A Daring Yet Livable Home of the Year Winner

All photos: Jeff Zaruba

March 15, 2021

Sitting on more than an acre in Scottsdale, Ariz., and offering sweeping views of the Sonoran Desert, the 2020 Best in American Living Awards (BALA) by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Home of the Year could easily find a spot on a television show about extreme design. But unlike many homes boasting a radical style, this one is also warm and livable.

“It’s a pretty daring, striking piece of geometry,” said architect C.P. Drewett, AIA, NCARB, president and founder of Drewett Works, who designed the home.

Drewett had been approached by a developer he had worked with before, who wanted to commission a speculative home featuring out-of-the-box modern design. Called “The Crusader,” the home takes inspiration from an F8 Crusader plane with its wings folded as it sat atop a carrier deck. The design is a tribute to Drewett’s father, who was a U.S. Marine Corps aviator.

“A lot of the design was also about view harvesting,” explained the architect. “The lot is a peninsula, so it’s extremely exposed on three and a half sides.”

With the opportunity for views in all directions, Drewett said he was compelled to open the home up and create a lot of fenestration but also allow the occupants a level of privacy. The complicated roof structure sits atop a home with sweeping walls of windows, and a spinal column runs through the structure, providing circulation and the inclusion of skylights and clerestory windows. Natural light enters from multiple angles.

“The plan of the house and the roof plan and how it sits on the site, just grabs you,” according to the 2020 BALA judging panel. “It looks like a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie-style design. It is simply outstanding.”

Extreme Design Challenges

In his desire to make the most of the site and create the folded-wings appearance, Drewett found that he needed to deliver drawings like never before.

“This was the first house that we’ve done where we actually created 3D framing drawings in sections,” he said. The roof’s varying angles meant that the ends of the same beams were at different heights from the floor, so in addition to the drawings, Drewett worked directly with the framers and gave them elevations of bearing points on each member of the structure – every plane on every roofline.

With the home’s butterfly form, water focuses on the middle of the house along the spinal column. Drewett designed an integrated gutter system to redirect it and ensure a waterproof structure.

 The Crusader Home of the Year

Kitchen & Bathroom Views

The kitchen echoes the overall structure of the house with its obtuse-angle layout and offers both exterior and interior views. The graining on the millwork and cabinetry, which was built by the developer Glen Ernst, features an angular cathedral pattern. Although the kitchen opens to the great room, the spaces are separated slightly by a massive central fireplace that sits not between the two rooms but to the side.

“You still have the visual of the openness, but because of how the angles work and the fireplace, the kitchen has a bit of its own autonomy,” said Drewett.

In the master bathroom, three 12-ft. horizontal openings above the tub again make the most of the surrounding landscape. They frame the Black Mountains in the distance so that upon entering the room, the effect is like looking at a wide painting.

“It’s one of those moments you capture a view perfectly,” said Drewett.

The Crusader Home of the Year

Teamwork & Takeaways

The gravity defying nature of the house feels aeronautical, according to Drewett. However, the spaces still are warm and embracing because of the material palette, which mixes Macassar ebony with natural stone.

“I like to bring a human nature to architecture,” he said. “The house could have been really slick, but the finishes are warm, which is not classically expected in something this modern.”

Likewise, the pool engages the architecture. The only curve on the project, it adds a final organic note.

Drewett acknowledges that a complicated, trailblazing project like The Crusader takes a team dedicated to the vision.

“When something is this challenging, you do it because you love your craft,” he said. “Every human being who was involved with the project was really proud of it.”

Designed by Drewett Works, the winning house was built by Peak Ventures. Ownby Design worked on the interior design elements, and High Desert Designs completed the landscape design. In its 37th year, BALA recognize outstanding achievement by builders and design professionals in all sectors of the residential housing industry including single-family production, custom, rental, affordable, interiors, remodeling and community.

– By Carrie Whitney