When Swapna Reddy and Subhakar Mutyala moved from Austin to Phoenix last June, they knew exactly what they wanted — and what they didn't want — as they searched for a new house.
WANTED: A light, sunny, family-friendly space with mountain views.
NOT WANTED: Another big renovation project like they'd slogged through back in Austin.
Reddy, a professor of health law at Arizona State University, and Mutyala, the medical director of radiation oncology at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, quickly narrowed their search to Paradise Valley because it was close to their jobs, schools for their two children, and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.
"The big thing for us," Mutyala recalled, "was that we really wanted to look at mountains every day. It seemed like such an Arizona thing, especially after living in so many places without anything like that."
After passing up several properties that were inconveniently located, poorly laid out, or otherwise not appealing, the couple found a contender ... but it came with a catch.
As Mutyala explained, "When we saw this place, we loved so many things about it: the location, the view, it had great bones."
But the 6,000 square foot home south of Lincoln Drive was built in a heavy Tuscan style, from faux-stucco exterior to wrought iron chandeliers to a kitchen full of dark wood cabinets and hand-painted tile. "It was very pretty," Reddy said, "but not our style at all."
No problem, she remembers thinking: "We'll just de-Tuscanize it. That won't be so hard."
The family had plenty of time to laugh about their underestimation as they and their two dogs spent the next several months living in a construction zone. Walls came down. Windows were relocated. Floors were replaced.
For six kitchen-less weeks, they cooked all their meals in a toaster oven in a bedroom. The renovation work went on until January. But, Reddy said, "it was totally worth it."
Key to their success, both agreed, was their team of local experts, including interior designer Andrea Bazilus of Red Egg Design Group and contractor Mark Malouf of Malouf Construction.
Unlike their previous experience with a remodel that dragged on and on, Reddy said, Malouf "was very realistic about the timeline and what we could and couldn't do for our budget."
She also credited Bazilus with "giving us lots of tools and tips for how we could redo things without spending a ton of money."
Project De-Tuscanization had clear goals: Create an open, airy space that would welcome both growing children and grown-up parties, while suiting Reddy and Mutyala's more contemporary style. However, Reddy said, "it was also important to us to respect the house," by preserving such features as the exposed beams in the ceiling and the unusual curved wall in the dining room.
Some of the most dramatic results came from the simplest solutions, like repainting the exterior and interior walls, removing dark draperies, and replacing the carpet with travertine tile, which bounces light off the floor instead of absorbing it.
But the biggest project involved removing most of the wall between the kitchen and living room.
"Just opening up that wall completely changed the house," Reddy said, "It opened up so much more light, and now the sun is coming in from different sides and reflecting around the space. It changed everything."
They also removed a small window in the kitchen dining nook where, as Mutyala put it, "the view just wasn't happening," and replaced it with three tall glass doors that effectively turned the entire wall into a window, providing the much-craved view of the mountains.
What's more, the doors can be opened all the way across, creating an expansive entry to the patio and allowing for an indoor-outdoor experience Mutyala described as "just awesome, because we've never been able to do that before anywhere we've ever lived."
Once the major structural renovations were done, the couple continued working with Bazilus to make the newly-brightened house even more their own. Together they developed a color scheme based on layered neutrals and enlivened with a variety of blue tones.
Another important consideration was to find a way to reflect the family's heritage. While Reddy and Mutyala are originally from Houston, their families both came from India and, Reddy said, "we wanted to find a way to incorporate that part of our lives," while still keeping the design contemporary.
Accordingly, Reddy and Bazilus placed meaningful sculptures and artwork in focal points throughout the house and arranged other pieces around them.
They also added wall finishings and textiles reminiscent of traditional Indian motifs. It helped, Bazilus said, that the kinds of bold patterns and colors typical of Indian design are "at the forefront of what's trendy right now," making it easier to find the accents that rounded out Reddy's vision.
With what they hope is their last big remodel safely in the past, the family recently celebrated their first anniversary in the no-longer-Tuscan home. And the verdict?
"We love it," Mutyala said. "The light and the space and the way it connects to the outdoors. It's just what we were looking for."