Four a young Phoenix couple with a honed vision of their dream house, finding the right architect was paramount to fulfilling their passion for modern. “A friend of mine saw a fantastic house in masonry and steel, which was under construction in Paradise Valley, so we went to see it,” says the homeowner.“It was beautiful, but as we were leaving, we saw a family arriving and I thought, ‘Uh-oh.’” Fortunately, it was Thamarit Suchart and his wife Patricia Chen Suchart, the Harvard-trained architects whose Scottsdale firm, Chen + Suchart Studio, was responsible for the residence. “From there, I begged them to take on our project,” says the homeowner. The homeowners had acquired their property, a wedge-shaped lot with a drop-dead view of Camelback Mountain, in Phoenix’s Marion Estates.
Though the neighborhood was typical 1950s, the man of the house had something more contemporary in mind. “We love modern,” he says. “I have a huge appreciation of concrete, steel and glass,” and with his background in concrete and masonry, he was determined to make it happen.
As for Suchart and Chen Suchart, the property presented some interesting challenges: The unusual lot was perched upon a hill with a difficult drop, and views had to be visible from every room. Luckily, the project’s collaborative element also ensured that some of the more trying obstacles were also the most satisfying once complete.
“The clients were wonderful to work with,” says Suchart. “They were not only open to our ideas and very trusting, but they were also willing to execute them to the highest degree, even though they had never done anything like this before. During the building process, we worked with them on a daily basis to ease any fears they had about this type of construction, which demands an extremely high level of precision; nothing gets covered up, and there are no second chances.”
Accessing the site for construction, however, was no easy task for the team at Phoenix’s Creative Concrete & Masonry: Hand-digging and installing enormous sliders to pump concrete in, and then coaxing it to span and cantilever out just right, were daily hurdles that the architects and builder conquered together. The result is an expansive home that is composed of two volumes connected by an entry space. The larger space holds the main, public rooms and is clad in actively weathering steel—a particular alloy that inhibits corrosion, allowing it to slowly patina over time to an earthy brown/orange/purple. The smaller volume, constructed of utilitarian concrete blocks that were sandblasted to expose some of the colorful aggregate, contains the master suite and office.
Contrasts like these—some dramatic, some subtle—impart dynamism into the property, the most profound being that of exterior versus interior. “The exterior has more raw, industrial materials—a big difference from the inside, which is polished and refined, but they play off each other,” says Suchart.
And because it’s all about the view, frameless windows, which disappear into pockets, create an immediate indoor/outdoor experience. “Today’s lifestyle is more about eating and entertaining all in one place,” says Suchart. “We kept the main areas as open as possible for undisturbed panoramas of Camelback Mountain.” The large living space, paved in a custom-colored matrix terrazzo, has a cool palette with calm accents that help to delineate dining, living room and kitchen functions. Halogen lights recessed in a void in the ceiling signal the entertainment area; the acrylic spheres over the dining table define that area and create a little tension with the rectangular room. In the kitchen, the architects opted for task fixtures with a lot of brightness to accentuate the linearity of the island.
The couple now loves to host gatherings in their new home. Even quiet meals together have become a quaint pause for celebration. “Imagine having breakfast overlooking the mountains,” says Suchart. “Because of all the planning that went into the project, the owners can enjoy a multitude of experiences.” With the pool steps away, the gym down the stairs and the constant companionship of the views, the concrete may be set, but the life they live is fluid.