Chicago native Stacy Karel was paying extra close attention to the weather last January. She recalls waking up one cold Sunday morning, hearing the reports, and turning to her husband.
"The polar vortex is coming on Wednesday," she told him. "Let's get the heck out of here."
Chicago would go on to see temperatures as low as 23 degrees below zero, before taking into account wind chill.
Fortunately for Karel and her husband, they'd purchased a town house in Scottsdale two months before the record-breaking freeze.
"We were on a plane by 3 p.m. and at our cozy home in Scottsdale just a short time later," Karel said. "It was a very happy memory to be sitting out on the patio with a glass of wine toasting how blessed we were."
Karel's parents have kept a home in Arizona since 1992, which influenced her decision to look in metro Phoenix for a winter escape.
Karel, a Realtor, also understood the potential to open her Scottsdale town house to family, friends and guests when she wasn't using it.
What she found was a 1,704-square-foot, two-story town house that had been transformed by a husband-wife team, Robert and Allison Scheffel, a contractor and designer, respectively.
Built in 1967, the three-bedroom, 2½-bath home had all the earmarks of a dated, worn space, along with a few oddball design elements, including a "death trap" of an entryway, a closed-off kitchen with an oven chest-high in a wall, a coat closet that did more to block the staircase than offer convenience, and a cramped and closed-in master bedroom.
The Scheffels took care of that.
Now, Karel describes the town house as boutique hotel-inspired, cool and comfortable.
She praised the couple's work "in bringing the space up to date for open-plan living and entertaining."
Karel even hired Allison Scheffel to help her find most of the home's large furniture.
The living room now has a light, wood-looking floor in place of block tile and a more streamlined entry.
A soft white, blue, grey and black color scheme replaced beiges, browns and mauves.
Karel especially likes the room's furniture and decor: a comfortable sectional sofa and cool blue colors used in a chair, rug, artwork and accent pillows. The latter includes a saguaro crochet pillow she made "to give the home a special touch."
Her husband ranks the room's 65-inch television as his favorite feature, Karel added.
Compared to what it was, the kitchen is almost unrecognizable. The original was a closed-off space that despite having a series of large windows running along one side, lacked adequate light. An old, coil-top stove interrupted the best section of countertop, and the wall-mounted oven was stuck impractically away from any counters.
Karel describes the airy, new kitchen as beautiful and functional.
"It is open and bright, and the backsplash looks dynamite," she said. "It shows off the gold-colored cabinet pulls, faucet, and the industrial lighting complete the look."
The stove and oven are now in one place, stainless steel appliances provide a clean, updated look and the counter has a place to eat without four cooktop burners in the way.
The next biggest transformation was the master suite, where the bedroom was expanded and the bathroom was reinvented.
The renovation included removing a wall in the master bedroom. "While it created a lot more space — and two walk-in closets — it did present a design challenge of where to put the TV," Karel said.
She and her husband opted to hang the TV on an arm that can be angled to serve for nighttime viewing or turned toward a desk during the day.
The old master bath had a single vanity, a small shower, bland tile (same as in the old living room) and poor lighting.
The new master bathroom showcases an expanded shower that resembles what you'd expect to find in a luxury hotel. The vanity was expanded and new floor tile modernized the look.
"It is fantastic to have that large shower and double bowl sinks," Karel said. "One other unique feature of all the bathrooms is that there are motion sensor lights under the cabinets, so when you walk in at night you get some indirect light."
Knowing that she and her husband would use the home seasonally, it was important for Karel to give the guest rooms the same level of attention as the rest of the house, including large beds.
"Couples really appreciate king beds. Also, I didn't want anyone to think they got stuck with the 'bad' room on their vacation," she said.
Both guest bedrooms and bathrooms were renovated and furnished much like the master suite upstairs, while still remaining unique.
The full-size guest bathroom features a shower with tiles that carry a soft blue, almost watercolor texture. A bright, octagonal mirror hangs over the sink. The overall look is refreshing and clean.
While it can't be expected for a town house to have a backyard, Karel has done wonders with the patio at her disposal.
The original patio was aged, mostly in its design that had interwoven plastic slats covering a chain-link fence, dusty, red-clay colored tile, a misshapen planter and exterior siding beat up by sun.
Post remodel, a wood accent wall under the windows, an extra large rug and a seating area make a cozy space. White fairy lights on the overhang provide evening ambiance.
"It’s a great place to relax with a glass of wine or beer," Karel said.
A great place to escape a Midwestern winter.
Know of a unique home in metro Phoenix that is not on the market that should be featured? Email [email protected].
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