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YOU HAVE DRIVEN BY this Carefree, Arizona, mountainside home and wondered if your eyes were playing tricks on you, they were not. The tower-dotted residence really is covered in rusted steel, like a piece of Contemporary sculpture. The unusual property captured the attention of Coloradans Ramona and Steve Hamline when they were searching for a house to use as a vacation retreat. Struck by its stunning views and that distinctive steelwork, each saw beyond the 1960s-era dwelling’s need for a makeover both inside and out. Steve, regional president of a large construction firm, was not deterred by the challenge of”stripping a home down to studs and rafters,” and Ramona-a woman with innate creativity-envisioned the possibilities for its indoor and outdoor decor. A sparkling glass ball she discovered on the property gave her inspiration. Its blue hue would drive her entire design scheme, she says. “It reminded me of the deep color of the sky. Blue is a restful color. It is peaceful.” And these qualities were exactly what the couple was seeking for their getaway place. Architect Scott Hildebrand-who had designed, fabricated and installed the rusted-steel embellishments for the previous homeowner-also created rusted-steel elements for the Hamlines’ outdoor setting. It was landscape architect Michael Rockwell who transformed the backyard into a mini resort. The Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest had to work within the confines of the area’s huge existing boulders and difficult slope.
When he came on board, the largely unusable space had little more than an “an ugly round green concrete patio” and few plants. Working his precise magic, the landscape architect designed and built such amenities as a pool where bare pavement had been; an elevated patio with a fire pit and barbecue area where there had been weeds; a shaded patio for outdoor dining in formerly unused space; and a raised terrace for lounging where there had been a slope. To provide enough room for the pool and the lounging patio, 15 feet of hillside had to be excavated. “We needed to revegetate areas that were disturbed by the construction,” Rockwell notes. “The concept was to create the feeling that all the new work was just ‘placed’ into the natural environment.” The variety of desert plants he added looks if Mother Nature had chosen their locations. With its new patios and deep-blue pool, the backyard is the relaxing sanctuary the homeowners desired. The two credit Rockwell for the transformation. “Michael had interviewed us beforehand and asked how we intended to use it,” recalls the wife. “And he just got it!” lriJ