When Emily and Roger Miret set out to find a house, they were in no hurry. They already owned a place in central Scottsdale and wanted to stay in the area. But that house, although adequate for the couple and their children Havi and Desi, was nothing special.
"It just didn't feel like us," said Emily, an amateur painter. "We wanted something that wasn't like everything else."
Roger, who tours the world as a professional musician, wanted to come home to a place that matched his personality.
"In my music and my whole life," he explained, "I'm a little bit of a misfit."
Instead of new homes, the Mirets found themselves drawn to Mid-Century Modern houses built in the 1950s and '60s. They loved the clean lines that are easy to personalize, and the big windows that bring the outside in. With many such homes scattered around the Valley, the couple decided they would wait until the right one appeared.
The waiting stretched on for many months while the couple looked at more than 500 houses, searching for something that would, Emily said, "ignite a feeling in us."
That feeling finally ignited in late 2009, when they spotted a "For Sale By Owner" sign in an overgrown yard in central Scottsdale. Behind a tangle of shrubbery and several layers of beige paint, the couple recognized the unmistakable lines of a 1961 Schreiber ranch.
Featuring a low-angled roof, exposed beams, large windows, and a decorative brick wall, the ranch — known as plan 2321, style J — was designed by noted architect Charles Schreiber for Allied Construction, which built several versions around Phoenix and Scottsdale.
For the Mirets, the house was exactly what they wanted — or it would be, after they cleared away five decades worth of clutter.
"We just took everything away and started fresh," Emily said. "We kept peeling away layer after layer."
The Mirets started on the outside, where they chopped down enough trees and shrubs to fill four dumpsters. The resulting yard was so much more open that the neighbors asked about the "new" swimming pool.
"They'd lived next door for 30 years and never realized there was a pool here!" said Emily.
Next, they sandblasted the paint off the exterior wall, revealing dark bricks with sparkles of quartz. "It felt like we'd uncovered a gem," Emily remembered.
Even indoors, the house was far from its clean-lined origins. Plantation shutters hid the windows; French doors shut off the dining room; popcorn texture covered the ceilings; and the faux-finish paint on the orange-peel walls looked, Roger said, "like really bad gift wrap."
Instead of trying to fully redecorate right away, the Mirets decided to begin with a blank slate.
They removed the shutters, French doors, and popcorn ceiling, then skim-coated the walls and painted everything white.
But they didn't attempt to completely restore Schreiber's design, instead seeking to blend the best of his MCM aesthetic with contemporary upgrades — although they had to compromise on the blend.
"We argued about the redo," Emily admitted. "Roger always wants to take everything back to the original, whereas I want to keep the things we like, but update them to make them more usable."
Although plan 2321 featured an open carport with a bold tapered column at the end, the carport at the Mirets' house had already been converted to a garage. After a debate over style versus storage, the couple kept the garage but installed a new door with horizontal panels to better complement the long roofline.
Similarly, the original picture windows in the living room had been replaced with sash windows, which Emily insisted on keeping to provide fresh air.
The couple both wanted to update the flooring with family-friendly concrete, which they finished with a durable slate-grey coating. They also added 21st-century style in the kitchen with bamboo cabinets, stainless appliances, and solid surface countertops. And they painted the front door bright turquoise — Roger's favorite color.
The pair did much of the work themselves, with Emily serving as designer and Roger as laborer.
In addition to his music career, Roger creates highly-detailed custom cars, and called on those precision crafting skills to build MCM-style globe lights for the kitchen and living room—using a laser pointer to verify that each globe hung at the same height. He even made cardboard prototypes of the kitchen cabinets in order to perfect the layout before ordering.
"A half-inch will drive me crazy," he confessed. "I'm a little OCD, but OCD really helps in a renovation."
The Mirets lived with their blank slate for three years before they started "re-collecting." Although the space was a little stark, it worked out fine, Emily said, "because our kids were really little then, so there was no point in having nice things!"
Instead, she used the time to stockpile inspiration from design magazines like Domino, Atomic Ranch, and Elle Decor.
"That gets tricky," Emily said, "because I'll see something but then I can't get it here."
However, after waiting so long to find her house, she was undeterred by decorating challenges.
When local suppliers couldn't locate the range hood she wanted, a friend was able to track one down — in Delaware. She haunted Craigslist and estate sales to find vintage furniture and, when she spotted some perfect pieces in a European magazine, asked Roger to pick them up when he was on tour. He came home with lamps and pillows packed in his luggage.
"It might take a while," Emily said, "but I will get what I want!"
But the Mirets also enjoy stumbling upon surprise finds, and have built a small collection of nail sculptures and other mid-century artwork, which they mix with Emily's own paintings.
The resulting home, which has been featured on both Scottsdale's Innovations MOD and Modern Phoenix home tours, isn't like anything else. Exactly what the Mirets wanted.