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By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photo: by Matt Winquist | April 12, 2017
Architect James Trahan polishes a midcentury gem from a local treasure.
After a couple moved to Phoenix from the United Kingdom, they took time house hunting until the wife stumbled upon a jewel near the base of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. “I can’t really describe my style, but I know what I like when I see it,” she recalls saying. “This house gave me a sense of peace. I called my husband and told him to get to the house immediately.”
In short order, the 3,000-square-foot residence was in their possession. Her find turned out to be a 1966 Alfred “Al” Newman Beadle modernist masterpiece, all clean lines and floor-to-ceiling windows, which had been meticulously maintained for the past five decades.
As many locals know, the late architect designed hundreds of residential and commercial projects in metro Phoenix from the late 1950s through the ’80s, including landmarks like the old Mountain Bell building and Three Fountains apartments. Beadle was the only Arizona architect who participated in the nationally acclaimed 1945 to 1966 Case Study project, for which well-known architects were commissioned to design efficient, modern model homes.
Beadle also designed the now-gone Flame restaurant in downtown Phoenix for owner Sam Colachis, a prominent restaurateur. When Colachis wanted to build a new home in Arcadia, he again turned to Beadle.
“The Colachis house was inspired by the old Scandia restaurant in downtown Scottsdale, another Beadle design,” says Phoenix architect Edward “Ned” Sawyer, who was employed by Beadle for many years before launching his own practice. Sawyer, who worked on the Colachis residence, points out that the restaurant’s exposed glulam beam structure with elliptical voids on either end was carried over to the new house. The elliptical designs also repeated in the custom mahogany front door, as well as the shutters for smaller windows.
When the couple bought the house, it was mostly in its original condition and spared of unsightly additions or renovations. Nonetheless they knew they had to tweak a few things without compromising the home’s midcentury character. They wanted an updated kitchen and a new, more private master suite on the back of the house.
To handle the project, they called in James Trahan to serve as both architect and builder. “This is a very orderly house, designed on a grid,” says Trahan, principal of Phoenix-based 180 degrees. “It’s also slightly splayed on the lot to take advantage of Camelback Mountain views. We knew that anything we did had to blend seamlessly with the original architecture.”
Trahan added a new 870-square-foot master suite to one end of the house, transforming a smaller bedroom into a walk-in closet, and he opened views to the grassy backyard and mountain through floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom and bath. In the kitchen, he removed a partial wall to open up the space to the adjacent dining room and worked with kitchen designer Robert Moric of bulthaup Scottsdale to select sleek, modern cabinetry, countertops and appliances.
Trahan also supervised other updates, including replacing old tile flooring with European oak and trading the home’s original single-pane glass windows for energy-efficient glass. He removed bookcases flanking the living and dining area’s fireplace. “They were not original,” he points out, “and made the space seem cluttered.”
To compensate for the home’s lack of wall space to hang art, Trahan designed three suspended drywall panels that separate the entry from the living room, allowing the homeowners to hang pieces on both sides.
When it came to furnishings, the couple started from scratch. “We really didn’t bring any furniture with us when we moved from England,” the wife says, “but, luckily, this house really doesn’t need a lot.”
She found a kindred spirit in Jonathan Wayne, owner of Red Modern Furniture in Phoenix, a specialist in design-oriented furniture from the 1950s through the 1970s. He steered her toward Eero Saarinen’s Tulip chairs and, appropriately, a 1966 collection dining table by Richard Schultz for the patio, as well as Robert Josten cast aluminum and cherry-wood bar stools for the kitchen. The resulting interior is personal—sparked with the couples’ art and objects they’ve gathered over the years—and fitting for the home’s midcentury character.
Trahan and the homeowners also worked with landscape architect Todd Briggs of Trueform to update outdoor spaces. Playing off Beadle’s grid-based house design, Briggs installed several planter beds filled with desert natives to shrink an overly large gravel driveway. The home’s entry was made into a courtyard, thanks to some reclaimed metal panels used as fencing and an orange front gate, adding privacy from the street. The courtyard was also detailed with original Beadle sculptures, which the owner found at Phoenix’s For the People. Briggs also added new outdoor seating areas in the backyard that capture mountain views.
When the entire project was complete, Trahan and the homeowners reached out to Beadle’s widow, Nancy, for her stamp of approval. “She loved the house,” says the wife, “and so do we.”
ARCHITECTURE & BUILDER
James Trahan at 180 degrees
Robert Moric at bulthaup Scottsdale
Todd Briggs at Trueform
DuChateau European oak flooring
FOR THE PEOPLE
Al Beadle sculptures
RED MODERN FURNITURE
Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs, Richard Schultz dining table, Robert Josten bar stools