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HOMEOWNERS - Debra Smith and Don Loeb

ACQUIRED - Built in 1996, remodeled in 2000, purchased by Debra and Don in 2002

STYLE - Reminiscent of the Tuscan region of Italy

HOME SITE - Two-acre lot in a small community built within an orange grove

LIVING SPACE - Nearly 6,000 sq. ft. on three floors

AMENITIES OF THE HOME - Two pools, customized storage rooms, and a hidden panic room

CUSTOMER QUOTATION - "When I think of Frontgate, I think crisp, clean, upscale things that help with organization and fit any style of decor." — Debra Smith
The Master Bedroom

The Master Bathroom

Specially Designed Bedroom

MESA, ARIZONA — "Some people might be surprised to hear that a couple without children were in the market for a house with a minimum of 5,000 square feet. But we were," say Debra Smith and Don Loeb. "We're both collectors, and we were both single. We each had accumulated a lot of things, and we each had our own lifestyle.

"As we drove into the area and I saw this house, I knew it was the one for us."

"So when it came time for us to buy a new home together, we knew we wanted not only lots of room for the way we like to live, but we also wanted particular kinds of spaces for the things we collect."

It was early in their search when Debra saw the house that was to become their home. Within the beautiful and sparse desert terrain of the Phoenix-Tempe area, she was attracted to the small, verdant Spy Glass community of homes that had been built among the trees of a working orange grove. "As we drove into the area and I saw this house, I knew it was the one for us."

Fortunately for the couple, Don felt the same way. "We both agreed that there was something almost fairy-tale like about the house."


"The columns in the courtyard give it the feeling of those wonderful, old Roman baths where people would go to relax and enjoy the waters."
Shop Outdoor Living.

For Debra, it was the oversized, copper-tooled front doors that first caught her attention. "The house has so much character, but what immediately drew me in were the front doors. They remind me of a Renaissance ad I did for Anais," says the former Vogue model with a smile.

For Don, the drawing card was the guesthouse that is attached to the main house by a vine-covered arched portico. He could easily envision making the small house into the additional, private office he had always wanted for his law practice. The decision to buy was an easy one.

They soon learned, however, that the architect and contractor who owned the house had changed their minds and decided not to sell. Debra and Don therefore spent the following year looking at a total of 31 other houses, but they kept coming back to the 6,000 square-foot Tuscan they considered their "fairy tale house."


The ceiling in the kitchen rises to three different heights, creating an open space that Debra calls her "favorite feel-good room."
Shop Kitchen & Entertaining.

It had become for them the standard against which they measured every other house, so they decided to wait and see if the owners would change their minds again, and Debra and Don could get the house they really wanted. "Our patience was rewarded. When we finally got the house, we began the process of making it our own. It was a dream house for us; but it had been built to house a large family, and we wanted to adapt it to suit our own specific needs."

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Debra and Don agreed that the main floor of the house would be their space together, the lower level was reserved for Debra's use, and the upper story would house an office for Don along with rooms for guests. The adaptations took six months to complete. In addition to the renovations and the furniture they had made for their new home, there was the matter of decorating.

"I didn't want there to be one overall style of décor in our home. We wanted the living room, dining room, family room, and each of the other rooms to have its own flavor, its own décor. Nothing overpowering or too defined, even though the style of the house itself is Italian."

They therefore decided to use neutral tones on the walls and floors, which enhanced the feeling of openness and allowed the courtyard, around which the house is built, to remain the primary focal point. "From the moment you come in the front doors, you see the courtyard fountain framed by the glass doors across the foyer. Most of the other rooms on the main floor open onto the courtyard, too. It's so pretty out there. It's almost like a gallery with the fountain, the water feature and the water-nymph casts on the walls. We call it our Italian Grotto," says Debra.

MORE THAN JUST A PLACE FOR COOKING

The Arizona sunlight that fills the vaulted-ceiling foyer makes it an ideal place for Debra to display her collection of antique Czechoslovakian perfume bottles and antique compacts. And the foyer is the central location from which the rest of the house flows. "The ceiling in the kitchen keeps rising higher and higher as it heads out into the foyer. That makes the kitchen feel open and airy. It's my favorite feel-good room," says Debra. The size of the kitchen is an additional reminder that the house was originally designed for a large family; with the built-in banquette and other seating areas, it can accommodate up to 12 people.

The foyer also leads into the 1500 square-foot, sunken master bedroom suite that enjoys access to both the Italian grotto and also a separate, walled-in courtyard that houses a lap pool. The master suite hallway, from which the couple enters the master and mistress baths, their workout room, and extensive closets, culminates in a raised dais encircled with mirrors for ease of viewing.

In keeping with their plan when they bought the house, Debra converted the lower level of their home into a haven for dressing and storage. "I have a place now for all of my dressing and storage needs." The couple converted one of the former bedrooms into a makeup and hair styling room with mirrors and lighting similar to those found in green rooms of professional theatres. Additional rooms that have been redesigned include spaces to house Debra's clothing and shoe collection, as well as a closet in which they installed humidity controls to maintain and preserve their leather goods.

"We made the guesthouse into his office away from the office and his game room. It's a No-Girls-Allowed kind of place"

During the first year in their new home, Don and Debra used the guesthouse as living quarters for their housekeeper, but they soon began converting it into the office space Don had envisioned when they bought their home. "Don works long hours," says Debra. "He wanted a place to escape from the demands of the everyday working world. A place where he could relax and work or do whatever he wanted to his heart's content without interruption. So we made the guesthouse into his office away from the office and his game room. It's a No-Girls-Allowed kind of place," she adds laughingly.

SAFE AND SECURE

The security of their home was well provided for by former owners. In addition to an overall system, surveillance cameras provide extra security for the lower level. The most sophisticated aspect of the security, however, is the panic room. "It was here when we moved in, and it's just like in the movie," says Debra. "Even if an intruder knew where our panic room is, however, it would be almost impossible to him to find how to get into it. The room has electronic equipment and a direct dial-in to the police department. But to be honest, we use the space for storage." And with a chuckle she adds, "Now that I think about it, that's where we keep the clothes steamer I bought from Frontgate years ago!"

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