Gallery Living

A stellar design team, led by architect Will Bruder, renovates the ultimate urban loft for a Phoenix collector.

 Architect Will Bruder redesigned this urban loft to highlight the owner’s fine art photos from talented artists, including Mark Klett.

A walkway connects the home office with bedrooms. 

The spiral art staircase  


Proving art truly is in the eye of the beholder, when a local psychologist set eyes on one particular unit at Artisan Lofts on Central in Phoenix several years ago, he knew he had found an unfinished masterpiece in the making. The overall feel of the 1,950-square-foot, three-story space previously envisioned by architect Mark Ryan was ideal, but its future owner knew it would not accommodate his desire for private bedrooms, nor his penchant for entertaining. And there simply were not enough walls to properly display his large collection of fine art photographs.

Realtor Scott Jarson of AZ Architecture suggested legendary local architect Will Bruder to make the necessary changes. “He thought I had the right sensibility,” Bruder says.

The first order of business was to ask Bruder to peruse the future owner’s collection of close to four dozen mostly black and white photos, a good portion of which were taken by local or visiting artists. “There’s a richness and point of view with [the owner’s] collection—it’s elegant and holistic,” Bruder says. From that point on, the homeowner asserts, “he had my art collection in mind continually.”

As Bruder had designed the inspired Burton Barr Central Library across the street in the early ’90s, he was already familiar with Artisan Lofts, but says he was pleased to discover Ryan had already incorporated myriad details that both he and the homeowner welcomed, including a custom staircase, exposed concrete floors and cabinets made from honey-colored plywood. The home’s two bathrooms and well-appointed kitchen were also already close to perfect.

James Trahan of 180 Degrees, the original builder-contractor, was invited to again become part of the renovation, which included sliding walnut doors Bruder suggested would delineate the two bedrooms. Walls came next, with Bruder’s recommendation to add 3-inch glass strips at the edges for acoustic privacy. “These elements virtually created a minimalist sculptural transformation of walls into artful planes that let the space seem larger and float almost like a gallery installation,” Bruder explains.

The homeowner already had a few distinctively modern furnishings that easily transformed the living room floor, including a B&B Italia Charles sofa in charcoal jacquard and a mustard yellow Metropolitan chair. Bruder designed a complementary custom resin dining room table with a steel base. Carefully positioned on a Venetian plaster railing that Bruder added, hangs “Dyspnea,” an intriguing lenticular photo print from local artist Sean Deckert. Viewers must walk past the piece to enjoy its full effect.

A collection of eight framed photographs of various teens’ faces from photographer Betsy Schneider is displayed at the top of the stairs near the master and guest bedrooms. At the end of the hall is a home office and the entry point to one of Bruder’s most inventive additions—a winding staircase. “We created it with perforated scrim and captured that transition as a sort of salon-style photo gallery,” Bruder says. “As you go up, you have art on the walls and the horizontal plane in the alcove.”

Incidentally, the architect contacted the Museum of Modern Art’s photography curator to ask which paint color replicated the famous institution’s photo gallery walls so the home would be bathed in just the right shade throughout. “Cement gray,” Bruder explains. “It creates a cocoon of cool light. And it gives a background of neutrality for the owner’s art collection.”

The spiraling steps lead to the homeowner’s favorite space—his rooftop deck, complete with tables, chairs and an LED strip that illuminates a line of native plants at night. Trahan helped elevate the deck so guests could enjoy a 270-degree view of downtown Phoenix, Piestewa Peak, the aforementioned library and Camelback Mountain.

“I entertain out here a lot,” the homeowner explains. “It’s my little sanctuary. I can look up at the stars, watch airplanes land. Sometimes I see the planes lining up at night, and it looks like a jeweled necklace.” Spoken like a true art aficionado.


Central Phoenix

Will Bruder of Will Bruder Architects

James Trahan of 180 Degrees

Charles sofa and Metropolitan chair with chaise

Paulo Paulistano sling chair; Kartell’s Masters chairs designed by Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet

Hope suspension chandelier and Arper bar stools

Art by Karl Blossfeldt and Mark Klett

Photography framing

Living room rug