Scottsdale home renovation adds a touch of Sicily

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The island is a focal point for gatherings.  Even with more than 30 people in the kitchen at a recent baby shower, the couple said guests were comfortable.

Ulyssa Preciado and Daniel Didier had planned the renovation of their house.

They searched for a general contractor they felt comfortable in, hired him and his team, then took on the hard work of planning what would essentially be an entirely new home.

Everything was fine, and then their general contractor was diagnosed with leukemia.

Luckily, Didier knew a lot about building and code from a former career in the family plumbing and heating business. He was able to take on the role of general contractor. Preciado, her fiancé, also shouldered much of the contractor’s burden.

“I was the designer and the inspector and I was the mediator because the construction guys were at each other’s throats,” Preciado said. “I would call Daniel and say, ‘Here’s what we’ll take care of when you get home, or if you can go away for lunch.’ ”

But now their house is complete and both said the stress was worth it.

The owners are very happy with their home, but plan to buy a “forever” home on a large lot.

The couple bought the 1979 Scottsdale home in 2015 and spent six months renovating it. The McCormick Ranch home near Hayden Road and Indian Bend has 2,200 square feet, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms.

They emptied the structure down to the posts, added dressing rooms to each room and modified part of the layout. They took part of the three-car garage to make room for a pantry and mud room. They removed an atrium, a beehive-shaped fireplace, an open-plan kitchen and a sunken living room.

Didier said his experience managing jobs in the family business and his current experience as a healthcare administrator were key to his take on as a team leader.

“When you have a big project like this, you have to get the team together and say, ‘Here’s the problem we need to solve,’ and then you redirect what’s going on,” he said.

The project has united the couple — who have been together for four years — but has also caused some tension. They often had to compromise. Preciado got the island she wanted, but didn’t get the tub.

“There was a lot of ‘I won’t be back unless you do this,'” Preciado joked.

Didier said it was reminiscent of home improvement TV shows where couples bicker but eventually work it out.

The owners love to relax here, especially in the evening with a glass of wine (for him) and a beer (for her).

One factor they had on their side was a similar aesthetic. Both love a clean look with lots of white, gray and greenery. They traveled to Sicily together and wanted to emulate some of what they saw there, especially on the patio.

“I love how the patio turned out,” Preciado said. “It’s cozy. It’s not quite, but it will be what we wanted. It reminds me of a restaurant we love in Palermo, Italy, with the lights and the cobblestones and the water feature You can be there and relax.

The two said their favorite features of the house were the patio and the kitchen. They appreciate the functionality of the kitchen and the fact that it can serve as the heart of their parties, even when there are dozens of guests.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about how to get our current wants, but also thinking about resale and what would be attractive to others,” Didier said. “We tried hard to create what we wanted, but also carefully watched the budget.”

The island is Ulyssa Preciado's favorite part of the house, along with the patio.

A saving grace during the stressful construction process was that they could live offsite. They moved in seven months ago.

“We are very happy with how it went,” said Didier. “It’s a lot of hard work, but since it was finished there’s been a sense of relief and we’ve started to enjoy it. After a long day in the hospital, it’s nice to be able to come home, hear the fountain and have a good glass of wine.

Even so, they both said it wouldn’t be their only home. They want to join forces again on a property that better meets their needs.

“It’s our first home, but it’s not our forever home,” Preciado said. “I’m proud of how it turned out, but our dream home will have lots of land and maybe a few horses.”

Preciado, the owner of Perfectly Yourself Pilates in Scottsdale, wants to stay in the area so she can help her parents, but Didier would also like to be able to take care of her mother in Ohio, her home state. They are thinking about how to make it work so they can take care of everyone.

“We love the neighborhood here,” Didier said, “But something we would consider a dream home would be a large Victorian home with a wraparound porch and lots of land.”

For now, they are happy where they are. And their general contractor? He recovers.

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