Sky-High Ambition

At Bighorn’s Penthouse Collection, views abound from 1,000 feet above the valley floor.

Lisa Marie Hart Home & Design, Real Estate

The spa of Penthouse 301 offers expansive mountain views.

“Penthouse” is not a word we often hear in the desert, where only a smattering of hotels have crept above the local architecture’s low profile. But when the innovators at Bighorn Golf Club decided to tear their clubhouse down to the studs, then construct a new one in 16 months, they saw an opportunity to offer residential real estate overhead.

Four “dramatically orchestrated luxury residences” above the new clubhouse start at 5,200 square feet. Each penthouse has a distinct orientation and floor plan. One has already sold; two are being offered completely designed, with custom furnishings; and the final is an unfinished shell (for now). A dedicated concierge and wraparound views are the entry point to life at the penthouses. Eardrums won’t pop when the elevator from the private parking garage or the clubhouse opens at 1,000 feet in elevation. Yet eyebrows may raise, jaws may drop, and friends envious of life at the top (without all that landscaping to maintain) may turn a darker shade of green.

The Penthouse Collection at Bighorn was conceived in tandem with the new 80,000-square-foot clubhouse below, completed last fall. The well-soundproofed homes, merged into the clubhouse architecture, sit stealthily above the men’s and ladies’ locker rooms, golf shop with fine jewelry boutique, six indoor-outdoor dining venues, living-room lounge, event spaces, and a round outdoor stage described by Golf Digest as “Radio City Music Hall meets Coachella.” It’s the stage where KC & the Sunshine Band played last November to unveil the clubhouse to members and kick off the 2017–18 season. The dinner bash and disco concert hosted a Bighorn record of more than 1,000 guests.


In 301, Dreier chose a mirrored effect for the interior and exterior televisions and fireplaces.

Incorporating the penthouses into the clubhouse was, among other things, an astute way to offset its $70 million cost. The design team is as unconventional as the concept. While the floor plan of all four penthouses and the interiors of the two currently available were designed by internationally acclaimed architect Guy Dreier, Bighorn president Carl Cardinalli and the four-person sales team at Bighorn Properties provided their two cents from start to finish.


A wine lounge welcomes off the entry.

That team is on the front line for 96 percent of Bighorn transactions, hearing the requests, wish lists, and “if only” laments, which they fed to Dreier as appropriate.

“The more information we can provide, the easier our job will be,” explains broker associate Lorna Ball, who has been with Bighorn for 28 years.


Views extend through 
the master bath’s 
glass shower.

“We know what people are asking for, and we’ll have a better chance of that buyer coming along and saying, ‘Oh my goodness. This is exactly what I would’ve designed.’ ” The sales team’s involvement with spec homes is tradition, she says, ever since Bighorn chairman R.D. Hubbard told them, “ ‘You guys pick your architect and the interior designer, because you are going to have to sell it.’ And it’s been successful. So far, so good.”

The clubhouse, says Cardinalli of the project designed by Swaback Partners of Scottsdale and built by Lusardi Construction, is built on curves. There are few right angles to be found throughout the building. That design theory ascends upward to Dreier’s penthouses, where curves are abundant.

Penthouse 302 sold well before it reached the market, purchased by a couple who are longtime Bighorn members and were seeking a more carefree lifestyle on less acreage, without giving up their club friends and fairway-to-mountains views. When they’re feeling social, a few seconds’ ride from the privacy of their new home lands them in the heart of the clubhouse.

The two turnkey penthouses currently being offered feature signature Bighorn elements: A sweeping scale defines the footprints, furnishings, and views; indeed, indoor-outdoor connectivity is a major theme, even several floors up. Owners can cook, dine, entertain, watch TV, sit around the fire, or walk out of the master bedroom to dip in the spa, an uncommon penthouse feature. And both homes greet guests with a beverage center: one in the form of a wine lounge, the other a bar. Both have cedar ceilings to keep the mood light and make use of bold granite throughout. David Austin of Austin Art Projects specified artwork for both units that is not included in the sale but complements Dreier’s work.

“David and I have collaborated for over 20 years,” Dreier notes. “We have a rhythm as to how valuable art should be placed to give each space personality and interest.”


