Home Home & Design Homes West Side (Two)-Story

Hillside Glendale homes are rare. Unique among these is this two-story contemporary built for a young family around a traditional Southwestern courtyard carved from granite.

Nick Tsontakis, AIA, principal of Scottsdale’s Nick Tsontakis Architecture & Interiors, designed this 8,449-livable-sq.-ft. home for a professional couple with three boys. The five-bedroom home in the West Valley Arrowhead area includes a four-car garage and workroom, an attached casita with another bedroom and a 268-sq.-ft. air-conditioned pool ramada.

The central design focus: the children. “The main thing that my clients asked for was a flat sheltered area at the rear where their boys can play and not be on the front street,” says Tsontakis, who has been designing innovative homes Valleywide for more than a decade. “They also wanted the pool a higher level away from the children.”

A private courtyard surrounded by living and entertaining spaces was the ideal solution: The children play; mom and dad monitor behind large windows. However, a mountain abutting city-preserve land ascends at the back of the home. This required excavation for the courtyard and casita areas as well as retaining walls for the pool and spa, which rest against the upper slope. In addition, the homeowner’s association for the gated community highly scrutinized Tsontakis’s innovative plan for deviations from the H.O.A.’s covenants, conditions and restrictions—requiring everyone’s patience and perseverance.

In addition to topographical and review challenges, there were human hurdles as well. Another architect considered what the couple wanted and what Tsontakis wanted to create for them, and concluded the project wouldn’t work on the site—the excavation would be too expensive. Concerned friends echoed the exorbitant cost estimates.

Determined, Tsontakis asked the couple to speak with Tom Derryberry of Scottsdale’s Ultimo Custom Homes; he and his crew finished the painstaking six-month excavation at a cost significantly lower than others. Ultimo filled in the cavity under the pool and created the flat courtyard space from the mountain. The stone excavated from that site now clads the steel-reinforced retaining walls against which a waterfall splashes some 20 feet from the pool level above.