor spaces for entertaining and takes advantage of the site’s city and desert views with a nod to modern Italian home styles.

“They wanted a house that looked like it had been built and added on to for generations."

modern desert landscape residential

“About half of the lot is unbuildable because it is bisected by a desert wash,” says Hutchison. “To capture the views, we excavated the property to lower the three-car garage and placed the game room, office and a balcony above. This gave us a ‘split level’ that was still within the development’s height restrictions.”

modern italian architecture courtyard

In plan, a gated entry courtyard leads to the home’s front door. The foyer opens up to the great room and bar; to one side is a music room designed to showcase the wife’s grand piano. The kitchen, dining room, game room and office (accessible from the garage below via elevator) are on one side of the central core, while the master suite and two guest bedrooms make up another wing.

modern italian architecture resident

Working with a palette of hand-selected native Arizona stone, mottled ochre stucco, clay roof tiles and terra cotta details, the architects designed an exterior elevation of varying heights and setbacks, creating the appearance that the house had been expanded over time. Different chimney details, roof configurations, arches and lintels add to the effect of a building that evolved and changed.

The architects also cast their eyes upwards, detailing the ceiling in the game room with hand-hewn timbers and dark fir planking.

italian architecture in the desert Arizona

The stone detailing was carried through inside, used to create a rustic look for walls and fireplaces that was juxtaposed with expanses of smooth Venetian walls. Flagstone and French oak flooring were used throughout the interior, adding a warm touch. The architects also cast their eyes upwards, detailing the ceiling in the game room with hand-hewn timbers and dark fir planking, interspersing the beams above the kitchen with reversed Saltillo tile and using plaster on the great room’s series of barrel vaults. Other interior touches include custom alder cabinetry, niches for art and displays, and wrought iron railings for the game room and music room—which was raised two steps above the foyer and great room.

italian design modern kitchen

When it came to furnishings and accessories for an Italian house architecture look, interior designer Den Boer took her cues from the architecture and the clients’ desire for comfort. “The owners wanted the look to flow from outside to in,” says Den Boer. “They also wanted a comfortable, aged look for the interior—nothing shiny and new.”

The interior designer combined the owners’ existing pieces, such as a carved wood coffee table and leather sofas, with a simple area rug to create a cozy seating area in the great room. In the adjoining dining room, she illuminated a custom carved wood dining table and over-scale chairs with a spiral iron chandelier. For the “hearth room,” a small nook next to the kitchen, Den Boer suggested two inviting armchairs and an ottoman so the owners could relax as they enjoyed the room’s raised hearth and television.


desert architecture in Scottsdale

The game room was designed around the refurbished antique pool table, which takes center stage in the space. The interior designer had a custom Tiffany-style billiard light suspended above the table and placed an antique pool cue cabinet in a niche. While the interior color scheme is largely neutral—drawn from the colors of the home’s stone and wood—Den Boer did add a few touches of color. “We took the vibrant colors from the owners’ artwork,” she explains, “and we incorporated splashes of color in the fabrics, like the accessory pillows, and in the decorative tile.”

italian architecture in outdoor living

Outdoors, several covered patios and a ramada provide places to relax, gather and dine with views. A freeform pool and spa, outdoor kitchen, fire pit and putting green are other amenities that draw the owners outside. Recently completed, the rustic home is comfortable for both the owners and their party guests, filled with cozy spaces as well as spacious spots for entertaining. Accompanied by a glass of Super Tuscan, its Italy house style-village ambiance is quite readily apparent.

The Team


Lee Hutchison
Jessica Hutchison-Rough
Urban Design Associates


Randy R. Arnett-Romero
R-Net Custom Homes


Paula Den Boer
Ashley P. Designs

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