6 Architects Who Inspire My Interior Design Work: Dream Team Collaborations

Candelaria 1 (1)

One of the blessings of my duo plus decade career in interior design is the amazing human beings with whom I have been lucky to collaborate. When the right team comes together, there is a bright anticipation and excitement because you know not only that the result will be extraordinary, but that you are going to have the best time creating it together. It is like getting into a sandbox with your best friends when you were a kid…you just don’t want to go home for supper when the playing is so good!

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite architects and why  I have been so lucky to work with these extraordinary talents. It is hard to limit this to five or six, as there have been so many great collaborations between interior designers and architects, yet these are the first to come to heart and mind.

1. Mark Candelaria: The Renaissance Man

Candelaria 5 1

Mark Candelaria, before we even speak of him as an architect, is just a favorite human of mine: kind, thoughtful and fun. He and his beautiful wife, Isabell, are dear friends. When it comes to his craft, he has one of the most diverse repertoires of styles, from European traditional architecture to modern, sleek beauties! When you sit and brainstorm with Mark and his team, the coolest of ideas emerge…from subterranean car bars with scissor lifts to showcase cars to solariums for farm-to-table dining smack dab in the middle of a client’s Paradise Valley home. The ideas are bounced from one to another like a volleyball game in these dynamic creative sessions, letting the best ideas emerge as the leading scorer in a fabulous hybrid concept. Also, we are bound to get a wonderful dinner (paella is his specialty) and a show including impressions (ask for his Jack Nicholson) and some fabulous piano playing as well.

2. John Sather: The Inspiring Mentor

There are also my two favorite Johns at Swaback…John Sather and Jon Berhard…both extremely talented! When I started my career as a baby designer, I will be honest: John Sather was a bit intimidating… I have never met an architect this intelligent and exacting! You better believe that if you had an idea… you better have your T’s crossed, and I’s dotted. Mediocrity is just not acceptable… and I “Amen”  to that! The projects we have completed together have always been full of detail, design excellence and strongly rooted in the vernacular, which creates legacy projects that stand the test of time. To this day, I respect him as one of my strongest mentors. It would be interesting to calculate the millions of people his work has touched in the many public, hospitality, and residential developments he has masterminded.

Now, we are working side by side on an exceptional property that will be a one-of-a-kind landscape resort with a healing component like no other. When it comes to master planning, there is no other like John from Martis Camp, Tahoe, CA, to Talisker, Park City, UT. He is unparalleled in developing the flow and heart of a community that positively affects thousands of lives.

Swaback 2 1

3. Jon Bernhard: The Charming Visionary

Swaback 1 1

We also have at Swaback the one and only Jon Bernhard or, as we all like to call him, Jon B… If James Bond were an architect, it would be Jon. Charming and fun, the talent and energy on any of his projects is ridiculously bright and forward-thinking. And good energy brings the most exceptional designs! We have worked on a skyrise in Manhattan to a private ski compound in Aspen. For about a decade, he and I jokingly have been planning an architectural and experiential wonder called the Love Church. I am just saying if this beauty ever gets built the world will be a different place! Let us know if you want to reserve your pew.

4. Mark Tate: The Master of Massing

A couple of years ago, we were lucky enough to work with Mark Tate on a wonderful modern desert home in Estancia. Interestingly, it was fun in that it was the same year both he and I were simultaneously dubbed “Masters of the Southwest” by Phoenix Home and Garden. What I love about Mark’s work is his incredible use of interior massing….one of my favorite architectural tools. It was easy to follow his type of strong architectural lead when creating a material palette that echoed the desert vernacular that integrates both the interior and exterior of the home’s spaces seamlessly.

Tate 1 (1)

5. Jessica Hutchinson: Rising Star on the Horizon


And then I want to give a shout-out to a rising star, Jessica Hutchinson, who works with her family’s legacy architectural firm UDA and takes them into a fresh approach to desert architecture. Collaborating with Jessica is a treat… She is open to ideas and likes to look at things from fresh angles. In this type of architectural collaboration, the lines from interiors to architecture are seamless. She is exploring new ideas and materiality… and this talented lady is just getting started with some amazing creations ahead!

6. Erik Peterson: From the Hustle to Design Rockstar

Oh yes, I can’t forget my dear friend Erik Peterson of PHX! We kiddingly tease him. Is he an architect or a GQ model… some of those cover shots, seriously? But having worked with him and his talented team on several luxury homes in a refined Paradise Valley development I can attest to how hardworking and diligent this firm is.   For Erik, I have the utmost respect; I remember how both of us were struggling through the ’09 era when all construction came to a screeching halt. It was tough times; the market crashed, and I remember the struggle coming up with the money for payroll. Erik just met these challenges head on and rebuilt an extraordinary firm. He is a great example of the American dream; this man, with Kimberly at his side, took his talent and worked and hustled and created one of the most amazingly successful large firms in Arizona. It’s hard to keep up with his IG account, as he and his firm are doing work all over the country, including a strong presence in the high-design world of Los Angeles. Kudos, Brother… you are a rockstar!

peterson 1

As are all these amazing talents with which I have had the honor to create. It is truly one of the largest blessings of my career! Thank you! So many other wonderful colleagues come to mind…so please know I hold all my collaborators near and dear and we will just have to save you  for the next Anita’s Favorites!

I am just so very grateful for the amazing design community here in Arizona… I am so proud to have been part of it now for over 25 years. I have watched our community grow to be such a contender for leading architecture and design in the entire nation and I know the best is yet to come!!