From Egypt to the North American southwest, people have used mud and clay to create simple shelters for thousands of years. So how do you put a modern and stylish twist on an ancient building technique? Just ask the folks at Kendle Design Collaborative, who have turned rammed earth walls into something truly special.
Located in Paradise Valley, Arizona, Desert Wash Residence is a sprawling oasis in the sand. In creating the luxurious home, Kendle Design Collaborative looked to nature for inspiration. From the materials to the color palette, the beauty of Paradise Valley informed the design. However, the biggest inspiration for the project came from the site’s most challenging element: a desert wash that runs right through the middle of the property.
Tackling the problem head-on, architect Brent Kendle knew just what to do. Building the home on either side of the wash allowed Kendle to incorporate a bridge that spans the natural formation while also creating a connection between the two sections of the home. This bridge acts as an art gallery, a way to view the wash, and even tells the time of day thanks to small openings that allow sunlight to dance across the floor.
Beyond this clever and artistic bridge solution for the wash, Kendle continued to play with the idea of floating forms. A dramatically cantilevered roof over the entryway warmly welcomes visitors. Rather than follow the slope of the land, the floor of the home is one level, creating areas where it appears to float above the ground.
While the desert may seem a barren, uninspiring landscape, looking closely shows it offers an abundance of materials and beauty to draw from. The walls of Desert Wash Residence are formed in the ancient rammed earth method but with a decidedly contemporary feel. The thin layers of earth vary in color creating a visually textured look. The classic flat roof typical of adobe homes of the southwest also received a modern twist thanks to varying ceiling heights and overhangs. These strong geometric lines of the walls and roof act as a visual contrast from the soft vegetation that surrounds the home.
Stepping inside, the drama of Desert Wash Residence is revealed. Playing with forms, Kendle designed the entry foyer to be a smaller space where guests who enter must cross the art gallery bridge that spans the wash before being able to enter the grand main living area. A spacious open plan great room overlooks the wash. The room can transform into an open-air space thanks to sliding glass doors that hide in the walls. This leads to an outdoor family room complete with a high-end grill, dining table, and lounge area with an outdoor fireplace. The space is shaded from the desert sun thanks to an overhanging roof which is lined in Douglas fir wood.
Despite other homes being close by, Desert Wash Residence feels like a secluded oasis thanks to the tall vegetation that surrounds the home. This feeling of privacy is experienced in every corner from the outdoor patio with a central fire pit to the master suite where the large soaking tub is perfectly positioned in a corner made of glass. It’s the perfect spot to relax and take in the desert, cacti, and mountains beyond.
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