Tag Archives: tim larson


Custom Home: Hacienda de Primavera

The owners call their desert mountainside home “Hacienda del Sueño” (“Dream Home”), but the moniker could also be “Home of Spring,” — “Hacienda de Primavera.”

Built by Scottsdale’s La Casa Builders, the 7,248-square-foot Modern Hacienda eloquently expresses the owners’ vision, easily flexing for a multi-faceted lifestyle that finds them as much outside as in — particularly in spring, when the desert effloresces before it sizzles.

Designed by Drewett + Brenden Architects of Phoenix, the three-bedroom, one-story home, plus single-bedroom, semi-attached casita is meticulously sited in north Phoenix on a one-acre triangular lot, delivering imposing southside views of Camelback Mountain and privacy.

pool“I can say without reservation that the ‘outdoor-room’ solution for this residence is the best Arizona lifestyle room of any home I have built in my luxury-home career,” says Ron Steege, who with La Casa partner Tim Larson has been building custom homes in the Valley since 1991.

The owners, for sure, joy in their home. “We love the mountain in the early morning and with the lights on it at night,” the wife says of the master bedroom suite, which faces the 2,707-foot landmark. “It makes it easy to have sweet dreams.”


Begun in June 2007 and delivered to the New York couple by the La Casa team in December 2008, the custom home is walkable to the popular trails around and to the challenging summit of Camelback. It is also a short stroll to the historic Royal Palms Resort and Spa, with its outstanding spa and fine dining.

“This home was designed specifically for Arizona’s indoor/outdoor lifestyle,” says Scottsdale interior designer, Kim Alonzo, ASID, whose work won her KA Designs first place at the 2010 ASID Design Excellence Awards in the Residential over 6,000-square-feet category.

kitchen“The client entertains a lot and wanted to be able to open up the back of the house so the entertaining space would be doubled,” she adds. “Guests would not feel separated by any wall systems. The back of the house is constructed of ceiling-to-floor retractable glass doors that hide in the wall, which adds to the illusion of a unified space.”

The wife explains: “I love the outdoor covered patio; most of the year we can entertain our friends and families there. My husband can barbecue, and there can be friends around him so he doesn’t feel so lonely while he’s cooking. Likewise, others surround me in the kitchen. It’s one big room, which is exactly what we wanted to accomplish.”

Just beyond this area is the pool, designed by Kirk Bianchi of Bianchi Design in Phoenix and built by Phoenician Pool Company of Scottsdale, and the grounds celebrate the artistry of Morgan Holt and his EarthArt Landscape & Design of Phoenix.

Throughout, the layout of the home, in particular its main rooms — kitchen, dining room, wet bar, great room and outdoor patio — facilitate this entertaining lifestyle. Often, she’ll start a party with appetizers at the entry courtyard, continue with main courses at the large kitchen island (with what the couple calls the “pull-out drawer without end”) and then serve dessert on the adjacent outdoor patio, where guests can swim and relax while enjoying changing mountain moods.

To intensify this indoor/outdoor nexus, Alonzo tied the materials, colors and styles together. The great room flooring, for example, is concrete tiles that continue to the patio, including the grout lines, so there is no visual interruption.

“The interior and exterior furnishings and fabrics complement each other by color, pattern and texture,” she says. “The patio furniture is more like a living room because it has a sofa, chairs and a cocktail table surrounding a fireplace and television.”


“We wanted a home that was warm and cozy, inviting, colorful and welcoming,” says the wife, who grew up on Long Island, where her parents lived in the Hamptons. “We did not want a home that was ‘frilly and fussy’ nor did we want a house where family or friends were afraid to touch anything.”

living“We used furniture that was sturdy, such as the mesquite dining room table from Taber & Co. in Tucson, so as not to worry about the amount of use it would get. It’s meant to be used — and used in order to create memories.”

Larson adds: “Our clients wanted a home that would live well on an intimate level, with private places to curl up with a book and glass of wine or visit over coffee with a friend or family.” Valley residents since 2001, the couple also hosts their four children and two grandchildren on the holidays in addition to frequent entertaining.

Back East, the wife had been devoted to contemporary architectural and furniture styles, but after living here, they began to not only enjoy the desert lifestyle but southwest culture and traditions as well.

