A pair of Connecticut snowbirds decided to call Arizona home year-round, and they had their sights set on the Scottsdale/Phoenix area,  a locale they loved and had visited for years. The couple had never given much thought to Tucson or its nearby communities, but when an acquaintance mentioned Oro Valley, a suburban town just northwest of Tucson—and voted one of the “most playful towns in America”— they were curious enough to make a visit.  As it turned out, the little community had all of the amenities they were looking for.  Among their priorities were nearby trails  for MecklerPhoto-master-bath_Fhiking and convenient opportunities for golf.  Both requirements were easily met in Oro Valley; it’s nestled in the foothills of the Catalina and Tortolita Mountain ranges, perfect for hiking excursions and other outdoor activities. Also situated at the base of the picturesque ranges is the jaw-dropping Stone Canyon Club, a luxurious, private, residential enclave whose celebrated links were rated one of America’s Greatest Golf Courses by Golf Digest in 2014.  The hiking shoes and golf bags were packed. They had found their desert Shangri-La…

The couple purchased a lot near the 10th fairway in the Stone Canyon Club, and the adventure of designing their future home began. To ease the transition from east to west, the couple moved into a smaller home just a block away from the gated community.  It proved to be a wise decision. Unrushed, they immersed themselves in their new territory, leisurely considering the important architectural and decorating choices that would define their retirement living style. Before settling in Connecticut and its colonial milieu, both husband and wife were originally from the Midwest.  The fun and challenge for the couple soon became that of embracing the desert style and southwest ambiance.  A team of professionals was gathered to assist: Native American architect, Allen Tafoya, interior designer Christy Martin, and builder Dan Couturier.  All would be instrumental in creating the new environment.

A desert appropriate, Santa Fe [style] architectural design was selected, both for a historical feel, and aesthetic beauty. Meticulous placement on the site ensured visibility of both the sunrises and sunsets. With Oro Valley’s average high temperature a pleasant 83.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low 53.8, degrees,  outdoor living spaces were a must.

Thick walls with deeply recessed windows were built to replicate the look of authentic adobe. Tafoya’s design for the exterior walls included soft, rounded corners, with the look and shape of  “melted butter.”  Inside, flat white paint was used on smooth-finish drywall to evoke the simple, serene walls of an old mission, or a spare and tranquil art gallery.  Corners and archways were hand formed.  Both interior and exterior beams and corbels were hand-adzed.  An adze is an ancient type of edge tool (dating back to the Stone Age), used to smooth or carve wood. In this case, the wood was scalloped to render a hand-peeled, Old World look. Builder Couturier, whose carpenter happens to own his own adze, facilitated this not-often-utilized technique.  The custom feature was not lost on the home’s owners; the husband has been a woodworker since childhood and had a unique appreciation for the process.  In fact, a  woodworking studio was a prerequisite of the initial dwelling design. (His artistic and innovative pieces can be found throughout the home, ranging from a lazy Susan in the kitchen to a repurposed Burmese cabinet once used to store monks’ robes, and now used as a wet bar.)

egarding furnishings, designer Martin guided on the owners’ wish for a minimum of clutter and a maximum of storage. Less became more with a simple, elegant, almost-airy approach. Sumptuous fabrics in rich, earth tones balance the pristine, white walls. Traditional nail head trim offsets the elegant fabric   of a headboard, or the creamy upholstery of a wing back chair. Subtle but intricately carved antiques, selected for patina and provenance, reside amicably with beautifully constructed custom pieces. Whether vintage or modern, all the furniture is reminiscent of a romantic colonial past, evoking a timeless quality that belies the newness of their surroundings. Here, function courts beauty without missing a beat. An elegant dining table, for example,  separates neatly into two forty-eight [inch] square card tables. Gathered around are sleek and sensual leather-backed dining chairs, which easily reconfigure for poker or bridge.  Above,  a tangle of branches forms a stylish chandelier that looks straight out of the woods.

Unlike some new construction, this Santa Fe-style retreat exudes a rich, ageless personality often absent in modern homes, where too much trendy detail is added and the various elements end up clashing or losing their panache. Here, serene white walls cool the desert vistas, while artful accents and romantic furnishing create a storied yet comfortable elegance anyone would love to come home to.


Photography by Steven Meckler

ARCHITECT: Allen Tafoya

Tafoya Associated Architects

(480) 488-6581


Studio Encanto


BUILDER: Dan Couturier

Madison Couturier Custom Homes