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HOMEOWNER - Joan and Mark Temen

HOME SITE - Paradise Valley, Arizona

BUILT - 1997 – June 1999

INTERIOR - 7,300 square feet


BATHS  Seven

HER FAVORITE AT-HOME PASTIME - Cooking and entertaining, a passion supported by a butler's pantry equipped like a galley kitchen

HIS FAVORITE AT-HOME PASTIME - working on projects in his air-conditioned workshop, or sinking putts on the backyard putting green

HOUSE-BUILDING TIP - Make your master-suite closet as large as you can; it's inexpensive space

The Relaxing Backyard

A Uniting Family Room

Paradise Valley, Arizona — Building a house wasn't at all what Joan and Mark Temen had in mind when they first decided to move closer to town. Yet the more they investigated the new-housing market, the more they despaired of ever finding a ready-made house that they liked.

"It just wasn't working," says Joan. "We realized we'd have to make too many compromises. We wanted something unique, a house that reflected our personality, not "the seventh house on the right, the one with geraniums." You find that uniqueness in older neighborhoods, but we wanted something new."

Unless they came across something they really loved, Joan and Mark had no interest in moving. "It's like shoes," explains Joan. "If you don't love them the day you see them, don't buy them." It was at this point that Joan and Mark seriously began to consider building.

Nearby mountains frame the Temens' magnificent estate.
Shop Outdoor Living.


The first step was locating a suitable lot. Though the closer they got to town, the scarcer property became, Joan and Mark nonetheless "found a great parcel of land, just over an acre, with views of the mountains." What's more, it had a north-south exposure ideal for blocking out the strong summer sun from the east and west.

Their next priority was finding an architect. Conducting interviews with several candidates recommended by their interior designer was quite helpful in the selection process. "I really connected with the one we chose," says Joan. "He really picked up on what we wanted. It's important that your architect understand what you want. He did a great job."

Though they'd never built a home, Joan had seen hundreds of houses during her years in real estate, and she knew what she liked. "I didn't want just a bigger tract house. I wanted our home to have a romantic, inviting look," she says. "It's hard to build a new house without having it look new. And when you get into larger homes, they can be so grand that they lose their warmth. The goal here was charm."


By way of additional research, Joan and the architect began driving all over Phoenix and Scottsdale looking at houses. "Maybe I liked the roof on this one, or the feel of that one. I'd just pick out what I liked. You don't really notice the intricacies of a home, the type of roof or the finish on the stucco, until you start building. You have to see a lot of different kinds of roofs and doors and things before you can decide." She admits, however, that "it wasn't any one particular architectural detail that interested me, just the feel of the place. I wanted the house to hug you when you drove up, to come toward you a little bit."

Joan found herself gravitating toward one of the historic districts in Phoenix. "I have always loved the homes there," she says, Spanish villas built in the 1920s. "You'd see a black front door or a red front door, a patio with bougainvillea and tons of flowers. It was kind of fun — not a look you usually get in a new house."

Joan says the look she was striving for was "Santa Barbara but a little more European." Like a true Santa Barbara, the house she wanted would have archways, a balcony over the front door, and differentiated sizes and heights, as if one wing, and then another and another, had been added to the main part of the house. Yet she also dreamed of having French doors in every room at the front of the house opening onto small, cozy patios.

"I didn't want just a bigger tract house. I wanted our home to have a romantic, inviting look."

Nor did she want the interior to be predictable. "As a Realtor," says Joan, "I could walk through most houses blindfolded." Following her lead, the architect arranged the hallways "so that you don't quite know where you're going — a floor plan that flows, yet is full of surprises."

Accordingly, the master suite is at one end of the house, the kids' bedrooms at the other end, and the guest room in "a special little area by itself. That's one reason the house has so many intriguing turns. We knew we wanted a guest room but not where the kids' bedrooms were. It's in a more formal part of the house. You follow this beautiful hallway to the guest room, and it has its own little private patio."

Joan feels their approach of concerning themselves with the feel of the home rather than the particulars worked very well. "People who come here say, 'Your home is large, but it feels so cozy and inviting.'" And that's exactly what she and Mark were striving for. "We wanted this to be a place where people wanted to be."


"It's a tedious job, building a home," says Joan. "I can see why people buy a spec home. You're constantly making decisions." And even then, there are no guarantees.

"You might decide on a certain tile or stone, but then it's discontinued or not available. But you're on a time crunch because your fabricator might be coming in a couple weeks." Yet all in all, she says the process of designing and building their home went very smoothly. "It's nice when you go to all this trouble, and when it's done, you say, it was worth it."

The key, Joan says, is planning. "The payoff is great. Planning is everything. After that, you just watch as you go to see if you missed anything." She and Mark changed the plans very little once they broke ground, she says — maybe just one or two things.

Joan credits their interior designer with smoothing out the planning and decision-making process. "Even though we made most of the decisions, he showed us our options." Take bathroom faucets, for example. "He'd helped with our last house, and he knew the look we wanted, so instead of sorting through two thousand faucets, he narrowed the scope for us."

