Big Canvases, Simple Strokes

Elizabeth Rosensteel, Rosensteel Design, believes form and function go hand in hand and rejects decoration for decoration’s sake.


In the 30-plus years since she and her husband, Barry, a developer, moved to the Valley from Pittsburgh, she has carved a niche for herself designing large residential properties. Working from the conceptual stages with the architects, she specializes in homes ranging from 12,000 to 30,000 square feet. These are personal retreats, she says of the large homes.






Rosensteel’s path to a residential career was not a direct one, though she never strayed from her interest in design. Her education and background were in visual communications, and when she arrived in Arizona from Pittsburgh in the late ’70s, she worked for Broadway department store. When the retailer became Broadway Southwest, she contributed to its redesign. During that time, she also studied at the Arizona State University School of Architecture.


Later she worked for a design firm, doing corporate staging and set designs. The big projects took her all across the country, and gave her experience designing large spaces. From 1994 to 1998, she was a principal and director of the Interior Design Department at Taliesin Architects in Scottsdale, an experience that reinforced her personal design beliefs.


The large residential projects that have become her forte give her a range of creativity most designers would find enviable. She loves each project, unable to say which is her favorite. “We have the ability to think differently,” Rosensteel says. “We are always pushing the edge on new materials and the latest that’s out there. I’ve never been one to want to repeat a design from one person to another.”






A current home outside Oro Valley, in its conceptual stages, will have a Moroccan theme, but modern and timeless. Surprisingly, she says, the desert lifestyle and mountains of Morocco are very similar to those of Tucson.


Word has spread. One home, on Camelback Mountain, was featured on HGTV’s World’s Most Extreme Homes. The home is built into the mountain, and in some rooms, the walls are the face of the mountain. The first thing you see as you enter the home is a large boulder. It was the “elephant in the room” the previous owner had tried to downplay. “Why try to disguise it? We uplit it,” Rosensteel says, “and put a skylight above it.”


At one time, she designed as many as 14 projects a year, but in recent years she completes about six a year. The pace and complexity of her work demand simplicity in her own life: Her closet is well edited, she recently moved to a smaller, more efficient office, and she and her husband, Barry, live in a home no larger than they need.






Their 1953 ranch home, which she thinks was originally about 900 square feet, had been remodeled and added to numerous times before they bought it. When it was time for the Rosensteels to expand, they hired architect Will Bruder, who added a master bedroom and an office. The materials they chose fit naturally with the desert: lots of glass, concrete and steel.


“I’ve never desired anything more,” Rosensteel says. “I would never expect people to live the way I live, but for me, there’s a sense of peace in the simplicity.”


She does admit to one obsession, however: Art. “I need a warehouse for art,” she laughs.






In fact, the couple donated the 126-piece Barry Rosensteel Japanese Print Collection to the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 and have loaned other pieces from their collection to various museums.


Rosensteel also blogs. Find her at CreativeInteriorsArchitecture&Design. Her goal is to present great design on all levels from jewelry to architecture.

– C. Miller



Photos: Elizabeth Rosensteel has designed indoor and outdoor spaces and homes in and outside Arizona, all on a grand scale. She loves all of the projects, but she says she has won the most awards for her kitchens and bathrooms.

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