Award-Winning, Urban-Infill Home in Historic Neighborhood

Tasked with creating a new home on a tiny lot in a historic neighborhood under demanding architecture codes, Cavin and Claire Costello found creative uses for space and common materials. The result is an award-winning design that's caught the eye of many Phoenix homeowners, who now want some of the same features in their own houses.
Modern Rectangular Home With Wall of Windows and Bright Orange Front Door

Modern Rectangular Home With Wall of Windows and Bright Orange Front Door

There's a retro inspiration behind this simple but beautiful modern home. A white panel creates depth to the exterior and highlights the bright orange front door. On the opposite side, a full wall of windows provides a view indoors and straight through to the backyard, creating a spacious outdoor feel. A natural rock bed supports a walkway leading up to the home.

Photo by: The Ranch Mine

The Ranch Mine

When working with homeowners, Cavin and Claire Costello of design-development firm The Ranch Mine in Phoenix, Ariz., focus on creating spaces that fully reflect their clients' lives and personalities. But when taking on a project with a developer, the husband-wife team gets a chance to show more of themselves and their big ideas of how to push the envelope with design.

The Costellos had the chance to show just what they could do with an urban-infill project on a tiny vacant lot in a historic neighborhood that bordered Phoenix's light rail corridor. Both the neighborhood's historic overlay and the rail system came with their own set of design and architectural codes and regulations that the team had to adhere to when creating their plans.

Modern Home Exterior With Bright Orange Front Door

Modern Home Exterior With Bright Orange Front Door

This modern home's brown, orange and white exterior color palette gives off a retro feel. A natural rock bed surrounds concrete pavers that lead to the bright orange front door. On the opposite end of the home, glass doors provide access to a covered patio with a small stone wall.

Photo by: The Ranch Mine

The Ranch Mine

The challenge was to create a home that fit in among the neighboring homes built in the 1930s and 1940s while still looking like a home built for current times – all on a tight budget.

"It has to meet similar size, similar scale and a similar form of the rest of the houses in the neighborhood," Cavin says. "We went in and documented all of the houses in the neighborhood and saw a similar pattern and tried to emulate that."

"The design took about four weeks. The rest of the time was trying to make that design happen with all of the documents and the public meetings that were needed."
Cavin Costello, The Ranch Mine

A year and a half later, the Costellos had completed a 2,000-square-foot home at a cost of $138 a square foot using simple building materials in thoughtful ways. Their efforts earned them a Future of Architecture Residential Design Contest and Showcase Award for Innovation, given by The American Institute of Architects and Houzz.

The innovative features aren't necessarily noticeable at first, but a closer glance of the home reveals them. The half wall along the front of the home and firepit in the back appear to be made of wood but are instead made of concrete shaped by the texture of raw wood. The living room is lit by LED tape lights set into track-lighting mounts between individual pieces of the ceiling paneling.

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Urban-Infill Project On a Tight Budget

This home began as an urban-infill project on a tiny vacant lot in a historic neighborhood. The challenge was to create a home that both fit in among the neighboring homes built in the 1930s and 1940s while still looking like a home created for current times -- all on a tight budget.

Expanding the Living Space Outdoors

Both the front wall and back wall of the living area fully retract to open the space up into the front and back yards. The home's concrete slab foundation doubles as the interior flooring.

Energy Innovation

The orientation of the home and the roof overhang keep the light from hitting the glass until the winter months, at which time the sun reaches the concrete floor and warms it, saving the homeowners on energy costs.

Minimizing Work and Waste

The kitchen island is sized to fit the slab of quartz that was selected as the kitchen countertop in order to minimize any effort needed to cut the slab down and limit waste.

Photo By: The Ranch Mine

Semi-Custom Cabinetry Design

Cavin and Claire selected Ikea cabinetry for the kitchen to help keep cost down but configured it in such a way to make the room feel custom. A back-painted glass backsplash adds a finished touch to the space.

Setting the Tone With Cabinetry and Tile

Ikea cabinetry is stacked and floated above the floor for a custom look in the master bathroom. The Costellos selected a palm-leaf shaped tile and alternated the two available tile colors, adding color and movement.

Custom Bathroom Detail

The same type of quartz used in the kitchen also appears as the bathroom countertop. The Costellos created a reveal edge lined with walnut tape for an additional custom touch.

Minimalistic Design

The bathroom floor slopes toward a center drain, eliminating the need for a shower enclosure. The far wall includes a recessed space along the palm tile detail, providing a spot to store shampoo and soap.

