The challenge for this project was updating a 1960s mid-century modern house without sacrificing its charm. The home is situated on a 1.3-acre site in Rancho Mirage, Calif. It is perched on a plateau above Coachella Valley, and the rugged Santa Rosa Mountains rise immediately from the backyard; bighorn sheep often can be seen wandering on the rocks above. The 6,357-square-foot house sits roughly in the middle of the property; entry is off the driveway and through a private courtyard.
The new homeowners’ goals were to create a mid-century modern home that wasn’t “too modern” but was open and light-filled and maximized views of the Coachella Valley below and the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south and west. They also wanted to create a fluid connection between the primary indoor rooms and the outdoor terraces for entertaining and for casual outdoor living with their young children.
The Stuart Silk Architects team sought to capture the feel of a home that could have been built in the 1950s but also has elements of today.
“The horizontality of this 1-story, flat-roof home provides an elegant response to the site and a counterpoint to the drama of the surrounding Santa Rosa Mountains,” notes Architect Stuart Silk. By further integrating the house with its desert context, this home has captured a sense of place by making the best possible use of light and landscape. Its rich palette of materials and textures banishes any feeling of austerity and awakens the senses to provide a wonderful living experience.
LIVING WITH NATURE
The concept was to contrast the rocky terrain by keeping the materials bright and crisp while complementing the desert palette by maintaining warmth and human scale.
The original design was closed-in and compartmentalized and, though the house was remodeled in the 1980s, it suffered from deferred maintenance. This new remodel eventually encompassed 90 percent of the existing house, including reconfiguring the entire floor plan and exterior elevations.
The team substantially changed the home’s outward appearance by adding brick walls, super thin cruciform-shaped columns, steel trellises and large roof overhangs to limit sun exposure. Less than half of the existing foundation and roof structure were repurposed. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls open the house to the outstanding views of the mountains and surrounding landscaping.
“Walls of floor-to-ceiling glass provide intimate views of the dramatic desert surroundings. The glass extends each room, blurring the line between interior and exterior—the experience is one of living in nature,” Silk says.
Among the most significant changes was opening the living room and kitchen to two, open-air terraces and adding a generous pantry and combined mud/ laundry room. Another bedroom was added to accommodate the growing family (for a total of five bedrooms). The primary bedroom was re-envisioned to open out to a private garden featuring a statue of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals and environment. The primary-suite bathroom has its own private outdoor shower that is accessible from the main shower.
The swimming pool, previously located in the courtyard, has been relocated and paired with a spa in the spacious rear yard at the base of the rising mountains.
BOLD AND BRIGHT
Inside, the design departs from the typical monochromatic color schemes of many mid-century homes by introducing unique design elements, rich textures and bold colors. These elements include the custom-designed decorative metal screens at the front gate and entry hall, the custom-designed cruciform-shaped columns and the white terrazzo floor with amber accents that pick up the warmth of the earth tones found in the landscape. A bright yellow wall of tile in the kitchen and the custom-designed aqua blue front door round out the bold pops of color.
The bedroom wing is accessed via a corridor lined with white brick, which functions as a gallery for the clients’ art collection. The opposite glass wall allows the art to be seen prominently from the adjoining courtyard.
Furnishings, including several custom pieces, reinforce this feeling of delight and complement the architecture.
From the outset, the clients expressed their desire for a true mid-century modern home instead of current modern styles that they believe are too cold and lacking in personality. Mid-century modern homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs were exuberant and full of surprises. Our clients wanted to recall that sensibility and have fun doing it. The design team combed through hundreds of images of homes from the 1950s and ’60s to help capture the right feel and personality for this home. Consequently, the homeowners love their home, which is the ultimate goal of every project.
PHOTOS: David Papazian
ARCHITECT: Stuart Silk Architects
- Stuart Silk
- David Marchetti, AIA, LEED AP
- Brittney Wilson-Davis
INTERIOR DESIGNER: Maison Inc.
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: RA Structural Engineer
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Attinger Landscape Architecture
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: West Coast Builders
TPO ROOF: Firestone
ENTRY GATES AND DECORATIVE METAL: Jaeger Metal Fab & Concept
WINDOWS AND DOORS: Arcadia Custom
TERRAZZO FLOORS WITH CUSTOM MIX: Architectural Concrete Innovations
PRIMARY BEDROOM SETTEE: Global Views with fabric by Schumacher
PRIMARY BEDROOM CHAIR: ABC Carpet & Home
POWDER ROOM TILE: Heath Ceramics
PRIMARY BATH SINK: Kohler
PRIMARY BATH AND KITCHEN QUARTZ COUNTERTOP: Pental Surfaces
PRIMARY BATH SHOWER GLASS MOSAIC TILE: Bisazza
KITCHEN TILE: Popham Design
KITCHEN CHAIRS: Design within Reach
KITCHEN STOOLS: Lawson-Fenning
LIVING ROOM AND DEN COFFEE TABLES: 1stdibs
LIVING ROOM ARMCHAIRS: Jan Showers
CUSTOM LIVING ROOM RUG: Kush Rugs
LIVING ROOM TEAK SIDE TABLE: Look Modern
DEN WHITE SOFA AND CHAIR: Jonathan Adler
DEN CARPET: Stark Carpet
DEN LEATHER CHAIR: Dwell Studio
TERRACE FURNISHINGS: Janus et Cie
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