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Comfort Zone

December 25, 2008 By Hope Winsborough



Click the images below for bigger versions:
Says Royce of the great room: “We wanted our friends and families to be able to take their shoes off—to say ‘just enjoy yourself.’”
Each custom-made table is crafted of alder wood and features a different finish.
The three prominent art pieces, hand-carved from alder wood and about 4 feet in height, were inspired by African masks.
Comfort Zone
The chandelier in the master suite adds a touch of the ornate to the otherwise contemporary room. A bed platform helps anchor the large space.
The warm but dramatic double-staired foyer leads to the lofty game room above, and to the expansive great room and the multi-patio outdoor world beyond.
Comfort Zone
Cleverly tucked away in a loft above the great room, the game room offers a distinct “gentleman’s club” appeal without sacrificing its contemporary connection with the space downstairs.

A former pro athlete creates the perfect field for his growing family’s dreams.

In the world of baseball, shortstop is considered one of the most difficult and demanding infield positions—requiring equal measures of agility, range and strength.

So it comes as no surprise that former Red Sox shortstop Royce Clayton would apply similar skills to any post-sports endeavors.

When Royce began making plans to build his dream home in Arizona’s scenic Paradise Valley, he did just that.

Instead of the next pitch, he focused on his growing family’s lifestyle.

“After living in Scottsdale for 14 years, we found this community where we just connected,” says the avowed family man. Both he and his wife Samantha Davies, a sprinter on Britain’s 2000 Olympic track team, were drawn to the dynamic views. “We knew we wanted to bring the outdoors in,” he says, alluding to the city skyline to the north and the mountain peaks to the south.

Working in tandem with architect Michael Miller and custom home builder Mark McClanahan—both of whom have partnered with Clayton in a residential property development company, just one of the former pro athlete’s entrepreneurial ventures—the couple envisioned a lifestyle-driven floor plan.

“We wanted a great room that was the center of everything,” Clayton says. “And when we did that, the rest of the house became centered on that idea. “We really built [the home] from the inside out,” Royce continues. “It’s very unique in that regard.”

The residence’s 14 patios and resort-sized pool with a swim-up bar testify to the family’s passion for outdoor living, as does the automated misting system, outdoor rock and ceiling speakers and a flat-screen TV in the barbecue area.

Not surprisingly, the great room serves as the expansive center of the home—exactly as planned. The scenic yard is visible on three sides through massive glass doors that vanish into the walls, making the great room one with the backyard.

The space also keeps everyone connected, guests included, regardless of their location. “A group of us can be upstairs and look down and see the kids,” Royce says. “Or you can stand at the kitchen sink and see the TV.  You don’t feel like you’re separated, but you still have your space.”

Achieving such warmth and intimacy in such an expansive home was the project’s single major challenge, says interior designer Bonnee Sirotkin Gruber of Taggywail  Interior Design Studio. Her firm boasts a roster of sports-celebrity clients.

“Most of the home’s rooms were huge,” Gruber explains, adding that the couple also wanted a contemporary design scheme with African tribal influences. The “challenge quotient” expanded exponentially when the home’s construction commenced. Just two months into the project, the couple learned that they were expecting triplets.

With 14-month old Royce Jr. already in the picture, the announcement reinforced the necessity for ultra-child-friendly design solutions, and the most simple-to-use home automation technology available.

The good news, says Gruber, is that such design solutions are much easier to implement during construction.

“Getting form and function to work together [is] much easier than [designing within] an existing structure.” 

Working with custom installer Justin Jones of Just In Time, which Royce co-owns, Gruber provided scaled drawings that pin-pointed the optimum furniture placement for the great room based on its dimension and the audiovisual configurations.

The ceiling’s mosaic work in the master bath, left, is a combination of 1-inch square glass tiles in iridescent copper, gold, pale purple and white. Outfitted with a 32-inch LCD, this room has become a favorite hangout for the children.Since the great room encompasses several conversational and living areas, and a 63-inch Fujitsu plasma television, traffic flow and seating arrangement were high priorities for the family.

