Platinum Homes Paint the Desert “Green”

By David M. Brown

Jim and Jane Ebel love the varied greens of their new Desert Mountain home — the many tones of the high Sonoran Desert site and its “green” design and construction.

Last September the couple permanently moved into the four-bedroom, three-bath, two-story built by Dave Reese’s Platinum Homes.  The Ebels, both born in the Midwest, built a home in Arizona to escape the cold, but maintain a place in Illinois as to stay connected with their two sons, Jim and Jason and their families.  Married 44 years this June, Jim and Jane purchased the 1.07 acres in 2000 as a retirement promise, but waited for the right time, and team, to design and build their vision.  The view lot backs up to a wash, and from there, looks north toward Apache Peak and Continental Mountain.  To the west is landmark Black Mountain in Cave Creek, where gritty prospectors sought fortunes more than a century ago.

Their 7,208-square-foot home comprises 4,750 square feet of livable area, a 1,334-square-foot three-car garage with storage, a 1,124-square-foot covered patio and a 140-square-foot view balcony that the Ebels enjoy regularly.

Being environmentally conscious, they incorporated a number of sustainable features in their home and worked with Reese and representatives of the Scottsdale Green Building Program – a program that encourages citizens to build and remodel their homes and other buildings with energy-saving designs and features.  The Ebels’ green features include solar power, reclaimed flooring, siting, Sierra Pacific™ dual-pane windows, ENERGY STAR appliances and xeriscaping.

The Santa Fe/territorial style home was designed between the summer and fall of 2009 by Scott Giesen, whose Phoenix-based Giesen Design Studio has been creating luxury homes for 25 years in the Valley and Los Angeles, CA.

Giesen incorporated viga post accents on the exterior, hand-hewn ponderosa pine columns inside, mud-set tile accents, kiva fireplaces inside and another on the outside covered living area.  The window frames, finished in slate blue with a smooth sand finish, and dark-brown wood stains throughout, enhancing this Western inspiration, Giesen added.

“We knew Platinum Homes because Dave and Stephanie Reese were our neighbors in Aurora, and we had seen many homes Dave had built over the years,” Jim explained.  Reese introduced them to Giesen and to daughter Ashley, who served as the interior designer.

Tiffany Pixler and Cris Brock, Platinum’s project manager and construction manager, completed the construction nearly $50,000 under budget from September 2009 through August 2010.  “This house was a beacon to work on,” Pixler said.  “The Ebels knew exactly what they wanted and very rarely changed their minds, which made for an easy construction process with very little surprises.”

In siting the home, Giesen minimized windows on the south and west sides, and the dining room windows on the south-facing entry courtyard rest in thickly insulated walls shaded by a Southwest-indigenous Texas ebony tree, serenely canopying cactus gardens and a fountain.

Conversely, he sited the house for those mountain views and most of the windows are on the north side to minimize solar gain.  With an open floor plan and retracting doors, the great and dining rooms, the large entertaining kitchen connects with the outside living area and built-in barbecue and fireplace, capitalizing on energy efficiency.

“My plan is to live out there when it gets warmer, but now, if we want to use it, we just turn on the heaters in the ceiling and light the fireplace,” said Jane, explaining that Jim, a golfer, enjoys the six courses at Desert Mountain, so she spends much of her time by the pool and spa.

Designed and installed by Mike Ferraro of Phoenician Pool Construction, photovoltaic panels are used to heat this pool year round.  They also save energy with Pentair SVRS variable-speed pumps, Mike noted.

Water savings come from the surrounding xeriscaping by Desert Foothills Landscaping of Cave Creek: among many native plants, colorful saguaro, golden eye, ocotillo, jojoba, desert succulents such as agave and yucca, mesquite, ironwood and palo verde trees.  The site also retains a large granite boulder that neatly integrates with the installed fencing.

The second floor of the Ebels’ home is “Man Town,” as Giesen anointed it.  Here, Jim’s office, game area and powder room all benefit from surround sound, and a view deck displays city lights and sunset views to the southwest and west.  Jim keeps many of his family keepsakes in this area, such as a ‘40s vintage tube-powered Philco radio, which still works, and a trunk Jim’s grandfather packed all of his belongings into when he moved to Nebraska almost a century ago.

In Nebraska, Jim’s dad, Victor, was a farmer and avid woodworker.  “Jim’s dad would keep many of the dead trees from the farm to age for his carpentry projects,” Jane recalled.  “When he died, we found barns full of this wood.”

To honor his memory, they re-used some walnut and ash boards from that farm for floors in Man Town, as well as downstairs in Jane’s office, the wine room and the dining room.  These planks, with focal-point knots and distresses, were beautifully refinished with the help of Alro Hardwood Floors.

“It’s the perfect material for that area, and the coolest part is that it’s old reclaimed wood that actually has roots with the homeowner,” Ashley said.  Other elements reaffirming the Southwestern tradition are the neutral color palette, saltillo floors, with repeating reversed tiles for rustic effect, alder doors and cabinetry and Mexican hand-painted tiles.

“Jane and Jim asked me to provide a comfortable, neutral, warm palette they could add color, their artworks, personality and character to for years,” Ashley noted.  “We added a few quirky details — fun niches throughout, the saloon doors in the wine room, the colorful stair risers to Man Town — to make their new energy-saving home uniquely theirs.”

David M. Brown is a 30-plus-year Valley resident who writes on architecture, design, the environment and other subjects.  He has two grown children, who keep him young, and a Border collie, who keeps him in line.  Send us your architecture story to


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