When John Laing and Norman Wagner leave the stainless door at the entrance to their front courtyard open even a crack, curious minds see it as an opportunity.
That open door leads to a spectacular, U-shaped ranch house in north-central Phoenix that is otherwise hidden from view by a lengthy front-yard wall.
Even the mail carrier can't resist an ocassional peek.
“The time you want to see this house is at night,” Wagner said, foreshadowing the magnificence of the home’s interior and exterior lighting.
But the home that Laing and Wagner share can’t possibly experience a bad time of day. The sprawling four-bedroom ranch, reconstructed from a gutted 1963 structure built at the time with a Palm Springs flair, now stretches to more than 4,980 square feet and combines its Midcentury lineage with a contemporary influence.
“It had good bones,” Wagner said. “But, we tore them all down.”
Laing and Wagner kept the garage, the swimming pool and the fireplace and started fresh with the rest. The 20-foot-by-40-foot classic diving pool takes center stage immediately upon entering the spacious front courtyard, where a gentle raised waterfall spills over into the pool. The rest of the house encircles the open courtyard, which also includes elevated and covered seating areas.
Once inside, it may be hard on some days to realize where the courtyard ends and the main living room begins. With a fully retractable four-panel glass door, the room opens to the pool area, creating a fluid space that is perfect for entertaining or simply enjoying Arizona’s best seasons.
“I’ve just added another 3,500 square feet of living room with the swimming pool,” Wagner said of opening the glass.
The same can be said for the master bedroom, which is also equipped with a fully-retractable glass door, creating an openness that is only punctuated by white walls and raised ceilings.
“The color should be in the furniture and the art,” Laing said of the house’s almost exclusively white-washed walls.
And it is, both in visual pigment and in sentiment.
When Laing and Wagner describe the origins of pieces in their home, the descriptions include destinations such as Bora Bora, Indonesia and the Middle East, giving the home a rich, scrapbooklike feel. From the golden gong in the dining room to the bubblegum-pink puppy in the living room, the home’s global influence cannot be overstated.
That international energy mixes with a number of luxury design elements, including the home’s white porcelain floors and its chef’s kitchen complete with two dishwashers, a double oven, an oversize commercial-style gas range and a fully-appointed bar area finished with a wine fridge, a standalone ice maker and a top-notch coffee maker that brews what Wagner describes as the perfect cappuccino.
“So, I don’t go to Starbucks anymore,” Wagner said with playful dishonesty.
Perhaps one of the most luxurious features of Laing and Wagner’s house is the shower in the master bathroom. The glass-encased, 6-foot-by-10-foot stall has four showerheads, a bench and two individual wooden seats, which are used when the stall converts to a steam room. The shower also has access to an outdoor shower just off the master bathroom, allowing swimmers to rinse before coming inside.
“This is one of my favorite tiles, because of the dimension,” Laing said of the textured tiles that cover the upper half of the walls inside the shower.
Ironically, it was tile that almost drove Laing crazy during the house’s renovation four years ago.
Since the house has four full baths and one half bath, each designed differently, Laing and Wagner had seen an immeasurable volume of tiles before deciding which ones would work.
“I got so sick of looking at tiles,” Laing admitted.
But, he really only needed to push through that loathsome task for four of the bathrooms, since the half bath required a different look, in his mind.
In that petite sanctuary, just off the main living space, the walls are covered in a soft gold paint. It's the only room in the house that is not white. Soft lighting bookends the mirror. A vintage loveseat sits diagonally near the door and a pendant, finished with layers of gold leaves, hovers over the dainty couch.
The gold, Laing said, was intentional.
“It’s so everyone looks good,” Laing said, joking that harsh lighting can sometimes create an unfavorable reflection, especially when dinner guests check in on themselves after a cocktail or two.
And Laing and Wagner would know, after hosting a number of dinner parties and charity events in their impeccable space. While they do travel, they also love to stay home, entertain friends and visit with neighbors.
“The table seats up to 14, and that’s not by accident,” Wagner said. “We built the house to live in and enjoy.”
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