This Sleek Desert Home Seems to Melt Into the Sky

Perched atop sandblasted masonry walls, the Staab residence is a stainless steel and glass structure that absorbs the Arizona landscape into its material makeup.
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For the Staab family, maintaining privacy within their neighborhood in Scottsdale, Arizona, was just as important as ushering in the views of the McDowell Mountains to the north. The 3,000-square-foot residence, a sculptural volume raised on masonry walls, contrasts and rises over the suburban setting. The upper and lower levels provide split views that speak to the duality of public and private space. Speaking about the region’s flat topography, Thamarit Suchart of Chen + Suchart Studio explains, "If you’re allowed to get anywhere in an elevated position, you are able to understand the landscape and see that you’re surrounded by mountains. There are so many focal points out there. The second level takes advantage of distant views while the first level takes advantage of local views."

Designed by Szu-Ping Patricia Chen Suchart and Thamarit Suchart of Chen + Suchart Studio, the Staab residence stands in stark contrast to its suburban context but in harmony with the Sonoran Desert. 

Clad in stainless steel and coated glass, the upstairs volume seems to hover over the thick masonry walls and change colors with the shifting sky.

Concrete block walls allow light and air to pass into the garden while maintaining a screen of privacy. 

The entrance of the house escorts you through a field of native grass and along a pathway formed by sandblasted masonry walls, creating a strong sense of arrival; already, the garden feels far removed from the surrounding neighborhood. A Window Wall and glass Pivot Door by Western Window Systems provide a seamless entry into the open-concept living space, where a sculptural steel staircase provides a focal point. From here, the family room, dining room, and kitchen are connected to the backyard and pool through an expansive Multi-Slide Door, which pulls back to eliminate the barrier between indoors and outdoors. "We were pushing the limits of size and width and height," says Suchart. "Western Window Systems really rose to the challenge and was really helpful in working with us throughout the process."

The staircase remains open in form, helping to visually knit the entryway's garden into the living space while providing a structural focus.

The downstairs communal living spaces flow freely between kitchen, dining room, and living room. Concrete block walls and polished concrete floors emphasize the heavy materiality that supports the visual lightness of the upper story.

Western Window Systems collaborated with the architects to push the boundaries of products like the Multi-Slide Door, seen above. Retracted, it frames domestic views of the pool and backyard and fuses indoor and outdoor space.

While the communal space downstairs anchors the Staabs in a private courtyard, the upstairs master suite and office open to panoramic views of the desert mountain peaks. A corner Multi-Slide Door peels back to allow the bedroom to become part of the patio, where deep roof overhangs help reduce solar heat gain. "We can control the amount of shade [the family] gets by simply providing an overhang and being more responsive to summer and winter sun angles," says Suchart. The very architecture that helps integrate the vista into the living experience also shields the residents from harsh conditions.

The roof overhangs both reduce solar heat gain and create an upstairs patio, allowing the Staabs to overlook the courtyard or out to the distant mountain range.

"It’s about collecting the beauty and power of the landscape and absorbing it as part of the material palette." -Suchart

The master bathroom and dressing room join the master bedroom as one open suite.

A corner Multi-Slide Door transitions the master bedroom onto the patio, allowing the Staabs to sleep en plein air.

The materiality of the desert itself was a prime concern for Suchart, who chose a brushed-finish stainless steel and glass for the upper volume in contrast to the gray concrete blocks downstairs. "This particular stainless steel is absorptive, so it transforms with the colors of the day and dematerializes into the sky," he says, instead of standing in glaring contrast to the site. Likewise, the glass is treated with a thermal coating that protects against the pounding sun and lends the surface a silvery, mirrored effect. "It’s about collecting the beauty and power of the landscape and absorbing it as part of the material palette," says Suchart. The mountains and horizon reflected across the walls become part of the building itself, highlighting the fluid relationship between home and habitat that defines the Staab residence.

The client is a motorcycle enthusiast and keeps his equipment in the garage, which is clad in weathering steel and acts as a southern wall.


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