It wasn’t a fixer-upper by any means. But what Daryl Vierra did with the 1963 Tempe home he purchased nine years ago definitely qualifies as uber-fixing.
When the commercial pilot with a passion for research and knack for completing long-term projects remodeled his midcentury home himself, he took it back to its roots rather than forcing it into a trend-of-the-moment mold.
In a way, this made nostalgic sense. The home is adjacent to the Shalimar Golf Course, where Vierra, as a child, accompanied his grandfather while he golfed there. His grandparents lived within a literal stone’s throw of Vierra’s home.
“I have memories of this area that go back a really long time,” said Vierra, who grew up in Mesa, just on the other side of Loop 101.
When Vierra first spotted the house, which was built by the family of the late Sam Stapley of the historic O.S. Stapley Company hardware and equipment business, he owned a condominium a few blocks north. He and his former wife were riding their bikes and saw it was for sale. Vierra liked the architectural details, such as the sloped roofline. His ex had initial reservations, but they ended up making the purchase.
“It had a good vibe to me. It’s not like we bought a fixer-upper,” said Vierra, who perceived it to be a well-kept 1960s home that may have been updated in the ’80s.
“I knew it had good potential. I didn’t know how to achieve it,” he said.
Vierra hired an architect to give him a general plan as a starting point. With that, Vierra went to work.
Tearing down walls
With the exception of the general exterior frame, very little about the property resembles its former self. The 2,400-square-foot house includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an office and also boasts a basement.
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When Vierra bought the house, french doors made up the front door. He replaced them with a 7-foot-wide and 6½-foot-tall glass pivot door with an aluminum frame, one of the amenities that provide a contemporary element among the midcentury setting that awaits inside.
Typical of that era, rooms in the home were closed off from each other, with walls blocking off the kitchen, family room and living areas between them. Vierra opened things up. He researched how to break out block walls and got to backbreaking work. Tarps covered every surface for months as he worked through it.
“We tore down tons of walls. We made a huge mess,” he recalled.
One would never know it today. The expansive kitchen is airy and sleek. The main eye-catcher is what appears to be a long wall finished in walnut veneer. In actuality, it conceals the refrigerator, pantry, dish storage, liquor cabinet — and the door that leads to the basement-turned-movie theater.
When it came to the bathrooms, Vierra removed the tubs that were in both of them and replaced them with showers and fixtures he installed himself.
“I’d see stuff online and get ideas,” he said.
When Vierra realized he was in over his head — like digging a pool, installing windows and replacing flooring that required dealing with 7 inches of concrete that separated the kitchen from the basement, for example — he’d call a professional.
There was one far less grueling job, however, that Vierra sought help with.
‘The perfect canvas’
Vierra is clearly handy with power tools and a sledgehammer. But interior design was out of his comfort zone. He enlisted the help of Aleah Carr, senior interior designer at the Phoenix firm Mackenzie Collier Interiors, to make that process comfortable and easy.
Carr is responsible for the furnishings and touches in the main thoroughfares of the home, including the family room, kitchen, dining area, entrance and Vierra’s teenage son’s room. Carr wanted the decor to echo the era in which the house was built. Vierra was in complete agreement.
“It’s a midcentury home, so we want to keep the midcentury vibes and stay true to the architecture and color schemes,” Carr said. “We had the perfect canvas to pull the space together.”
Seating, tables and shelving exude a balance of the era’s classic orange and brown, along with teal and chartreuse. Wood pieces feature clean lines and edges along tables, seating and shelves.
This bench provides a welcoming spot near the entryway for guests to wait for their rides, as Vierra’s dog Max demonstrates. (Photo: Mackenzie Collier Interiors)
A few twists exist.
One is flaunted in the dining set with a table that has midcentury legs paired with upholstered chairs, which are modern, Carr explained. Leather chairs in a burnt-orange shade that hint of a pilot’s chair also played well with the theme. A plushy blue couch that Vierra loved at first sight and bought just happened to fit in too.
Carr admitted that it’s rare to have a client relinquish complete control with zero pushback. Vierra hiring Mackenzie Collier Interiors was interior-design kismet.
“This is my style right here,” Vierra said as he sat in one of his dining-room chairs and gestured around him. “They were a lifesaver. I didn’t have time to source everything.”
Carr added, “We took his style and literally just ran with it. The functionality and the age of the home and the fact that it’s a super-cool space, it was like a puzzle that fit perfectly.”
Design details and fixtures were positioned to create vignettes throughout the home to provide little escapes as people walk through. Also, it’s easy to see throughout the main living areas of the home from every vantage point.
Carr’s favorite area is the entryway, which was larger than usual and looked like it could accommodate a dining table. She added a bench and created a comfortable spot for Vierra and his guests to sit and wait for their ride or set their bags.
Creating recreational spaces out of blah ones
Transforming the basement into a movie theater was another far-from-easy task. The space was solid concrete that created a loud echo that made normal conversations difficult to hear.
Vierra spent months researching acoustics and scraping the ceiling to make the area movie-sound ready. He installed Tectum acoustic panels to deaden sounds so effectively that a movie with full sound can’t be heard from the kitchen right above it. Blackout curtains, top-of-the-line audio and video equipment and sumptuous and super roomy seating for at least five finish the professional-theater experience.
The once-bleak backyard has become another crowd-pleasing spot. Vierra kept some of the original block walls, which provide visual breaks against the golf-course background. Succulents and hearty desert landscape surround the lap pool, which is the final resting place of many flying golf balls. An unplanned step in the pool has the practical purpose of covering the original septic tank, which would have been too difficult to remove.
At the front of the house, Vierra transformed a ho-hum fountain into a lively goldfish pond that greets guests as they approach the door.
Vierra completed the major work in 2014, four years after he bought the home. However, the remodel is an ongoing process as he gets new ideas.
“It was a great project that I got to be part of. I can remember all the pain involved in making this happen and now enjoy everything that has come around because of it,” he said.
What is missing is an automatic drip system or timed watering setup. The desert foliage requires minimal maintenance but, of course, Vierra prefers to do the comparatively extremely easy task of keeping his plants hydrated himself.
“My mom watered her plants by hand,” Vierra said. “I’ll come home after a trip and go out there and do the same thing … to relax.”
Know of a unique home in metro Phoenix that is not on the market that should be featured? Email [email protected].
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