Drawing on California's midcentury legacy, while sprinkling its architecture with contemporary notes and its owner’s personality and needs, this Palm Springs house sits proudly among its arid, rocky landscape; a piece of refreshingly minimalist architecture confidently peeking out from the site’s boulders and cacti. Welcome to Desert Palisades, a new-build family home in the eponymous Palm Springs neighbourhood, designed by Woods + Dangaran.
The Los Angeles architecture studio, which is well versed in translating modernist architecture for the 21st century – see Moore House and Carla Ridge House – is a deft hand at tackling the fine balance between old and new, modern and contemporary. The architects have been known to generate spaces that feel dreamily escapist and at the same time warm and comfortingly domestic – perfect for a 21st-century retreat.
In the case of Desert Palisades, Woods + Dangaran looked at the home’s desert context for inspiration. At the same time, the creation of a piece of architecture that can host daily family life as a holiday home – with all the comfort, spatial generosity and warmth this can suggest – was paramount to the design brief as outlined by Brett Woods, partner in charge for the project, and also the client. In finding the right balance, between old and new, softness and convenience, and the harshness and powerful character of the surrounding Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains and the arid climate of the Palm Springs desert, the architecture team worked with a simple, low and linear volume that would contain a finely tuned interior.
The aim was for ‘the interiors to feel desert-like, with sage greens and dusty pinks mixed into sandy, brown tones to create a muted palette that seems to blend in with the desert terrain’, the architects explain. The internal composition features a serene, fairly restrained material and colour palette of natural tones and rich textures, and is arranged in two wings (one with private and one with public aspects of the retreat). Everything sits on a single level, opening up towards the landscape through glazed walls, framing unobstructed, long vistas of the locale. Glass sections alternate with a distinctive patinaed brass on the façade, which makes the building shimmer from a distance, subtly announcing its presence and enticing wanderers to approach.
The house contains four bedrooms, several bathrooms, as well as a large living space. Planting indoors and out is focused on species that are native to the area and can withstand the harsh local summer temperatures. A swimming pool and paved terrace offer alfresco entertaining options – as does many a Palm Springs house, yet this one’s delicate architectural equilibrium ensures it feels distinctly of its time, as well as its place. The combination of clean lines, and mix of glass, masonry walls and metal feel at home in their wider natural and suburban context.
‘This is the anti-Palm Springs house,’ the architects say. ‘It is not overtly midcentury modernist, there is no bright blue pool. It is in the hills, not the flats. This is a different kind of Palm Springs vacation home, while still being extremely of its place.'
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Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).
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