How One Designer Warmed Up with Amazing Arizona Style
Surrounded by majestic vistas, this extraordinary residence is a serene sanctuary in the middle of the Arizona desert.
Chicago-based interior designer Stephanie Wohlner has always had a soft spot for The Copper State, starting with childhood family trips followed by her college years. Once she and her husband began to think about escaping the frigid Chicago winters, they knew exactly where to go.
“Arizona is the perfect place for us to end up,” she says. “I grew up going there and my husband’s a biker, and he can just bike forever on those roads and in the mountains.”
After two decades in the design industry, Wohlner’s mind was brimming—“chaotic” was the word she used—with ideas and visions of color palettes, patterns and fabrics galore, even carrying around a picture she found in France years ago of her dream terrace ceiling.
No detail was spared from Wohlner’s ‘chaotic’ mind, but the residence would never reveal the development phase’s intensity, only radiating tranquility amidst cotton candy sunset skies.
“I’ve been designing homes for so long, all of these ideas were collected in my brain,” she says. “I wanted it to feel collected, to feel like even though it’s beautiful, you can walk in and sit anywhere, put your feet up, just hang out. I wanted that warm, hangout feeling in this house.”
Walking into the home, you’re immediately struck by shades of deep turquoise—a theme repeated throughout the home, from the pool to the master bedroom chaises to the terrace kitchen backsplash—that offers a sense of repetition, which Wohlner says provides connection and a reassuring sensibility.
“I like to repeat things like color,” she says. “Your brain may not register that you’re seeing them over and over again, but yet that’s another element that I think makes you comfortable in a home. You don’t know it, but it settles you.”
An avid hiker, Wohlner only realized at the residence’s completion that the grand living area reflected the nature around the home, saying that “all of the colors are from my hikes and desert walks,” but that it wasn’t her design intention. “It just sort of came out in my work, I never knew it was going to affect me in that way, but after I did it that, I thought, this is exactly what I just saw on my hike!”
But it wasn’t the only surprising epiphany that emerged from the design process. “In my work, I typically like to do a lot of patterns and mixing,” she explains. “But I discovered through this whole process that this is who I really am: layer upon layer, pattern upon pattern.” And nowhere is that more pronounced than the seating area, along with another repeated style theme, large-framed French doors. “We did as many windows and French doors as we possibly could,” she laughs. “And when I look back now, I probably would have done more.”
In the powder room, Wohlner honors her late mother’s unmatched sense of style—“she had the best taste of anybody”—by incorporating her horn-hide hybrid chair, which she purchased in Arizona, against the shimmering shade of blue wallpaper.
“I have pieces of my mother all over this house,” she says. “I always loved that chair and my mother always loved Arizona, so it fit perfectly here, and every time I go into the powder room, I think of her.”
The kitchen is home to the design pièce de résistance, and the foundation for every subsequent style choice: the intricate tile by Exquisite Surfaces.
“I started with the kitchen floor, I loved the really intense pattern,” she says. “Then I kind of pulled everything together off of that, and the curtain pattern actually mimic the mountains outside.”
“I carried it around with me throughout this whole project trying to figure out a way to do it,” she said, adding that it was her husband’s engineering background that ultimately enabled her to bring her creativity to life. “He’s the one who really pulled the house together structurally for me,” she says. “He helped make all my ideas work.”
But nothing compares to the surrounding natural beauty that shines through every French door and oversized window, luring guests to the terrace area, set with antique French pavers, and topped with a recreation of Wohlner’s long-cherished photo of what she calls “a roof within a roof.”