“When we first thought about building this home, we looked at some very contemporary designs, but we didn’t think that they belonged here,” she explains. “We thought that because this was the Southwest, our home should express that — in its styling, hand-crafted elements and colors.”

As a result, it interweaves various styles, textures and influences. Traditional elements, including flagstone and granite walls, combine with contemporary materials and technology, such as copper bargeboard sheathing and, between the great room and the outside patio, a retractable electronic wall system on a radius.

Shopping for more than a year with the wife, Alonzo discovered traditional Southwestern and Mexican accessories as well as contemporary artworks, which provide color panache throughout: hence, Modern Hacienda.

“Our clients had a very bold vision for the residence that included a unique mix of modern 21st-century architectural features mixed with organic hand-made finishes, set off by a very intense color palette,” Steege says. “The results are quite extraordinary; every room, every space is a visual treat.”

Throughout the home are reclaimed Douglas fir beams and corbels created from these — such as in the main hallway. Larson regularly travels to Oregon to select beams and ships them for acclimation to Arizona where they are covered in canvas and dried in the desert for at least one year.

“The beams are salvaged from old saw mills and buildings built in the early 1900s,” he explains. “We work with local craftsman and wood carvers to integrate them in our clients’ homes.”


Hand-carved woodwork is everywhere. The distressed-alder front door, with floral themes, is by Scottie Reid of Scottsdale, and the cabinetry and interior doors, most created in knotty alder, was crafted by Russ Kory’s Phoenix-based Finely Designed. Much of this woodwork reveals floral themes, the wife’s favorite motif which also appears on the red-fabric cornices, bedding and the master bedroom wool carpet.

Ornamental iron also celebrates the Southwestern spirit: In the central hallway, the wife helped design long sconce supports, which contrast with the corbelled beams and provide verticality to the winding space of sandblasted concrete tiles. And, off the hallway, her office has a highly crafted iron gate rather than a door.

bathroomAntique and contemporary accessories reiterate the regional inspiration and the connectivity of the home with the outdoors: hand-painted Talavera dishes from Nogales, Mexico, in the kitchen; a large garden planter from Guadalajara, which tilts on iron bracing to show at 45 degrees; deep-red Tarahumara pots above the pool, with its red-tiled raised spa; gas lanterns at the pool fireplace; a chandelier synthesized from items purchased in Mexico, India and America; and, in a guest bathroom, pieces of an aged screen, with fading multi-colors, insetting the contemporary alder door and also serving as covers for the adjacent cabinets.

In their desert home, there are memories, too, of the water and Long Island. The wife calls her serene master suite getaway, her “Ocean Bathroom,” with its aquamarine and other blue-toned porcelain tiles, and an outdoor shower is a step away from the master shower. At the front entry, Cave Creek sculptor Alan Hochman has created a water wall of scored New Mexico granite, which the husband loves listening to.

“Our dreams have become our reality,” she says of her Phoenix hacienda. “Every time we walk in, we smile.”

Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012, Photo: Dino Todd

DC Ranch Home Is Nimble, Flexible, Up To The Challenge Of Three Boys

The Yatkowski family uses every inch of their DC Ranch home — all 13,128 square feet of livable space.

Paul and Kari Yatkowski’s Southwest-Mediterranean-style two-level at DC Ranch in north Scottsdale includes five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a five-car garage and a detached 602-square-foot casita with another bedroom and bath, which the couple generously opens for friends and family. An acre-plus wash-delineated lot, blending lush high desert and xeriscaping, privatizes them from neighbors and the golf course.

“They loved the location on a quiet cul-de-sac with great views of the mountains and city lights,” says Ron Steege, co-principal, with Tim Larson, of La Casa Builders, Scottsdale.
To complete the team, the Yatkowski’s selected Scottsdale architect David Dick, who had designed their former Ahwatukee home, and, for the interior design, Holly Ogden, ASID, of Wiseman and Gale Interiors, Scottsdale. Design and building required two years, and the family moved in July 2009.

West by Midwest

“We bought the lot and built here because we felt that this was as close to how we grew up,” says Kari, a native of Spearfish, S.D., famous for its gold-rush past, mining present and proximity to Mount Rushmore National Park. Similarly, Paul grew up in Winnipeg, Canada, before coming to the United States to play football for the University of Tennessee. “As you would expect, that creates some family rivalry,” says Kari, an Arizona State University graduate.

