As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. At least, that’s been Kim Alber’s experience. After buying a ranch house on a gorgeous 1-acre lot in Paradise Valley, the mortgage broker lived in the dated residence for four years before she hired architect Michael Groves to give the home a new lease on life. “The project began as a simple remodel,” he says, “but we ended up rebuilding the entire house.”
The structure, Groves explains, didn’t suit its surroundings, which include panoramic vistas of Camelback Mountain. “It was not a great house,” he says. “It was very dark and cut up; the spaces didn’t work well.” As the gutted house was rebuilt, the changes the architect made—both practical and aesthetic—gave it a stunning new look. Small windows, for instance, were replaced with floor-to-ceiling walls that usher in the sun as well as those beautiful views. Maximizing interior site lines, however, was also key. “It’s not only about the views outside,” Groves says. “Making connections through the house was just as important as making views to the mountains and desert.”
Striking a balance between open-plan and private spaces required creative thinking. For the offce, for example, Kim wanted a space that was at once set off and open to the light. Originally, she suggested glass walls, “but we thought it would look like an aquarium,” says Groves, whose partner, architect Andy Byrnes, acted as the builder. Instead, he came up with a win-win solution: a powder-coated steel screen with a water-jet-cut pattern that separates the room from its surrounding areas. “She can still see through the screen, so she’s connected to the other spaces in the house,” the architect says. “And it puts a lovely sculptural element into the room.” Glossy white, the crisp and clean design mimics cut-out paper chains.
Serene white walls throughout allow vistas to shine while also creating a quiet gallery-like backdrop for Kim’s furnishings and art. While keeping the palette pale, Groves found other ways to add interest. “Where it mattered is where we tried to inject more luxurious surfaces,” he says. Case in point: The kitchen backsplash consists of all-white tiles with a three-dimensional geometric design.
“Initially, we were leaning toward something a little cleaner and more straightforward,” the architect recalls. “Then Kim chose a tile with texture to it. But it was expensive—and, frankly, I didn’t love it.” So Groves set to work masterminding an original tile design that he also decided to use for the master bathroom tub and a living room chimneypiece. Although the pattern has a midcentury vibe, “it harkens back to the decorative tile you might see on a more traditional fireplace,” Groves says. “I think it turned out very elegantly.”
Kim’s furnishings and objects stood up to the new home design, so Groves and his team, including designer Jessica Ruiz, found unique ways to show them off. A bespoke cubical shelving unit that holds the television in the living room, for instance, wraps into the hallway that leads to the guest rooms, where it surrounds the doorways to the Jack-and-Jill bedrooms. “We wanted a place for Kim’s objects so she could live with them every day,” the architect says. The only new furnishings in the entire house are the sculptural wooden stools in the posh white kitchen, where most of the cabinetry and appliances have been tucked away in an out-of-sight butler’s pantry to let the beautiful white backsplash shine. “I wanted it to be very minimalistic,” Kim explains. “I have a glamorous kitchen and a hidden kitchen—one where all the things you don’t want to see are out of sight.”
Outside, Groves chose—what else?—white for the stucco cladding on the façade. “It’s a reaction to living in the desert,” he says. “It’s very reflective, and it helps with the heat.” Steel trellises shade the glass-enclosed dining area, where a grid of columnar cacti, composed by landscape architect Stephen Bardorf, adds privacy without closing off the view. Beyond the house, geometric plantings yield to a more native landscape with a variety of shrubs and majestic Chilean Mesquite trees.
The rear gardens are accessible from the lofty great room, which has a clear view of Camelback Mountain. The space is connected to a generous patio, where Kim easily accommodated nearly 100 guests for a wedding she hosted for dear friends. “When we have a party, it’s always at my house,” the homeowner says. “You name a theme, and it’s probably happened.”
For a more private experience, there’s also an intimate courtyard off the master suite. This is where Kim can often be found entertaining friends, relaxing with a glass of wine after a long day in the office or planning her next hike on Camelback Mountain. “This house went from a typical ranch to an architectural gem,” she says. “I feel humbled that I was part of it.”