"It's nice when you go to all this trouble, and when it's done, you say,
it was worth it."

He also gave them the information they needed to make sound decisions. "There were so many little things I had to think about. Did we want stainless steel or porcelain sinks in the kitchen? He said that porcelain cleans up better than stainless steel and doesn't show water marks. We chose porcelain." And though Joan knew she wanted a gas range, the designer advised against gas ovens because they aren't self-cleaning. "I wouldn't have known that," she says. "He was sort of a guide. He kept me focused."

Though Joan felt very confident making decisions about color, she relied on the designer to assist in selecting fixtures and furniture appropriately scaled to the size of the house. "We'd review the plans together, and he'd say we needed a coffee table in the family room that's at least four feet square. ‘Isn't that kind of big?’ I'd ask, and he'd say, ‘No!’ I'd pick out lighting fixtures for the breakfast nook, and he'd say, ‘That's not big enough. It would look like an hors d'oeuvre in that space!’ And when we designed the master bedroom closet, the designer said, ‘Push out the walls — you can't make it too big. It's not expensive space.’"

Above all, she valued his honesty. "When he was looking at something with me, or working with me on how to arrange drapes in the guest room, he'd draw a sketch and label it ‘Ugly’ or ‘Pretty.’ He'd tell me exactly what he thought. That's what I wanted — someone who told me what he thought, whether something would work. It was a good relationship."


Oxblood-red tiles and Brazilian cherry floors set off the white
kitchen cabinetry. Shop Kitchen & Entertaining.

Though atmosphere was important to them, Joan and Mark had no shortage of ideas for making the house a practical place to live on a day-to-day basis. Years of cooking experience and plain common sense gave Joan plenty of inspiration in designing the kitchen. For starters, she installed two sinks in two different locations: one for prep work, one for clean-up. She created a butler's pantry and equipped it with a back-up dishwasher, refrigerator, oven, sink, and plenty of storage.

"It's more like a galley kitchen," she explains. "If Mark and I were having a dinner party, the caterers could stage it from there. It handles the overflow of dishes if we're having a lot of company, and if friends bring things in, they can leave them in the butler's pantry without disturbing the kitchen." Situated between the kitchen and a hallway off the dining room, it's accessed by two swinging doors "so you can push it open with your shoulder if your hands are full."

A second pantry houses small appliances and equipment — "things you want to buy yet wonder, ‘Where am I going to put it?’" Specialty storage includes a gift-wrap center outfitted with deep drawers for storing rolls of gift wrap, spools of ribbon, and "a work surface big enough to wrap. It's so much less stressful to grab what you need without having that disaster of everything falling out."

Joan placed a warming drawer close to the kitchen table "so the kids can come in from their various activities and pull out a warm dinner and put it on the table." She specified "big, deep drawers for pots and pans instead of cabinets where you have to move things around. I just look down and pick out what I want." Shallow cabinets and drawers on either side of the range store vinegar, oil, spices, and other bottled things right there. These ideas came from my experience with cooking. I don't like a lot of things on the countertop — I like to put them away."

Common-sense solutions extend to other areas of the house as well. A series of small cabinets in the master bath hold her hair dryer, curling iron, hair brushes, and other styling tools. "The appliances are all plugged in and ready to go," says Joan. "I got the idea from the hair salon."

"Every room is perfect for whatever it was designed to do. Each is special for different reasons."

The master bedroom closet, which doubles as a large dressing room, has a center island equipped with drawers and built-in hamper, a built-in three way mirror banked by floor-to-ceiling drawers, a place to hang clothes, and an adjoining cedar closet. In all bathrooms, showers and tubs are separated from sinks to keep mirrors from steaming up. The library's full bath and walk-in closet allow quick conversion to a bedroom or nursery. And since "the kids hated the window seats in the old house, we replaced them with sofas covered in cool fun-fabrics."

Joan and Mark put a lot of thought into layout, too. "The way the house is set up, beyond the family room is a door to the billiard-and-game room and a door to the home theater, then another door to the hallway of the kids' wing. When the kids have friends over, they can go to the game room and have some privacy instead of being confined to their rooms. And when they grow up, they can close off their section. The house is laid out very practically for a family."

Creating a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere was equally important in making their home livable. "Every table we can possibly eat at is round," says Joan. "It's more conducive to conversation. And all the furniture is comfortable. Every chair at the dining room table is an armchair — people sit there for hours. The living room is a nice quiet place to sit by the fireplace and read the paper or play the piano. There's a pretty sitting area in our bedroom with a beautiful fireplace and a patio with a fountain we enjoy listening to."

Recently Joan asked Mark, "What's your favorite room?" "Every room," he replied. "Every room is perfect for whatever it was designed to do. Each is special for different reasons. It depends on what we're doing, what mood we're in. We actually use all the rooms, and with music piped throughout the house, and even outside, we enjoy being everywhere."

"Home should be a retreat," concludes Joan, "a place where you feel happy and comfortable. We love our house."

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