A stunning home in the ridges reshapes contemporary Vegas desert architecture.
When orthopedic surgeon Tom Kim was contemplating the design of his home in The Ridges, in the foothills west of Las Vegas, he knew what he didn’t want. “I did not want it to be a cookie-cutter house,” he says. “I wanted a lot of versatile rooms.” Working with strong, earthy materials like concrete, ash wood, and black steel and a palette of black, gray, and blue, architect Eric Strain, a principal in the frm assemblageStudio, designed a cool, confdent essay in contemporary Vegas residential architecture.
Kim gave us a tour of his home one evening as thunderstorms ripped across the city, transforming the Strip into a series of moody, charcoal silhouettes— and making the house glitter in the dynamic light.
The kitchen sits between two living rooms with high ceilings and plenty of light.
Kim and his girlfriend moved into the nearly 5,000-square-foot residence in 2013. As configured, the building has four bedrooms and four and a half baths. From the street, it appears divided in two. The double-height single-story southern half contains the public areas—two living rooms and a kitchen—while the two-story northern half features the garage, the bedrooms, and an offce. Connecting the two is the main entry space, which leads into the dining room. Above the entry, a small roof deck provides views of the city and the mountains.
The softly angled exterior walls of the public half are clad in black steel panels—a daring move given the desert heat. Strain notes that in the summer, you can feel the heat of the exterior from six feet away, but the interior walls are cool. How? The walls are pitched and angled on top, which causes the top to heat up more than the base, creating natural air convection over the wall. In short, heat is dissipated in the air rather than in the home.
In addition, the steel panels are angled to match the line of a hill to the south and have undertones of blue, this added texture giving the house an effortless aura of gravitas. The rest of the exterior utilizes cinder blocks, concrete-like plaster, and dark-stained ash, which is perhaps the most signifcant material in the home. The horizontal sunscreens that protect the balconies and patios are made of ash, as is the flooring upstairs. Most notably, an ash-clad wall separates the kitchen from the dining room.
The public space features two comfortable living areas at either end, both with high ceilings, which have recessed squares that help break up the mass and dampen noise. A functionally designed kitchen sits between them, with a dropped ceiling that helps defne the spaces and keeps the rooms from feeling too cavernous. Cabinets and extra fridge space line one side of the kitchen, which features two islands clad in Caesarstone. For parties, people can easily move down one side of the kitchen while food is being cooked on the other.
Even the bathroom welcomes the outdoors.
The downstairs wraps around a complex of water features: a hot tub tucked discreetly beneath a large overhang, a wet deck, and a pool. The main rooms all open to the outside, including a downstairs bedroom. A spare room in the rear of the house, with a striking blue wall, faces the pool. When the sun is out, light refects off the water and creates a shimmering effect across the whole ceiling.
Throughout the house, design touches serve to support the architecture and occasionally offer a counterpoint. The corner of one of the living rooms features a red, foor lamp–size replica of the famous Anglepoise 1227 desk lamp, giving the public space a dash of whimsy. At the edge of the pool stands the striking skeleton of a saguaro cactus; the Sonoran Desert plant doesn’t fare well in the colder Mojave, but in petrifed form it adds a nice grace note. The stairwell wall is covered in an ingenious grid of vertical and horizontal lines scored into the plaster. Andy Warhol prints and a Grace Kelly– themed work by street artist Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash) line the walls of the upstairs game room.
There are no baseboards in the residence, which lends its rooms the clarity of a museum. “It’s well detailed,” Strain says. “It’s not overdone.” His point is driven home in an upstairs bedroom that features a striking window box: a square of glass set in a black metal frame. From the outside, the window provides a strong accent to the home’s façade; inside, it sits low on the wall, giving the room the compositional coolness of an art gallery. But when you’re lying on the bed, the window lines up perfectly, with the metal frame directing light, especially in the summer.
“What’s really nice about the house is that the rooms are sized correctly,” Strain says. “They’re very human-scaled and comfortable to be in, and they’re usable.”