A Tony Retreat

Homeowner Scott Pask

An area rug from Delhi adds a dash of design.

Euphorbia plants add a living sculptural element
in the living room space.
The decor at the opposite end of the living room includes
mud-cloth pillows from Morocco and Africa.

Steps lead from the living area to the
dining room and kitchen.
The sleek kitchen includes teak cabinetry and
Mexican travertine countertops.

 A slice of light accents the area behind the master bedroom closet,
which was handmade of teak wood by Nate Danforth.

 The master bedroom includes a custom teak platform bed.

By Romi Carrell Wittman
Photography by Robin Stancliff

It’s almost high noon at the Catalina Foothills home of Scott Pask. The desert, thanks to a rainy spring, is overflowing with rangy creosote, cacti, and mesquite trees laden with yellow flowers. With the sun moving into place directly overhead, the desert has taken on a blinding, almost bleached quality. It’s the perfect time to see Pask’s home.

Constructed of adobe block and other materials native to the Sonoran Desert, this house embraces a contemporary aesthetic while remaining completely true to the environment around it. “There’s a beautiful honesty about this home,” he says. “The way it sits on the land. Its history reflects the materials traditionally used throughout the region.”
Light passes through rooms almost from every angle; from windows low and high, from hidden skylights and light wells. One can follow the path of the sun like an ancient monument aligned with its travels and seasons.
An accomplished designer, Pask has designed scenery and costumes for more than 50 Broadway shows and has won three Tony Awards, including one for The Book of Mormon. He designed the Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life installation at the New York Botanical Gardens, an exhibit he helped adapt and re-create at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.
A Yuma native, Pask fell in love with Tucson when he attended the University of Arizona. He received a bachelor of architecture degree in 1990 and later earned a master of fine arts from the Yale School of Drama. Though his career has taken him to New York and the world beyond, he remains drawn to the Old Pueblo and returns here from his base in New York as often as he can. He says his Tucson home is restorative, a tranquil retreat from the demands of his career.
Pask had been looking for a house, or land to build on, for more than four years. Friend and former UA classmate Chris Evans, a Tucson architect, and Jane London, a Realtor, helped him find it.
Built in 1968, the 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home had the high-ceilinged interior space he desired. It was in good condition, but Pask saw great potential to turn it into something truly special. His vision was to utilize the natural movement of light to create a space that was both dynamic and organic, a creation born of the land around it.
Since he is based on the East Coast, with far-flung projects, he asked Evans to join him on the project to supervise and provide insight, and to help enlist the talented network of local craftsmen, most importantly expert contractor Scott Woodward and David McGann, contractor’s associate. Master craftsman and cabinet maker Nate Danforth completed the stunning teak woodwork throughout the house, including the bookshelves that stretch the length of the master bedroom’s entry gallery, the kitchen cabinetry, each platform bed and bathroom vanity, and the impressive volume in the master bedroom that holds concealed closets along its entire length. In New York, Pask collaborated with friend and architect Graydon Yearick throughout the process.
Robert Nevins, of UA’s College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture, was Pask’s design professor during his undergraduate years and remains a great friend.  “I would have him over as each phase would be completed, and I always loved his input. His admiration of the house as it developed meant a great deal to me.”
Working with many people across multiple time zones comes naturally to Pask. “My New York design studio was essential in conceiving the stages of the project, and my visits every few weeks to Tucson were crucial, but I relied on my gifted collaborators to achieve the vision that had been put into each drawing and to expand upon them as needed. It was a highly gratifying process.”
The first step in that process was the removal of a garage, which obstructed the home’s view of the Santa Catalinas. Next, the Douglas fir ceilings and beams, which came from Mount Lemmon, were sandblasted, revealing a beautiful blond tone. The exterior of the home was painted a warm gray to mimic the tones of desert sand.
The master bedroom, an addition built in 1979, was taken down almost to the shell. Skylights and a huge pivoting window were installed to bring the desert and light inside wherever possible. The walls, adobe brick in the original structure and slump block in the addition, were mortar washed to create a unified texture.
In the second phase, the guest bedrooms and baths were reconfigured, and the kitchen was further opened and redesigned to become an almost gallery-like space.
A large piece of contemporary photography hangs in the space created behind the kitchen. Part of the “Dust Series” by acclaimed photographer Mathew Brandt, it features a historical photo of a building demolition in the Los Angeles area. Brandt used dirt and debris from the demolition site to produce a visually stunning image that somehow appears both natural and otherworldly. “This house is made of the earth, of mud and dirt, and this piece is aligned with that,” Pask says.
To furnish the home, Pask sought contemporary and antique furnishings to provide texture as well as historical context. There is a textile from 1800s London as well as three 1950s-era Turkish rugs, among many other items. Pask says the home serves as a background for these beautiful pieces. “They have age and history,” he explains. “There was a clear hand in the craft and making of them, and that’s why I chose them.”
As a nod to the home’s Southwestern location, a large black-and-white photograph entitled “6 Bell Ranch Cowboys” is featured prominently in the master bedroom hallway. Hannah Glasston, director of Etherton Gallery, assisted Pask in its purchase. “It’s a privilege for me to be able to place artwork I love in a home that speaks to the things I most appreciate about a place,” she says.
Glasston adds that Pask’s home is a great example of contemporary, rather than Old, West. “It enunciates visually the things I’ve come to understand and love, especially about the Sonoran Desert: the never-ending light, space to breathe, the warm colors of the land, a respect for the past, and the distinct individuality of the people who live here.” HG