Design of the Times

Living area of modern mountain home with its 33-foot long Vietnamese painting.

Southwestern living doesn’t have to lock you into the predictable home design patterns. Modern and contemporary interiors can fit beautifully into regional living. Take a closeup look at two local teams who’ve made it work, and how they did it.



Trends in home décor come and go just as quickly as they do in fashion – not all that long ago the location of your home dictated the interior design. A Wyland print was a must in any house near the coast and a New England home had to have at least one wooden mallard in place. In recent years, location “rules” have gone the way of plastic pink flamingos and popcorn ceilings – modern and contemporary homes are popping up all over the Southwest. Is it easy to go your own way in design? Meet local homeowners who chose to build a steel and concrete oasis in an area better known for rustic log cabins; an interior design team who helped a couple build a home that’s adobe on the outside and contemporary on the inside; and an artist who’s crafting steel furniture that would fit perfectly in the latest Las Vegas casino but instead is being snapped up by local home and business owners. All help illuminate  what it takes to create a modern home in the heart of the Southwest and why more and more people are eschewing bleached cow skulls and chile ristras for a 21st century style.

If all you saw was the exterior of the Mystic Hills home owned by a couple who work in the financial industry, you might easily imagine the inside to be decked out with Hopi katsinas and Navajo rugs. But we’ve all been told never to judge a book by its cover – apparently it’s also not wise to judge a house by its adobe walls. Stephanie Larsen and her design team at Stephanie Larsen & Associates (80 Soldier Pass Rd. in West Sedona; 928-282-2389) began working on the interior of the 6,500-sq.-ft. home in 2005 – it was one of the firm’s “from the ground up” projects, which means they essentially broke ground with the homeowner and the contractor. The house was designed by Sedona architect Don Woods and built by Cornville resident Bud Rhodes of Building by Rhodes. When choosing the furnishings and interior surfaces, Stephanie stayed with her tried and true method of giving her client a homework project: Scour magazines and books and pull out pictures of what you like. As it turned out, this particular couple, originally from New York, didn’t show up with a folder of clippings from Southwest publications. They clearly wanted a contemporary approach.

“Recently we’ve completed a fair amount of modern homes,” says Stephanie, who’s certified with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). “Just because we live in the Southwest doesn’t mean you have to hang kokopelli on every wall. I think a lot of people are tired of that look. You also don’t have to be confined by southwestern décor simply because you have an adobe or stucco home.”

The homeowners were fairly open to the suggestions of Stephanie and her team of Lynne Montedonico (Sedona Monthly’s style consultant) and Barbara Young, though they had several pieces of art and a few Oriental rugs they wanted to incorporate. Stephanie took the couple to John Brooks, a trade showroom in Scottsdale, where the process began with choosing the hard surfaces. Rather than sticking to traditional earth tones, the entire house is decorated in shades of plum, copper, black, and bronze. Stephanie found contemporary hardware and lighting at Home Elements in Sedona, but most of the pieces came from Scottsdale. Stephanie says locating contemporary and modern furnishings in the heart of the Southwest is not a problem.

“It’s not difficult for me because I have resources in Scottsdale – hundreds of showrooms and design centers at my fingertips,” she says. “That’s why it’s always a good idea to use a local interior designer – we have resources that homeowners, or designers based in other parts of the country, might not.”

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