“We wanted the amenities of a master-planned community and the fabric of a traditional community,” she adds. “We wanted a home where the children can ride their bikes down the street and go to school with the same children they play football with.”

Married 10 years, they have three boys: twins and a high schooler from Kari’s first marriage. Also residing at the home are a half dozen dogs and cats, living the DC Ranch lifestyle with apparent satisfaction, enjoying designated feeding areas and siesta nooks: “I’d have a 100 animals if I could,” says Kari, who works closely with nonprofits supporting families with children and animal causes throughout the Valley.

The DC Ranch community provides them with hiking trails into the McDowell Mountain Preserve, neighborhood parks and amenities such as the Desert Center, an 8,000-square-foot facility on nine acres, including fitness rooms, heated pool, tennis, volleyball and basketball; and the Homestead Community Center, with a 7,000-square-foot facility, including the innovative Homestead Playhouse community theater. Nearby are the shops and restaurants of DC Ranch Marketplace.

Every year when the boys are off from school, they spend time in a second home in Colorado, but for most of this summer, Kari will be vernal social director, hoping to schedule activities at the house, the DC Ranch community centers and other Scottsdale-area activities.

“This will be our first summer here,” she notes, with a sigh. “What do you do with three boys for four summer months?” she continues with a big smile, looking out toward their backyard, which the La Casa team has fitted with a large pool, including an electric cover for safety and low maintenance, a heated pool bath/spa and a trampoline area. “Well, they do like to swim.”

A living home

Fortunately, how the Yatkowski’s designed their home provides many activity options beyond swimming and trampolining in the summer as well as in cooler times of the year. “We didn’t go into it to design our home according to a set theme or style,” says Kari, who works out of the home for Corporate Citizen, her consulting company that provides corporate-giving strategies to clients who want to align their businesses with nonprofits.
From her office, connected to Paul’s through a medial hallway, she also coordinates Haven Charitable Foundation, a family foundation established to assist nonprofits make wise and lasting changes.

“It was so much more important for us to program the home for our lifestyle, for the way we live every day,” she says. “I’ve been in some spectacular homes, but sometimes I don’t know how people can live in them with kids and dogs; they’re so fussy. For Paul and me and the kids, a home is for living.”

Modularity and scale are essential design elements. Although the home is large, it’s nimble, flexible, up to the challenge of a three-child (plus friends) home. “We didn’t want all high-vaulted ceilings, with a sense of immensity, so we decided early on to bring the home down to the Arizona lifestyle we wanted to enjoy,” she says.

“When it’s our little family, it feels it’s just our little family and nothing more, but when you have a big group and entertaining, we can activate spaces to make our home work for us and them,” she adds. “Everything seems connected here, rather than having wings spread out. It’s compartmentalized but open, too.

“Paul and I both come from Midwest environments, where all of the rooms are small, so we tried to blend the large overall imprint of the home with this concept,” explains Kari, who traveled to Arizona with her car and clothes two decades ago to attend a “warm-weather school.” From ASU, she graduated with a degree in supply chain management and followed with a successful corporate career until she had the twins.

For example, the foyer seamlessly leads to the great room, with this large space opening through collapsing walls to the outdoor hearth room, including a gas barbecue, a fireplace built into a support wall viewable from the foyer and seasonal heaters and misters. The pool area is conveniently off to the right.

“This is what living in Arizona is all about, and how La Casa builds homes,” says Steege, who was also born and educated in the Midwest and who chose to move to the Valley with his wife, Jennifer, because of the many attractions of the desert. “We always enjoy the opportunity to create a true indoor/outdoor lifestyle experience, and this home exemplifies that.”

Left of the elegantly finished foyer/great room is an expansive French-style kitchen, which opens through archways into a breakfast room on one side and, on the other, the formal dining room with an adjacent room built for Kari’s cherished dish collection. “This immediate kitchen area is the heart of where we live and is very comfortable,” she adds. She also regularly uses a walk-in cooler and walk-in pantry. “You can certainly live without a walk-in cooler, but it’s been so helpful with the family,” she says.

