Leslie Sweet and husband Rich Flodin didn’t feel like they had any type of design talent as they browsed for inspiration online.
Four years ago, Sweet spotted two chairs she loved on an interior designer’s website. The orange and gold paisley and leather chairs were part of a remodel project by architect and interior designer Ernesto Garcia.
The homeowners ended up hiring Garcia, and he centered the entire design of their new home around those chairs.
“That gave me a good hint as to who they were,” Garcia said. “They’re elegant, yet the leather is textured and very Southwest,” he said of the chairs.
The house is located in Gold Canyon, inside a gated community with a stunning view of the Superstition Mountains. Sweet and Flodin purchased it in late 2013 as they were getting ready to transition from their Minnesota snowbird lifestyle to full-time Arizona residents.
With 4,000 square feet and four bedrooms, the house had all the structural elements the couple was looking for, which enabled them to invest everything into the furnishings.
However, the space presented some difficulties. It had originally been built by a commercial builder from Washington state who incorporated several commercial features within the home.
In the great room, none of the windows facing the backyard could be opened. There were no baseboards. And the space was very large and empty.
“It’s a very challenging space,” Garcia said. “(The homeowners) referred to it as a warehouse because it was so big and so undefined. When you have large spaces like this, the biggest problem that you have is to give them human scale so that they don’t look so warehouse-like."
Sweet said the big great room opens to the kitchen, making the space feel even larger.
"So we wanted big enough furniture, and enough furniture to absorb the sound so it wouldn’t echo,”she said.
Garcia divided the great room into four quadrants: Kitchen, dining room, living room and entryway. One of his main goals was for all “daily functions to be harmoniously integrated.”
The result is a vibrant space filled with warm, golden tones. Lively floral and paisley patterns accompany solid colors on the sofas and pillows.
“He (Garcia) came up with the fabrics and then we met with him and he had us sit in the chairs and couch to pick out what we wanted for patterns,” Sweet said. “That shows so much talent to me, someone who can mix and match patterns. And I like the colorful things that he chose.”
Most of the furniture is new, with some pieces custom made to fit the space, all in solid wood. The room is also dotted with antiques.
It’s a relaxed style, with an elegant, English twist that Garcia refers to as “Southwest Elegant.”
"It just felt like me,” Sweet said. “I don’t like super modern, and I don’t like a ton of antiques, either. I just like very comfortable furniture.”
Garcia brought more light into the previously dark room. He helped Sweet pick wall art from an art sale reserved for designers.
“We’re very happy,” said Sweet, who now refers to her home as heavenly. “We just love everything. I wanted to work with one person and get it done with. He pulled that whole room together and it just flows perfectly.”