Beautifully Detailed Wood Sliding Barn Door in Modern Hallway

Inspired by the design of the palm-shaped tile in the master bathroom, Cavin and Claire created a sliding door made of reclaimed wood with a similar pattern. The door conceals the private living areas from the home's social living space.

The Link Between Social and Private

The open kitchen creates the link between the home's social living spaces and private quarters. The large island provides plenty of room for entertaining guests, while the bedrooms are tucked away down a hallway in the L-shaped home.

Photo By: The Ranch Mine

Light and Bright Kitchen

Though the kitchen does not enjoy the same expansive windows as the adjacent living space, the clean white walls help reflect the light in a gentle way that makes the space come alive at night.

Easy Flowing Open Space

The open kitchen flows easily into the adjacent living space, though the living room is specifically designed by its taller ceiling.

LED Lighting Strips

LED light strips are placed on track mounts in between the walnut plywood boards that clad the ceiling. The result is a diffused glow which illuminates the entire space without feeling overly harsh.

Indoor-Outdoor Living

"We didn’t have much space with the lot, and we wanted outdoor living space. So what if the entire living space could become an outdoor room," Cavin Costello says. "It makes a small space possible for very large entertaining. We had an open house, and we easily had over 200 people here."

Textured Concrete Fire Pit

The fire pit in the backyard is made from the same concrete textured by raw wood as the half-wall in the front of the house, creating a continuity in the design.

Photo By: The Ranch Mine

Honoring the Design of the Neighborhood

The simple L-shape layout of the home was informed by size, scale and floorplans of the neighboring houses. The home design had to fit into the 1930s and '40s-era neighborhood while still reflecting the time in which it was built.

Cost-Effective Home Construction

The 2,000-square-foot home was built at a cost of $138 a square foot thanks to the simple building materials used in thoughtful ways. The Ranch Mine's efforts earned them a Future of Architecture Residential Design Contest and Showcase Award for Innovation, given by The American Institute of Architects and Houzz.

The design of the living space is its own creative feature. As the "social living space" of the home, it has a taller ceiling to define it and is bookended by a set of glass walls which fully retract to open the room up to the front and back yards.

"In our climate here in Phoenix we don’t have mosquitos, and we don’t really have many bugs, so people like to be outside for a good half of the year," Cavin says. "We didn’t have much space with the lot, and we wanted outdoor living space. So what if the entire living space could become an outdoor room?

"It makes a small space possible for very large entertaining," he says. "We had an open house, and we easily had over 200 people here."

Movement Shot in Modern Open-Air Living Room

Movement Shot in Modern Open-Air Living Room

The man in this time lapse photo demonstrates the open-air design of this living room. A large glass wall opens to a covered patio. A light strip stretches across the ceiling, casting a warm glow over the white sofa, orange leather armchair and glass coffee table.

Photo by: The Ranch Mine

The Ranch Mine

The Costellos allowed the concrete slab of the home to double as the interior flooring and selected walnut plywood to cover the wall and ceiling. The orientation of the home and the roof overhang keep the light from hitting the glass until the winter months, at which time the sun reaches the concrete floor and warms it, saving the homeowners on energy costs.

The kitchen and bathroom were built out with Ikea cabinetry but finished with custom touches, like the back-painted glass kitchen backsplash, quartz countertops and wall-mounted bathroom fixtures. The bathroom floor slopes toward a center drain, eliminating the need for a shower enclosure.

Modern White Bathroom With Floating Vanity

Modern White Bathroom With Floating Vanity

This beautiful, bright bathroom takes a minimalist approach to keep the space relaxing and clean. A wall-to-wall mirror makes the room look even larger, and a floating vanity keeps with the modern design. An accent tile strip resembling a leaf vein adds movement and color.

Photo by: The Ranch Mine

The Ranch Mine

All of these details work together to form the type of home that has been percolating in Cavin and Claire's heads and sketchbooks for some time while being difficult to sell on private residential clients. That's exactly why The Ranch Mine team, whose motto is "We design solutions that honor the past, challenge the norm and inspire the future," likes to push the envelope when working on a spec home project. It pays off.

"It’s difficult to convince homeowners of an idea that they haven’t seen before," Cavin says. "We’ve pitched this idea before, but they've never been accepted. Now we get tons of requests for this type house."

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The Ranch Mine

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The Ranch Mine
www.theranchmine.com 4340 E Indian School Road Suite 21552 Phoenix, AZ 85108 602-571-3016