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A Theater of the Senses

October 17, 2008 By Hope Winsborough



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Though designed for large group activities, the outdoor living space that includes the theater, right, is equally suited to individual screenings.the screen [in the great room] and watch
In the great room, above, a custom Vision Art work disguises the 50-inch Sony LCD. The expansive living area is well delineated with stained wood beams.
When the homeowner positioned the master suite bed for maximum outdoor views, above, a retractable flat-screen TV and complementary storage-laden end pieces also came into play.

Technology and texture unite to foster one growing family’s togetherness.

“The eyes want to collaborate with other senses,” writes Finnish architect and theorist Juhani Pallasmaa. “All the senses, including vision, can be regarded as extensions of the sense of touch … They define the interface between the skin and the environment.”

Custom homebuilder and homeowner John Cioe would no doubt agree with Pallasmaa’s view—particularly since his own family’s comfortable Scottsdale, Ariz., haven is a testament to the importance of sensorial experience to matters of design.

With years of experience under his belt, the co-owner of Lusso Homes of Distinction postponed building his own home until the perfect opportunity presented itself—in the form of well-positioned plot boasting dramatic vistas of the perfect southwestern peak. And it was this view that led Cioe to create his own architectural “interface”—one that would define his young family’s future experiences.

Though designed for large group activities, the outdoor living space that includes the theater, right, is equally suited to individual screenings.

“I never had a need to build a home for myself,” says the father of three children. “But there I was with growing family. Then the next thing you know, I discovered the site.”

The site in question is in a luxury golf course community in North Scottsdale, and—more importantly—it offers stellar views of nearby Pinnacle Peak.

“The home was designed and sited with [those] views as a priority,” Cioe explains, adding that the engineer staked the home at two different angles to determine which orientation offered the best vantagepoint and the most privacy. “We discovered that by adding a partial basement [that stepped-up the sightline], we could capture even more views.”

But geographic positioning was just the beginning—and yet another way in which Cioe’s approach dovetails with those of Pallasmaa, who states that “Authentic architectural experiences [consist of] looking in or out through the window, rather than the window itself.”

Accordingly, Cioe’s main priority was lifestyle. “I thought a lot about how we actually live. We entertain a lot so there had to be a great room,” he explains. “And an open floor plan was clearly the way to go.”

Everything from the technology to the decor—a Southwestern take on an Old-world Tuscan style—was driven by the goal of creating an environment that is, at once, rustic and luxurious, kid-friendly yet elegant. Technology-wise, Cioe’s plans called for remote access to all things technological, including security, lighting and drapery control capabilities, and “peak” entertainment options.

“There are certain things you have to have in house at a certain price point,” says Cioe. “But the challenge is for the technology to be unobtrusive.”

Working with custom installer Ron Koisinen of Morgan Securities & Sound in Phoenix, he says, this goal was well-served. “For example, when I fly in from Rhode Island, I call from the airport [on my cell phone] and turn down the A/C, turn the lights on and adjust the motorized drapes in preparation for arrival.” From his point of view, certain technology—especially the remote access—“just makes sense.”

The task of translating the family’s lifestyle and Cioe’s technology parameters into a beautiful interior appointment plan fell to designer Kristin Hazen of Est Est Inc., who began at the beginning—with surfaces.

“Even though the style is reminiscent of Old-World looks, there is an airy feel,” she explains, alluding to her use of light and warm surfaces instead of heavy and cold—such as the home’s tobacco-colored canterra stonework and warm muted woods. On the floors, a tumbled travertine in a multi-sized pattern pairs with graham cracker-hued walls, establishing a calm persona.

“There’s a unity of look with the open flooring plan,” says Hazen, “but with different tones emphasized from room to room.” The great room is highlighted with browns and rusts, for example. Black is highlighted in the kitchen, with reds and golds in the dining room.

By combining formal configurations with inviting pieces, such as the dining room’s distressed wooden table bookended by iron ironwork and carved-wood, painted artwork, Hazen establishes a sense of comfortable stability. It’s the same compelling juxtaposition echoed in the outdoor environment visible from every room: a stony peak bathed in ever-changing hues and gradations of light.

The Cioe home is designed to promote viewing of all kinds. In the master suite, the bed is positioned at the perfect angle for taking in both Pinnacle Peak and the movie of choice showing on the 42-inch pop-up Pioneer plasma TV.

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