Form and function also are integrated in the textural elements. Distressed, espresso-stained wood floors and custom alder wood tables add warmth and richness—and are practically immune to “kid dings.”

The oversized, custom-designed upholstered sofas are enveloped in stain-resistant microfiber; the leg-free silhouette adds both weight and visual impact to the space.

Perhaps the warmest element in the great room is the custom area rug. “An area rug helps define a seating group that ‘floats’ in the middle of a room,” Gruber says. “In a room this size, this kind of definition was a design must.”

Both husband and wife worked closely with the interior designer to create a rug design that echoed the colors used throughout the room. The Mondrian-esque pattern incorporates variously sized shapes and lines, and its perimeter is tailored to hug the main seating group. For additional dimension, Gruber added different weaves, heights and piles—all in wool and silk yarns that were custom dyed for the piece.

“The clipping of the corners was a last-minute decision,” Gruber says. “It was driven by the diagonal placement of the furniture, but I also felt it would be safer for the children to not have the corners stick out.”

“Bonnee did a great job in designing that carpet,” Royce says, noting its color-
ful contrast with the dark wood. “She helped us create a family heirloom that is [mostly] stain resistant.”

In addition to the main seating area, the great room’s ancillary spaces—including a bar/wine cellar and breakfast nook—received similarly thoughtful treatment. The kitchen chairs are upholstered in colorful patterns that resist and camouflage food stains, for instance, and the breakfast table is distressed.

The kitchen bar stools have heavy wood legs to prevent tipping, and the glass countertop has a textured underside that lends a “wave” look; beneath the glass is a layer of powder-fine white sand that’s dotted with river rocks. Most everything was done with four young children in mind.

“With all the options on the market today, you don’t have to sacrifice style for durability or safety,” Gruber says.

The family-friendly ethos extends to the kids’ wing, which includes four separate bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a playroom equipped with a 42-inch Fujitsu plasma TV and its own DVD player.

On the adult side, a chic-yet-masculine home office is surprisingly conducive to work—even with the 42-inch plasma TV within easy view. “The kids know that if the door is shut, not to disturb,” says Royce.

“And when the door is shut, you can’t hear a thing.” However, Dad can make sure the kids are OK in the playroom by eavesdropping on them via the Crestron-controlled intercom system.

The master suite—designed to reflect the 1920s glamour of Hollywood—boasts the best theater set-up in the house, says Royce: “The 5.0 surround-sound system in there rocks, and the room has the best acoustics.”

Comfort Zone Another bonus: a comfy sofa at the end of the bed for watching movies on the 50-inch Fujitsu plasma. “It turns out that we enjoy that more than we ever expected,” he says.

The couple hasn’t had much time to enjoy the 32-inch LCD television while soaking in the master bath’s tub. “It mainly gets watched by the kids these days,” Royce laughs. But with a window overlooking the pool area and the stunning mountain views, it’s a private sanctuary the couple hopes to enjoy in the years to come.

As you might expect, this athletic family’s physical pursuits are just as important as the quality of their sleeping quarters. The home gym—which includes a spa area complete with a sauna, steam shower and, of course, a 42-inch plasma TV and sound system—is a part of the separate two-bedroom guest quarters that are just a short walk away from the main house.

All in all, says Royce, the home he masterminded for his growing family surpasses his original vision, which was grounded in his own childhood. “When I was growing up, all the activity took place in the den. Everything happened in, and just off, that room.”

That said, it’s clear that Royce’s remarkable shortstop skills—agility, range and strength—have always been driven by his love of family. Even when he was playing ball and changing teams “my focus was on how the kids were doing—how Samantha was doing, how she was managing.” Now that the family is together a lot more, Royce takes pride in the home he’s helped create.

“The house turned out better than I ever envisioned,” he says. “And all the comments we get from our friends—how warm and comfortable they feel when they are here. That’s all you can ask for.”

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