Mandy and Jane Brady wanted the house as soon as they saw it.
This was in 2007, and the ranch hadn't been updated since it was built in 1973. It was still filled with the previous owners' furniture — and the original harvest gold appliances.
The rooms were tiny and wood-paneled; the lot was large and nearly barren. But they loved the location, tucked away in Carefree near Black Mountain. And they loved the bones of the house — the slump block walls, the big windows, the casual ranch layout. They knew they'd need to renovate, but decided to move in before making any major changes.
"We took our time," Mandy explained, "and figured out how we wanted to live in the space. It was like having a conversation with the house."
The conversation included friends, co-workers, and architects but had recurring themes: modernize the interior while respecting the history of the house and the surrounding landscape. After two years of talking, the pair launched into remodeling in 2009.
Removing a few interior walls created a more contemporary flow to the kitchen, dining, and living areas. Cutting back the eaves on the north side added light — as did skylights. Wide glass doors along the dining room wall opened onto newly terraced patios. And neutral white paint on the interior walls focused more attention on the much-loved slump block on the sides.
The original flooring, however — a sea of dated tile — had to go. It was so hard to pry up that it required a Zamboni-like machine normally used in shopping malls. But the underlying concrete so much like terrazzo that it only had to be patched, polished, and left alone.
The front door was a different challenge. Hidden on the north side, the awkward entrance stymied the renovation team until the homeowners mentioned it to a friend, architect Jan Mittelstaedt. One pencil sketch later and he offered a solution: move the door to the south side.
Mandy credits Mittelstaedt and Tyler Green, their primary architect, with solving the problem together.
"I think it's a tribute to them, not just as architects, but as good human beings that they weren't interested in their egos," she said, "but in figuring out how to help people best live in their homes."
Among the many other people who helped, the homeowners agree that Doug and Rhonda Forsha were also integral. The Forshas, owners of De La Madera woodworking studio in Scottsdale, built custom cabinetry, doors, and other creative solutions that brought the house to life.
"We didn't have an interior designer," Mandy joked, "we had Doug and Rhonda."
Since the house measures 2,400 square feet, storage was a major concern. The living room features a wall of open shelving and sliding doors. Kitchen cabinets stretch from floor to ceiling. And a vestibule between the kitchen and pantry — nicknamed "vice corner" — holds the espresso machine and the wine cooler, plus drawers for stashing purses and other clutter.
For Jane, Doug built a sewing table that folds into the bedroom cabinets, and for Mandy he mounted a small television that swivels out from behind the kitchen cabinets so she can watch basketball while cooking dinner.
Doug also raised all the doorways to ceiling height, creating a sense of space in the low-slung house. For the office, tucked into a nook behind the living room, he built a bifold door that unfolds into an L-shape to enclose the room without blocking the narrow hallway. In the master bedroom, he customized a ceiling fan with makore wood blades that match the door frame, making the small space more harmonious.
"The Forshas really got what we were going for," Mandy said. "They understood about clean lines and working with the rest of the house."
The woodwork features little ornamentation other than the veneers themselves, which include figured American walnut for the kitchen and decorative koa on the double-wide office door.
In addition to the Forshas' craftsmanship, the house showcases Mandy's metal creations. Although she works in an administrative job, she took a class in metalworking a few years ago and has since built furniture, deck railings, and a patio gate that Jane requested to "keep the javelinas out of the geraniums."
For her part, Jane has been slowly revegetating the property from its formerly neglected state. A dedicated gardener, she has planted more than 50 trees and hundreds of shrubs and cacti to create a naturalistic landscape on the 1.5 acre lot. As a result, Gambel's quail and mule deer wander through the yard.
Throughout the renovation, the homeowners have reused many orginal materials from the house. Columns from the patio roof — removed to accommodate the new front door — have been repurposed for garden benches, and concrete pavers have turned into steel-framed stepping stones.
A similar aesthetic prevails inside the house, where Mandy's handmade metal tables mix with mid-century furniture from Jane's Aunt Melba or local thrift stores. The artwork tends toward the humorous, with waltzing bronze rabbits inside the front door and a painting of jelly doughnuts in the dining room.
"Everything we have," Jane said, "has a story."
Even now, the home continues to evolve. One recent addition is a roof deck above the small outbuilding — complete with decorative railings. The new perch was devised after Mandy climbed on top of the house to fix a leak and was struck by the fabulous views.
It's just further proof that, as she noted, "it takes a while to see what a house is all about."