In 303, a custom, 20-foot-long sofa can seat a crowd.

Intense drama spans two floors of this 6,790-square-foot penthouse, made for the extrovert and entertainer. 
With a Guggenheim-esque nautilus shape that distinguishes the second level, this penthouse has a penthouse of its own.
Penthouse 301

The sophistication of a freestanding estate envelops the organic layout of this single-level, four-bedroom, 6,009-square-foot penthouse, decorated in a palette of Antarctica Cream granite and Persiano Limestone flooring. Clear cedar ceiling planks run perpendicular to the view yet somehow coax the eye to the patio and the outdoors.

“I try to be as sculptural as I can, to make the spaces flow and invite the outside in,” Dreier says. “My intention is to focus the architecture to point and draw you toward the views, incorporating experiences along the way with art and décor that blend effortlessly to the main art form — the breathtaking views below.”

The elegant, open layout encourages congregation among family or friends. Only the suites and laundry area are enclosed. Dreier’s custom furnishings are specific to the space, an extension of the design; some are so substantial they must be moved by crane.

The wine lounge adjacent to the elevator makes a welcoming first stop. Behind three sets of double glass doors, a refrigerated wine room poses as artwork. Tilted glass shelves with angled dividers single out prized bottles, emphasizing quality over quantity.

In the open kitchen, one of two granite islands serves as a glass-topped morning bar. Geometric wood panels along the back wall of the kitchen and dining area pick up the continuous line from the mountain range beyond.

Unusual for a penthouse, every bedroom suite has a patio. The sensibly sized master bedroom with fireplace sitting area feels cozy without encroaching on the square footage in the living areas, where it counts. In the master bath, a curved picture window frames a pristine view that Cardinalli likens to looking out into one’s own national park.

The entertainment patio wraps around the residence and incorporates a water feature/spa “you won’t find in many penthouses,” Dreier shares, “particularly since these features require significant engineering due to weight.” As soothing background noise or for a relaxing soak, the spa adds a layer of tranquility to the excitement of those wraparound views.

Penthouse 303

Intense drama spans two floors of this 6,790-square-foot penthouse made for the extrovert and entertainer. Ceilings soar 21 feet above the Crema Pya limestone flooring, which flows through a lofty three-bedroom residence that could fit into any number of city settings around the world. With a Guggenheim-esque nautilus shape that distinguishes the second level, this penthouse has a penthouse of its own.


Italian granite, among the finest Dreier says he has found in a decade, defines indoor living and outdoor entertaining spaces.

The staircase and in-house cylindrical elevator ascend to an open office space and one of two master bedrooms.

“‘Wow!’ That’s the reaction we wanted when you stepped out of the main elevator,” says Dreier. “The stairway of striking Italian granite is such a strong architectural element that you know you’re walking into something special.”

Every direction yields possibility. To the right, kitchen, living, and dining areas and one master suite lead to an expansive patio. To the left, a guest suite surprises with an open-air solarium. Ahead, take a seat in the bar, with pop-up TV, for conversation, cocktails, or cards. A chandelier of glass jellyfish swims above, hung from the second level. Follow the stairs up to the Venetian-plaster cantilevered bridge and float over the great room while catching the view through the clerestory windows. On one end, a mezzanine could serve as an open study or a play place for the kids.

Dual master suites with comparable appointments stack together, one on each level, opening to the view. “Every now and then, we have two families, siblings, or best friends with families that will come in and purchase something together, then swap times that they’re here,” says Ball. The master suites are individualized with artwork and amenities such as TVs behind mirrors. The downstairs couple can step out to the parallelogram spa; the upstairs couple basks in rare four-story views of the fairway, mountains, and valley from their private deck.

“The advantage of being almost eye-level with the mountains, depending on the time of day, is that the shadows on the mountains are pretty amazing,” says Ball. “The penthouses all face down valley, which typically doesn’t let the hot direct sun into their living spaces. Natural light comes in so they’re not cold, but they’re enjoyable throughout the whole year.”


A Venetian plaster finish adds texture to the upper-level bridge above the bar.

“‘Wow!’ That’s the reaction we wanted when you stepped 
out of the elevator,” says Dreier. “The stairway of 
Italian granite is such a strong architectural element that 
you know you’re walking into something special.”