Winding up around the spine of Mummy Mountain in Arizona’s Paradise Valley, he arrived at a ledge with a semicircular area carved out of Precambrian granite. His eyes swept across the majestic portrait before him: the McDowell Mountains to the north and east, Four Peaks to the southeast, and beyond to the fiery weather-worn crags of Red Mountain, Superstition Mountains, Papagos Mountains and even as far as the White Mountains near Tucson. All Fred Shaulis could say in 1993 was “Wow.”
“It was 270 degrees of pure desert beauty from a perfect elevation above the desert floor,” remembers the entrepreneur and business executive. “It just brought out a person’s sense of awe.”
Shaulis wasn’t alone. Amazement is a common reaction for anyone visiting the 7-acre property he now calls “Eagle’s Nest” for the first time. Architect Lash McDaniel designed the 9,000-square-foot gated architectural estate — currently listed by Wendy Walker of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Biltmore-Paradise Valley — to quite literally nest into the mountainside, as if it was chiseled from the very same rock and granite rising from the earth. (Shaulis settled on the name after seeing a pair of eagles foraging above his 7-acre plot.) Such a heightened position proved to be both a blessing and a curse.
“The town of Paradise Valley has very restrictive hillside construction regulations,” Shaulis explains. “The home was dropped in under the eastern ridgeline, like the spine of the mountain coming down. In order to build a home there, it was necessary to remove the flora on the ridgeline and catalog and photograph it. Once we built the home, we had to reconstruct the ridgeline rock by rock and cactus by cactus over the top of the home. The only way that we could meet the regulations was to build a post-tension beam bridge and replace the ridgeline on that bridge once the home was built underneath it.”
The unique site challenges extended the design and construction timeline to five years, yet McDaniel’s groundbreaking design also made it a local Paradise Valley wonder and a model for responsible hillside construction. “You couldn’t build it today,” says Shaulis. Adds Walker: “They said it could never be built, but it was. So many people have admired and wondered about this one-of-a-kind house that is literally built into the mountain. It has been a bit of a mystery behind the eagle gate. I am so honored to have been chosen to represent this incredible masterpiece.”
Where site limitations dictated the construction process, the views guided material choices and all design decisions. Shaulis’ first directive to McDaniel was to create a home constructed largely of glass, to take maximum advantage of the vistas. As he explains: “The artwork that would be displayed was the view, and the art was going to come through the glass.” He also wanted the home to blend into the mountain and “become a part of it.” Lastly, he wanted a home that was “soft, warm and inviting, just like a lovely woman.”
McDaniel accomplished it all in extraordinary measure. Constructed of red iron steel, the residence represents a remarkable fusion of ingenuity, as well as attention to detail and quality. Each of the interior spaces has been oriented in such a way to capture a unique sliver of nature. Shaulis’ favorite room — the great room — provides the first “wow” moment, with expansive walls of glass that showcase the 270-degree panoramas and a grand floating staircase sweeping down from the master bedroom.
A dramatic underlit onyx bar blends seamlessly into the space — and stuns at night. The dining room is another place where you can enjoy a meal while looking out over the valley.
Even the office enjoys a prime vantage point: “It’s very special to be sitting at your office and see a roadrunner sitting on the office patio with her young ones,” says Shaulis. McDaniel set all rooms — including the four bedrooms — against a warm palette of plaster walls, polished marble flooring, Santa Fe hand-carved wood and other finishes that embody a feeling of luxury.
Even the unseen touches, such as state-of-the-art home automation technology and infrastructure, enhance the sustainability and efficiency of the estate. Outside, a negative-edge pool rests against the backdrop of the views, giving one the feeling of openness stretching into forever.
Certainly the allure of Eagle’s Nest can be traced back to the eye-dazzling delights afforded by its elevation. But for Shaulis, it is a combination of qualities that makes it so singular.
“It’s not just a house on the mountain with a view,” he says. “One has to look at where this property is located with respect to air travel and medical facilities, cultural experiences, shopping, fine dining and all of that. Where do you find a one-of-a-kind view home of the very best design and construction, technical systems that are strong and updated, the best accessibility to Paradise Valley and Phoenix yet in harmony with wildlife?”