Introduction to SKYFIRE
SKYFIRE on Jopeda by Vernon Swaback is one of the most special homes BVO has ever had the pleasure of representing. Vernon Swaback is the last living apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright himself, and SKYFIRE is not only one of his residential designs, but his personal residence. Vernon also ran the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for 21 years. With a north/south orientation designed to protect the resident from the desert heat, no west-facing windows, and 12-inch thick volcanic ash walls, this home is a true desert oasis and a breath of fresh air among the Mediterranean design that rules Scottsdale. Check it out here.
To watch Vernon tell the story of SKYFIRE on Jopeda by Vernon Swaback, click here. Otherwise, here’s a transcript!
“The story of this house is one that began a half-century ago. I was raised and lived in a crowded Chicago neighborhood, and through a variety of maneuvers from the University of Illinois to an interview with Frank Lloyd Wright, I boarded a train, came out to Phoenix, and disembarked at a train station which is no longer there, went past an empty area which is now downtown, and for the rest of the 40 minutes or so it was pretty dark because there weren’t many houses.
I arrived at Taliesin West, which was like a brigadoon experience because all the rooves were ablaze with light, and I was taken to a little sleeping quarter and the next morning, I was given a lot of mortar, a few tools, and walked out to the desert, shown a half-finished tent and was told “this is your new home as soon as you complete it.”
But getting to this house, we found this site, which we thought was just ideal, because even today you can just sit on this porch and look out and never see another house. That’s a pretty amazing thing to say anywhere in Scottsdale. So you can sit on this terrace here, look out, see nothing but desert, watching the occasional airplane that crosses over, goes down, and turns west into Sky Harbor Airport. And it is really just simply a way of life; it’s more than a house.
To talk about the design a little bit, it faces basically south, the living room has a high vaulted ceiling with clerestory windows facing north, but there are fins coming down, and that’s to shelter in the time of year when the sun moves a little bit to the north. It’s just basically keeping the heat rays of the sun out of the house. And in many (homes), I observed early on there’s a great emphasis on the front door, and too often, I would go in and there was nothing there, the front door gave some kind of notion that this was very important, and as you entered it became less important.
So the difference here is you enter into a kind of shaded area, it’s fairly low overhead, and a pair of wood grain doors and custom hardware, and when you open them, you can see endlessly, because it’s all butt glazed glass, there’s nothing but glass, looking over water that doesn’t look like a swimming pool because there’s no walking around it, it’s a negative edge pool, which gets amazing sunsets and sunrises reflecting in it. So it’s all a house not so much based on style, style is sort of the result of doing things that are meaningful for the time, the place, and the life to be lived within it.”
SKYFIRE is a home with not only a beautiful design but an abundance of features to be spoken about. The home is built with the land around one main hallway, and never feels small, but wastes no space. Every area of the home has a purpose but manages to maintain the beauty you expect from the exterior of the home.
The home features hickory wood and stained concrete, with foot-thick walls to keep the home warm in winter and cool in summer. The roof is made of copper, and the entire orientation of the home is built to maximize views and minimize glare. Frameless windows provide panoramic views from the office to the kitchen to the great room. The walls are all made of Venetian plaster, and the ceilings feature tongue and groove hardwood as well as substantial beams. There is a cedar storage room with additional storage facilities and a massive four-car garage.
Great Room and Kitchen
The great room and kitchen are undoubtedly the heart of the home in any home, but especially at Skyfire at Jopeda by Vernon Swaback. The frameless windows provide panoramic views of the city as well as sunrises and sunsets reflecting off the pool. The north side of the home features clerestory windows near the tongue and groove hardwood ceilings, with angled beams drawing your eye to the windows. Marble countertops complement the stained concrete floors and draw your eye to the carved marble backsplash above the stainless steel gas cooktop, along with a custom butcher block countertop on the island. Leading to the loft and upper-level terrace is a unique steel spiral staircase that is sure to draw your attention up.
Continuing the frameless windows, you have views of the entryway, motor court, and detached casita with a full kitchen. The office is a fine place to draft your next building or get on a conference call with the executives not fortunate enough to work from a beautiful, unique home like yours, with a custom plaster-surrounded fireplace in the background and built-in millwork all throughout.
The master suite also features a custom plaster-surrounded fireplace, as well as an exterior door with direct access to the back patio and built-in spa. The master suite is the perfect retreat from the rest of the house, as it occupies its own wing and has an expanse of space in the bedroom, with its built-in millwork headboard and media wall, as well as the adjoining bathroom. The bathroom sports twin built-in vanities, twin closets, a water closet with a bidet, and a walk-in tile shower with an eye-level window facing the motor court, so you know to hop out when your guests arrive.
The exterior of the house continues on the natural desert oasis theme with its angled copper roof, remote-controlled copper fire urn sculptures at the ends of the pool, and the negative edge pool with a connected spa. The home is protected from the sun with expansive pulled canvas structures and features cantilevered rooflines and a terraced backyard with a detached fireplace and a dog run. The front door is solid Mesquite and features custom hardware and metal accents. As you enter the property, there is a gate ready to greet you, and as you approach the house, you pass under a wood and copper sign bearing the name of your home: SKYFIRE.
The casita maintains many of the features of the main house, such as stained concrete floors, a custom fireplace with a plaster finish, and clerestory windows to complement the high ceilings. It also maintains the millwork on the built-in headboard, cabinets, and shelves. The millwork fills the casita with the same sense of home it inspires in the main house. The casita does not lower its standard of living whatsoever for your guests or older children.
SKYFIRE on Jopeda by Vernon Swaback is not an easily forgettable home, nor should it be. From the moment you approach the driveway and are greeted by the copper and wood sign “SKYFIRE” you know you’re in for a treat, and as the eventual owner, it will inspire a sense of safety and stability in your heart as you live your life on this unique property.