Candelaria Design Associates: The Next Generation

By Mark Candelaria, AIA

No, we’re not producing a Star Trek TV sequel for architects, although my 40 years or so in the profession have produced many out-of-this world experiences, for sure. Fortunately, my wonderful family, my extraordinary three partners and associate architects and staff at Candelaria Design Associates have kept me grounded on Earth designing quality homes for our clients.

As some of you know, I am semi-retiring from the firm which I started back in 1999 after I left the distinguished Phoenix-based CCBG founded by my architecture professor and mentor at ASU, George W. Christensen, FAIA.

Celebrating the creation and 1987 grand opening of the famed Enchantment Resort in Sedona by architects Mark Candelaria, far right, and George Christensen, to his left, and developers John Gardiner, far left, and Merv Griffin, also a national talk-show host. Photo Tricia McKnight

I say “semi-retiring” because I’m dropping down from 70–80 hours a week to 40–60 hours. Those of you who know me will understand: I am always doing something, so I’ll still be here in the Valley engaging in the design work I love so much. Look for an open sketchbook and you’ll find me!

I’ll just have more time now for other passions: cooking, sketching and painting, guiding our annual Candelaria Tours to Spain and Italy, writing a few books, and spending more time with my dear wife, Isabel, an accomplished interior designer, and my family, including my parents Karin and Donald, who are now living nearby in Maricopa.

Mark and Isabel enjoy the welcome dinner for the Candelaria Design Tour Italy, backdropped by the Duomo in Florence. Photo Pearl Blossom Photography

The firm is expanding our square footage at our office in downtown Scottsdale. I’ll have a slightly smaller space with an adjoining room where my oldest daughter, Tiffany, will be managing our media.

Our three partners have also moved into private adjoining rooms. They’ve certainly earned them, helping Candelaria Design Associates not only grow in the past two decades but achieve and maintain our signature of designing homes that match people’s lifestyles.

Those partners are Vivian Ayala, who joined the firm in July 2000; Evelyn Jung, who has been with us since October 2005; and Meredith Thomson, AIA, who became part of the company in the spring of 2013. Complementing them are 15 associate architects and support staff.

The Candelaria Design Associates team of the future, left to right, Meredith Thomson, AIA, Vivian Ayala, Mark Candelaria, AIA, and Evelyn Jung. Pearl Blossom Photography

Together, we have built our success, and I am grateful to our clients, project partners and Candelaria associates. This highly capable group will be coordinating much of the day to day here going forward, but I’m certainly not disappearing.

The majority of our work during the last 20 years has been luxury residential, from 2,000 to more than 60,000 square feet, mostly in communities such as central Phoenix, Paradise Valley, and Desert Mountain, Estancia and Silverleaf in north Scottsdale. But we’ve also been asked to design homes and estates from Santa Barbara, California, to the Hamptons in Long Island, New York.

From traditional to this ultra-contemporary Valley home, the Candelaria résumé covers all styles of Inspiring Living. Pearl Blossom Photography

I am humbled by the success the firm has enjoyed. I have worked hard. Born in Denver, I was raised in Durango, where I made money during vacations working on the famous scenic railroad to earn my coursework at ASU.

During our two decades as a firm, we have not committed to one style, not to demean the work of Wright and Rudolph, Beadle, Pei, the Bauhaus and others. For a variety of reasons, we’ve been more flexible in our designs: Old World, Transitional, Traditional, Contemporary, Rural Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial, Modern Farmhouse and fusions of these.

We’ve focused not on the textbook but on the client, not on a style, however distinguished it might be, but on what people want to fulfill their dreams. And everyone has a different dream; only they know. We will continue to be, above all, great listeners.

That’s why we’ve always asked prospective and repeat clients that question first: What do you want for yourself and your family? Is there a style you’d like us to focus on, a combination of styles, a new way of living? Maybe you saw a home in your travels in Italy or Spain and you want your home to resonate with that look and those memories but you want it to be contemporary, too, clearly a home that’s today and tomorrow.

What’s your central living space? If it’s your kitchen, as today for so many it is, where should your breakfast room be, that is, what’s the view you want to greet the day with your morning coffee? Do you entertain? If so, and you have the space, you may want both a prep island with sinks and embedded ovens for the chef and a serving island for your guests.

Mark loves cooking for clients in newly completed Candelaria Design kitchens. Photo Tiffany Candelaria

In ensuing pieces, I’ll be chatting about what you might want to think about in building or renovating your home and what you might want to discuss with the design/construction team you have chosen. I’ll offer some suggestions from my four decades in architecture and talk about the great work Candelaria Design Associates is doing now.

So, while I’m sort of handing off the baton, I am still very much in the race.

We’ve cancelled this year’s tours to Napa, Spain and Italy because of COVID-19, and the Candelaria Design Associates team is working from home. Please be safe during these difficult times. David M. Brown and Tiffany Candelaria assisted on this first of a series of articles on residential architecture. For more about us, see

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