“Paul and I don’t formally entertain a lot, but we entertain informally often, so this area sets the tone very well for our casual lifestyle,” she adds. It’s often the area that gets used, too, by the children: “We’ve become the Kool-Aid stop for the neighborhood,” she explains, with a laugh. “So, after the games, after school, this is a popular place.”

In a similar spirit of connectedness, the boys’ playroom/TV room is off this central everyday locus; here, there are also areas for them to read and study. Just behind this are their rooms, to which Kari has allowed them to liberally place ASU Sun Devil and UT Volunteers peel-away decals on the walls — “They’re called Fatheads,” she says — which Paul paternally tolerates, with his University of Tennessee connection.

Upstairs is the older son’s home — more like a hotel suite, including a bedroom with a window niche daybed for buddies and a sitting room. On this level is also an enormous game room featuring a view deck, billiards table and multiple screens for watching Paul’s favorite teams simultaneously.

While Paul’s doing that on the second floor with friends, Kari can be showing a group of 15-year-olds a movie downstairs in the home theater and entertaining eight-year-olds with an afternoon Kool-Aid break at the kitchen island.
“We use every square inch,” she says.

A home that finishes well

Utilitarian in many ways — Kari: “It’s like a tank or a well-oiled machine” — the home also includes superlative materials, finishes and touches. Flooring in the living, master, dining, gallery, foyer and formal powder is walnut, and the two stairways to the second floor and its game room are reclaimed oak.

Throughout are French limestone fireplaces, hand-forged metal doors for the wine room and dish room, a hand-carved entry door and a handmade zinc bar top for the game room and details such as a hand-made leopard pattern carpet, by Stark, in the master bedroom closet.

She particularly enjoys the influences and textures of Provence and countryside France, and they appear throughout in artwork (a hotel guest registry along a corridor, for example), wallpapers, a powder room (“something girly for me”) and various niches, such as the daybed in the master bedroom bath, of which Paul once asked, “Why do we need this? What is it for?” “Because it’s pretty,” she told him.

Pretty, too, and eco-friendly are the reclaimed Douglas fir beams from old sawmills on the great room ceiling. Tim Larson traveled to Oregon to hand select them — a trademark service and resource of La Casa Builders exclusive to its homeowners.

“We first asked, ‘Should we patch the old bolt and nail holes?’ But we thought they’re not so rustic that you feel there are cobwebs,” she says. “And now, looking at them every day, they’re perfect — just the way they are.”

Photos of the Yatkowskis’ home:

Photo: Dino Todd Photo: Dino Todd Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012, Photo: Dino Todd Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012, Photo: Dino Todd Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012, Photo: Dino Todd
Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012, Photo: Dino Todd Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012, Photo: Dino Todd Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012, Photo: Dino Todd Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012, Photo: Dino Todd Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012, Photo: Dino Todd

Scottsdale Living Magazine Summer 2012

La Casa Builders

La Casa Builders: A Well-Built Partnership

La Casa Builders Inc. started on solid rock.

“I was building a home at the base of Pinnacle Peak Mountain,” recalls Ron Steege, a co-principal, with Tim Larson of the Scottsdale-based custom builder now in its 20th year. The 10,000-square-foot north Scottsdale home was designed by John Rattenbury, senior architect at Taliesin Architects, founded by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Larson owned Tim Larson Custom Carpentry. “Ron hired me to do the interior trim carpentry in the home. Things went well, and after he finished it, we decided to continue on together,” recalls the native of Ada, Minn., where he graduated from high school in 1977, attended East Grand Forks Technical School for Construction and worked for and eventually purchased a general contracting company.

“I became very impressed with Tim’s skill, work ethic and personal integrity. I asked him to join me in a general contracting venture,” says Steege, born and raised in Bloomington, Ill. There he graduated from high school in 1963 and pursued design education at the Art Institute of Pittsburg, the Ray Vogue Art Academy in Chicago and Illinois State University.

This combination of Steege’s design skills and Larson’s master craftsmanship has allowed each man to contribute individual expertise and synthesize a partnership that has made La Casa one of the Valley’s most-respected luxury builders and premium remodelers.

Essential to the success has been continuing friendship: “There was and is a chemistry that Ron and I have together that is hard to explain,” Larson explains. “It’s like he is my brother.”

