Moroccan style home
The first time Susan Kennedy visited the Arizona vacation home her husband had purchased, she surveyed the beige tile floors, beige walls and beige ruffled curtains and said, “Honey, you can come here as often as you want, but I’m never going to set foot in this house again.”
An avid cyclist, Roger Kennedy liked the idea of having a place where he could ride for hours in the dead of winter — but not if it meant leaving his wife back home in New York City. The couple agreed to invite their longtime interior designer, Ronald Bricke, to take a look at the property. His assessment wasn’t much better than Susan’s: “It was a sight,” he says. “It had nothing to do with the area and the environment.” But since the floor plan was good, and the view glorious, he agreed to try some corrective cosmetics.
Captivated by the intense light, Susan suggested going with a Moroccan theme, which delighted Bricke, who had visited there and was familiar with the aesthetic. “If you go to Morocco, you find rooms that are done in these incredibly brilliant blues and deep, rich, saturated reds,” he says. Following suit, he bathed the entry hall in pomegranate-colored paint, set purple doors in turquoise frames and covered the old tile floors with a layer of paprika-red concrete. Eggplant walls meet a chartreuse ceiling in one guest room, while periwinkle casts a serene spell over Susan’s meditation room. Bricke’s chromatic sleight of hand helps divert attention from the uninspired architecture and leaves visitors grinning from ear to ear. “You cannot feel depressed in this house,” Susan says.
The furnishings of this palette-happy design project had to be especially assertive to stand up to the saturated wall colors (and durable enough to accommodate bike enthusiasts in sweaty spandex). With North African decorative flair, Bricke layered color on color with upholstery fabrics, lightweight curtains and piles of pillows and throws in a surprising array of patterns. The living room banquette is an explosion of reds. In the adjacent dining room, a nine-foot table doubles as a desk for Roger, a retired sales executive who painted the three color-field canvases on the wall himself using latex house paint and a roller.
The only color Susan specifically requested was the hot pink in the master bedroom. “Pink is a nice color for a woman of a certain age,” she confides. Although initially dubious about the room’s feminine appearance, Roger eventually succumbed to its charms. “If you’re a man,” Susan says, “you know you’re in the seraglio.”
The 3,500-square-foot interior (which also has a large open family room-kitchen and two guest bedrooms) was transformed in just four months, with no structural changes. Roger visits the house often, sharing it with his cycling friends, who invariably invite their wives over for a look. “Anytime you choose bright colors, people find it shocking,” Bricke says. “But when it’s done, they love it.” While Roger rides, Susan reads, her early worries replaced by wonder as the morning sun emerges over Pusch Ridge. “The colors make you joyful,” she says. “Now I really look forward to being here.”
What the Pros Know
To carry off the Kennedys’ kaleidoscopic interior, designer Ronald Bricke approached the house as if it were a single room, choosing colors with a similar intensity that looked good next to one another. “If you took all of the colors that we used in the house and put them out on a table, they would all go together,” says the New York designer, who made allowances for the stark Southwest light when picking his paints. A paprika-colored concrete floor runs through every room, unifying the interior. (In other houses, a common trim color could serve the same function.) Bricke chose a matte paint to help hide the subtle texturing on the walls — the shinier the paint, the more variations show. He specified paints containing ceramic pigments, sometimes referred to as “ceramic paint,” because the finish doesn’t scuff when you rub against it, a common problem with matte paints in dark colors.