This Paradise Valley Home was Transformed by Bespoke Touches


Light Waves in Paradise Valley

With a dramatic renovation, a Paradise Valley ranch house turns into a sunny modernist gem.

Concrete Entrance to Modernist Living Room with Glass Walls and Plant

At the hands of architect Michael Groves, Kim Alber’s house in Paradise Valley was adapted to the surrounding desert and redesigned with a modernist look. As shown in the living room, many of the exterior walls were replaced with glazing, allowing clear site lines throughout.

Warm Colored Ranch Style Stucco Modernist Home Exterior with Cacti

To reflect the Arizona heat, Groves chose white stucco by Star Plastering Inc. for the exterior façade. The zinc roof is by Metal Works Inc. “The home’s finishes, light and views present a good solution for how to live in the desert,” the architect says.

Patterned Chest Office Area with Stackable Tables and Neutral Chair

Like the rest of the interior, the living area is furnished with pieces from the owner’s existing collection, including Gregorius Pineo’s Portofino tea tables. “Kim was an integral part of the interior design,” Groves says.

Exterior Steel Trellis Wraparound with Concrete Walkway Underneath and Cacti Rows

A steel trellis provides shade along the south facade, protecting the dining room from harsh desert sunlight. For a sculptural effect, landscape architect Stephen Bardorf created a linear composition of cardon cacti just outside the dining area, which looks out to the front entryway path.

White Cutout Shelving Unit Office with Living Room Fireplace View and Television

The office is screened from the living area, which features a shelving unit custom-designed by The Construction Zone and built by AK Studio. The gray Daltile flooring serves multiple purposes: It offers a contrast to the white walls, helps combat desert heat and delineates distinct rooms in the largely open-plan layout.

Patterned White Screen Office Wall with Lamp and Books on Desk

To create an office that was private yet still allowed in natural light and limited views, Groves enclosed the room with walls made of powder-coated steel with a water-jet-cut pattern designed and built by The Construction Zone. Hélène Aumont’s Negresco Desk occupies the space.

White Kitchen with Abstract Wooden Bar Stools and Metallic Pendant Lighting

The white tile for the kitchen backsplash was designed by Groves, fabricated by SlabHaus and installed by Rex Tile. “Once we did it, we found other places in the house to use it,” says Groves, whose partner, architect Andy Byrnes, served as the builder on the project. Walnut barstools by Cherner Chair Company complement the marble waterfall-style island from RAM Marble & Granite Designs.

Mod Fire Pit Exterior With Tree Surroundings and White Brick Walls

What was once a water feature is now a mod fire pit in an outdoor patio, which is defined by an existing courtyard wall. Bardorf selected a range of drought-tolerant plants for the area, including a saguaro, medicinal aloe and Texas sage. The angle of the wooden roof protects the interior from the midday sun and shades the patio all day long.

Stairs to Guest Bedroom with Circular Dot Artwork and Side Lamp

Stairs descending from the dining room to the guest room, a new addition, line up with the doorway leading to the adjacent outdoor veranda. “The property gently slopes, so we took advantage of that by lowering the guest suite by 2 feet,” Groves says.

Repeated White Tile Bathroom Walls with Large Soaking Tub and High Windows

The tile on the walls surrounding the pedestal tub in the master suite is the same one designed for the kitchen backsplash. The space features clerestory windows on two sides to allow in plenty of sunlight.

Guest Bathroom Design Pattern Repeat with Quill

The vanity doors of the guest bathroom repeat the powder-coated steel pattern of the office walls. The Brizo faucet is from Ferguson Plumbing.

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.” 

Tate Gunnerson