Designed to amplify connections with the desert, a low-lying courtyard house nestles into the landscape.
As a self-proclaimed architecture nerd, Dean Heckler spent years keeping tabs on innovative houses across Phoenix in anticipation of one day building his own custom-designed home. So, when he and his fiancée, Angela Joyce, were ready to leave the city for a quieter neighborhood, he turned to a pair of local architects who had long inspired him: Cavin and Claire Costello, the husband-and-wife duo behind The Ranch Mine.
"We could tell they truly felt their only concern was to create a home that is perfect for us," said Dean. "We could tell that working with The Ranch Mine would be fun—and it was."
While Dean and Angela’s vision of a secluded, minimalist home intimately tied to the desert set the design direction, it was the needs of the couple’s two dogs that inspired the home’s enclosed central courtyard. The open-air courtyard not only provides ample outdoor space for the dogs to roam safe from desert predators, but also brings in indirect natural light and ventilation.
The central 18' by 58' courtyard also inspired the home’s name: O-asis. "Our O-asis house gets its name, and specifically the ‘-’ in it, because of its O-shaped plan," explain the architects. They say that the home serves as a refreshing escape not only from the desert heat, but also from the architectural trend of grandiose, 30-foot-tall homes.
"We designed the house to eschew the tired traditions of what defines a luxury home (size/height, glitz, glamour, high-price collections, etc.) in search of modern luxuries such as energy independence, low maintenance, seamless indoor/outdoor living, growing your own food, peace, tranquility, multigenerational living, and connection to nature."
To enhance the home’s relationship to the desert, landscape architecture firm The Green Room transformed the site with earthworks to connect natural drainage areas and habitats while strategically screening the property for privacy. An elevated native Sonoran desert plant palette encourages biodiversity and seasonal interest. A key feature of the landscape design are the century-old ironwoods, which are rare hand-selected specimens salvaged from Phoenix’s urban sprawl.
"One of our main goals at O-asis was to envelope the house in the Sonoran Desert, so as not to interrupt the ecological processes on the site—and utilizing these large, native trees is critical to both the short- and long-term success of the landscape," explains landscape architect Matt Thomas.
The century-old gnarled Ironwoods contrast with the streamlined design of the smart home, where almost everything can be controlled wirelessly—including the clients’ beloved grand piano—making it a first of its kind in Arizona according to the architects.
The home spans an area of just over 4,000 square feet, and includes an 860-square-foot in-law suite for the clients’ aging parents. Deep recessed patios, operable glazed walls, and an insulated high-performance building envelope with concrete floors help maintain comfortably cool temperatures year-round while minimizing the solar-powered home’s energy footprint.