"The desert has a certain starkness to it," says highly sought-after Scottsdale, Arizona, interior designer Judith Testani. She means that as a compliment. It's the Sonoran Desert's clean lines and open spaces that make her edgy work ― which can be found at the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain resort and some of Scottsdale's most modern manses ― what it is. "Environment," she says, "is everything."
If you have an eye for the cool and contemporary, there's no need to look just to New York or Los Angeles anymore. North Scottsdale has seen a crop of design stores grow to supply all the new, sleek homes dotting its hills. The most cutting-edge showrooms would look at home in L.A.'s Melrose District. "There's more variety," says Testani, "and they are more sophisticated than in the past."
Her quest for the unique often takes her to Lumature (closed Sun; 15620 N. Scottsdale Rd.; 480/998-5505). Step inside, and you'll feel like you've entered a surreally perfect photograph in a glossy magazine. Italy is the source of most of the streamlined objects found here, from snow-white couches to metallic tables that gleam in the light of swan-necked lamps. Across the street is Bungalow (15505 N. Scottsdale Rd.; 480/948-5409), where city chic meets cozy. Here dining tables and sideboards from India and Thailand get jazzed up with pillows and cubed ottomans.
For a quick bite nearby, the appropriately modern Flo's Asian Kitchen ($$; lunch Mon-Sat, dinner daily; 16495 N. Scottsdale Rd.; 480/609-9888) is a local favorite for its chile-spiked curries. Afterward, a visit to the recently opened Azura (closed Sun; 16000 N. 80th St.; 480/663-8000) will have the refreshing effect of a mint. An uncluttered temple to the 21st-century bathroom, the museum-like space showcases sleek cabinets and oversize tubs.
For home accents, head east on Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard to the Scottsdale Design Center and its lone modern store, Thingz (15125 N. Hayden Rd.; 480/368-8111). In this chockablock (purists would say cluttered) shop, keep in mind the key to contemporary: Less is always more.
For more decorating ideas, visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (closed Mon; $7, free Thu; 7374 E. Second St.; www.smoca.org or 480/994-2787). Downtown Scottsdale is about 10 miles northeast of the Phoenix airport.