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Custom home: A taste of Tuscany

Take the roads north of central Scottsdale to the bouldered high-desert Troon area: Pima to Happy Valley, Alma School, Jomax to 116th and, finally, into the gated 38-acre Collina E Vista (Hills and Views) luxury home community.

As you travel into higher elevations, the land turns lush with Sonoran Desert flora –– cactus, ocotillo, mesquite, palo verde and desert wildflowers –– and it arches up and down into foothills and washes where water runs with exhilarating power during winter storms and summer monsoons.

Here, eonic granite boulders are strewn or appear placed artistically, often precariously, as landmarks. Views to all directions are unobstructed and grand; within minutes of the burgeoning Valley, you are cleared of the clutter of development and density. You breathe, see, think in new ways. Many people move to the desert; here the desert moves in you.

This is grandness in comparative sparseness and vitality amidst struggle. In the highest points of the community, you can see, in one panorama, Weaver’s Needle beyond the Superstition Mountains to the east; Tom’s Thumb on the McDowells, south; and north to Pinnacle Peak and Desert Mountain and Four Peaks, the highest points in the Valley, frequently snowcapped in winter. At 2,500-foot-plus elevation, temperatures are 5 to 10 degrees cooler than those in the Valley, and microclimate breezes flow regularly through the foothills and mountains.

A love of Italy

Developer Bob Walker has lived with wife Karen in Collina E Vista since 2009, when their 7,500-square-foot Tuscan/Santa Barbara style home was completed. Details such as the Arkansas stone cladding the home –– “We chose it because it looks Tuscan,” he says –– express their love for Italy, which they have visited often during their 37-year marriage.

Designed by architect, Steve Simpson, and built by Medeiros Luxury Homes, Richard ‘Rick’ Medeiros, both Scottsdale, the magnificently sited home is the first of 12 Walker will build in the community, each featuring approximately two-and a half-acre view lots with building envelopes of about an acre. A high school buddy, Medeiros has co-developed projects with Walker for years; semi-retired, he lives nearby.

Now that the recession has passed, Walker is specking a few homes as well and will also build the remaining lots for clients. For himself and Karen, one will be an Italian villa, with 68 columns and a large motorcourt, just across the street.

“This is a luxury home with 360-degree views without hanging from a hillside,” says Frank Aazami, Private Client Group, a Realtor at Russ Lyon I Sotheby’s International Realty, Scottsdale. “It’s very close to the Four Seasons Resort and between two up-and-coming five-star resorts and near multiple golf course communities such as Estancia, Troon, Desert Highlands, Whisper Rock and DC Ranch.”

Aazami notes that although this and the other Collina E Vista homesites are splendidly north of the urban hubbub, the home includes all traditional services, including gas heat and city water and sewer.

Promise of privacy

The Walkers, in fact, formerly lived in Estancia for 10 years.

“It’s wonderful community, of course, but here we have more room and more privacy,” says Bob, who was born in the Bay area of San Francisco, where he owned a concrete company and developed commercial and residential projects. He and Karen met in high school, parted and reconnected later in life.

He and the family continue to build here in the Valley and in Washington, where they also have a home and where some of their children and grandchildren; a son and daughter and their children live here. He and Karen regularly jet back and forth.

At Collina E Vista, their home insets a hillside just inside the stacked-boulder monument that appropriately marks the entrance to the community. The estate home includes five bedrooms –– four in the main house and one in the 784-square-foot stand-alone casita –– six bathrooms and four garage spaces.

Two double extended-length, over-height garage bays, with a separate storage area, offer the car collector or boutique restorer generous room to work. Walker has renewed two American classics, carefully covered in two of the spaces: a colorful ‘33 Ford roadster and a ‘55 black-on-black Chevy 210 sedan, a frame-off restoration that includes a powerful big-block Chevy engine.

From the street, a short approach leads down into an old world courtyard, wrapping around a water-fountain that also fronts the stand-alone casita. This exterior entry comprises pavers quarried and cut in Turkey, with engaging, welcoming earth-tones: yellows and browns and oranges as well as river patterns. The home is conveniently on one level, with easy accessibility and turn-around distances.

Designed to entertain

Inside is an entertainer’s-delight floor plan, with spare-no-expense finishes and components: The resonant rotunda foyer, hand-painted by Artistic Painting by Mario, Phoenix, leads to a grand living room, with a Cantera fireplace that thrusts toward a 16-foot-high ceiling finished with stained Douglas fir beams. Details include wet bars, travertine and wood finishes, Cantera wall trims, multi-zoned HVAC, intercom and Smart Home and security systems.

The talented painter also fauxed the drywall in selected places –– so well the result looks like plaster –– and muraled a desert setting above the master tub that makes you wonder if the bathroom is outside or in.

Through the floor-to-ceiling windows is an extraordinary view of the north side of Troon Mountain, incorporating thousands of the area’s signature boulders, once again appearing meticulously set one on top of and next to the others. Timed shades also offer manual control of the sun.

The expansive kitchen includes a premium appliance package with multiple ovens and granite countertops and a central island and adjacent breakfast bar that have performed superlatively for both small and large gatherings. Buffet soirees would be particularly apt, with oodles of room for food display and guest circulation.

The adjacent breakfast room is partially framed by radiused windows showcasing back yard amenities: natural-grass play areas, one which could easily become a putting green, a cabana/gazebo with a full barbecue kitchen and a heated pool and spa by Aloha Pools of nearby Cave Creek. To swim here, in the middle of the summer, embraced by magnificent, wild desert, is an extraordinary luxury.

Desert Foothills Landscape, Cave Creek, completed the desert and grass landscaping here and at the front: blue and green palo verdes, white and lavender lantana, mesquites, ironwood, Mexican birds of paradise, honeysuckle and Texas mountain laurel and other indigenous and adapted varieties. Bob gardens primarily for enjoyment, raising xeriscape trees and plants that he plans to use for the  upcoming community homes.

Other spaces include family, great, game, exercise/sauna, wine and media rooms as well as an office, which Bob has finished in knotty alder to provide the antiqued look consistent with the Walkers’ predilections. This wood continues on the doors and millwork throughout the home. Designed and installed by Apex Wine Cellars, California, the cedar wine room comfortably stores 400 bottles.

The large master features a separate exit and a sitting room as well as substantial walk-in his and hers closets. One of the home’s three gas fireplaces is here as well, and the bathroom has a separate shower and jetted tub as well as double sinks.

“We selected this site for our home years ago and have lived here very comfortably,” Walker says. “Just as importantly, we look forward to remaining for many, many years. I’m not just a homebuilder here; Karen and I are homeowners, community members and neighbors.”

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