Thomas and Andrea Kotoske have, as their landscape architect Steve Martino describes it, “a skinny little house.” Though square footage in their Paradise Valley home is plenty — about 2,000 square feet — the home’s layout is long and narrow, with the main living areas averaging 18 feet across.
Six years ago, the Kotoskes decided to expand, but instead of covering their yard with walls and floors, they hired Martino to design a landscape to blend the outdoors with the inside. By transforming their driveway into another living area and adding three covered patios, the couple added nearly 600 square feet of space, borrowed, one could say, from Mother Nature.
“You can either think of the outdoors as a small backyard or a really big room,” says Martino, who calls the still-in-progress project (with an estimated cost of more than $100,000) “pretty darn amazing.”
The American Society of Landscape Architects agrees. The group awarded Martino, owner of Steve Martino & Associates in Phoenix, the 2006 Residential Design of Excellence award for the Kotoskes’ design, chosen from hundreds of entries.
“I was so proud when I found out,” says Andrea Kotoske, who adds with a laugh, “I can’t wait to get the trophy.”
“There’s no trophy, but it is a really nice honor,” says a smiling Martino, who has been honored previously by the society. “I do think I get a certificate.”
Calling the design “transforming,” the judges said it was “the landscape architect’s ability to combine architectural elements with dramatic plant materials to make this such a welcoming space” that won it for Martino.
“I’m fixated with integrating the outdoors with the in,” says Martino, who is also responsible for the outdoor design of Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, a resort in Paradise Valley.
He’s not surprised when people notice the similarities between that project and the Kotoskes’ home.
“That was the idea,” he says. “I wanted this to have a mini-resort look to it.”
Martino began his design of the home’s landscape by suggesting that traffic to the house be rerouted on a wider circle around the home, replacing the carport with a living room and making the driveway the first of the expansive patios guests see upon arrival. On each side of the new room, glass pocket walls slide into themselves, virtually disappearing for a completely open feel inside the home.
Ceilings were raised to nearly 12 feet on two open patios in the back of the house, allowing for shade without blocking the view. Leading into the house from each patio, another set of sliding glass pocket walls were used in place of solid doors.
In the back, the sound of traffic is muffled by a cascading waterfall. Neighbors’ homes are camouflaged by stucco, and metal screens are covered with crawling lantana.
Martino says his plan was to “edit things out and make everything go away except what we wanted to see.”
What the couple wanted to see, says Kotoske, was Camelback Mountain. So plants were removed to open the view.
The swimming pool remained untouched, as were two 45-foot-tall palm trees that flank it. (“Trees make the biggest difference,” says Martino.) The concrete surrounding was replaced with travertine tiles, which were continued on into the house.
What was once a narrow alleyway of a home is now a flowing combination of indoor and outdoor space, which Kotoske says the family enjoys daily.
“Oh, we’re out here all summer,” she says of her family, which includes sons Zachary, 10, and Hunter, 7.
The family, originally from the Midwest, says the sun and blue skies are their favorite part of the Southwest.
“So we didn’t want to feel closed in here,” she says. “The high point of the house now is the outdoor spaces, and the fact that they blend so easily with the indoors.”
Steve Martino & Associates 1111 E. Dunlap Ave., Suite 1-625 Phoenix (602) 957-6150