At Home Building Homes

La Casa BuildersA specialist at desert and hillside construction as well as golf course lots, La Casa has built customs in luxury communities such as Silverleaf, DC Ranch and Desert Highlands in Scottsdale and on premium sites in Phoenix, Paradise Valley and Carefree.

“Our passion, from the day we started until today, has been to build timeless ‘works of art’ utilizing the very best in materials, craftsmanship and technology,” Steege says.

Flexibly adapting to their clients’ visions, they have built in styles as diverse as Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial, Tuscan and Contemporary as well as created fusions realizing the visions of their clients.

Inspired by the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright, the firm also completed a renovation of the hillside Lykes/Melton home ― designed by Wright just before his death in 1959.La Casa Builders

“Our goal was to conserve the character and integrity of Wright’s work but bring the livability features of the home into the 21st century,” Steege says of the 1994 project.

La Casa also excels in green, or sustainable, homes, implementing strategies such as recycling Douglas fir beams from a 70-year-old saw mill in Oregon, Low-E glass, high-SEER-rated HVAC systems with HEPA filters, tankless water heaters, lighting-control systems, foam insulation and geothermal technology to heat and cool a home.

After schooling, Steege worked as a graphic designer, freelance illustrator and art director for Country Companies Insurance Company before moving to Arizona in the middle ‘70s with his wife Jennifer to start a design/build company. An artist, she grew up on a farm in central Illinois, and they met in an art class at Illinois State University.

“We looked all over the Southwest and fell in love with Arizona ― everything about it: the climate, the people. Most of all the diversity of the Sonoran Desert totally captivated us,” recalls Steege, who lives with Jennifer in downtown Scottsdale.

La Casa BuildersThey started in Tucson, renovating doctors’ offices, dental clinics and homes, including that of singer Linda Ronstadt’s grandparents, which is now owned by her uncle and aunt.
They relocated to the Valley to work with Gerry Jones, who has designed and built many hillside homes in Paradise Valley and Carefree for clients such as Hugh Downs, Paul Harvey and the Darlington family.

“Gerry taught me the art and science of building complex desert homes on difficult sites utilizing the best materials and craftsmen,” Steege says. “Tim and I still embrace many of the methods and techniques taught by Gerry in our current projects.”

Larson, meanwhile, moved to Arizona in January 1985 with his wife, Carol ― she’s an elementary school teacher ― from native Ada, Minn., to join her parents, who had relocated here two years earlier, as well as to get away from northern winters and, at the same time, reap some of the carpentry work in the growing Valley. He and Carol are also Scottsdale residents.

Desert weather perfectly dovetailed his skills and aptitude: “I have always been a hands-on active type person, so that’s what I like about the construction field,” Larson says. “I like to see the progress that you can make every day. Every day is new and different. It is never monotonous.”

Integrity, Detail, Service

La Casa BuildersStart-up La Casa was Larson, the Steeges and one laborer. “We actually worked out of our homes and a trailer on site,” Steege recalls, noting that Jennifer was the office administrator for the first 10 years.

Mostly, the company did remodeling for the first eight years. In 1998, they built a large custom home.  “After that, more new home opportunities came up, and since then we have been doing more new construction than remodeling,” Larson says.

Today, their core staff includes an additional eight employees, who handle municipal permits and reviews, cost analysis, value engineering, construction specifications, competitive bidding, sub-contractor and supplier selection, project management and administration.

An additional 50 to 100 personnel work in the field on projects. “Over the 20 years, we have gained experience selecting subcontractors,” Larson explains. “Just being the least expensive person isn’t always good. You have to know if a company has sufficient crews to handle the work. You also need to know their level of craftsmanship.”

He adds: “When we have a good subcontractor, we like to stick with them because they know what we like and dislike. Some subcontractors are good for a while and lose a key employee, and then we have problems. It’s a daily process of keeping good quality subcontractors.”

To do otherwise would be to shortcut clients ― a breach of the company’s mission of integrity, detail and service.

“Many of our clients may only build or renovate one home in their lifetime, and we want that experience to be positive and enjoyable,” Steege says. “Our daily reality is that we build dreams, and Tim and I, and the La Casa family, take that responsibility very seriously.”

For more information about La Casa Builders, visit lacasabuilders.com.