By Michael A. Thomas, FASID, CAPS
What an exciting time to live, work or visit Palm Springs with so many great things happening about town. The decades old mall has given away to a new vision for downtown shopping and dining. Numerous hotels are in the works scattered about offering even more inviting accommodations.
And now the historic Welwood Murray Memorial Library, the original Palm Springs library building originally designed by John Porter Clark in 1941 will be reopened very early next year.
And no matter whether you are a full-timer like myself, a snowbird, snowflake or weekend tourist, you have to be excited about all this renaissance going on. It is both awesome and amazing.
As the interior designer commissioned to work with the City of Palm Springs, the Library Board of Trustees and local renowned architect, William Kleindienst, I wanted to share a peak of the progress being made.
The remodeling process began in earnest in late May of this year. There was actually very little left of the original interior, a few pistachio-green stained pine bookcases, a dumb-waiter and yellowed florescent light fixtures. Old plaster ceilings were removed to rid the space of asbestos. What did remain however after the library was shuttered years ago was ghost-print of the original library reception desk, clearly outlined in the stained concrete floor. SWEET !
Much of the demo is now complete. The old concrete slab was carefully cut open for the installation of a new high efficient air conditioning system along with new electrical, data and phone lines. In the upcoming weeks, concrete will be poured to cover the completed mechanical systems, fill the large cavity, provide a new fresh floor and new concrete finish not so unlike the original.
Next interior framing will segment open spaces into the much needed archives and offices of the Palm Springs Historical Society, a library staff office, staff meeting room, small kitchenette and a staff bath. In the east wing of the building, a community meeting room complete with audio-video equipment and seating for 40 will give groups a small place for meetings and events.
The design of the interior is now complete after receiving required approvals from the stakeholders and governing councils. Whew! The final tweaks to the interior specifications are being made as we go to press with this post.
• And the style of the interior?... A bit understated, quiet and clean, classic and modern at the same time and to not detract from the design of the building. The interior will be presented against a background of grey-beige and warm mocha colors, accented with a “pistachio” color, a color element discovered during our design development stage, an agave-hued tone used in the original scheme of the Welwood.
The furnishings, fixtures and equipment will provide flexibility to accommodate a variety of users and set the stage for a facility that is expected to be enjoyed daily by many including locals, tourists, historical researchers and for some, just a place to hang out, read the daily news or catch up on local gossip.
When entering the threshold of the angled main entrance to the building, a curved reception desk will greet visitors. The design is taking its general shape, size, and materials gleaned from old photos yet updating the design to reflect the expanded use of the desk by staffers and to comply with ADA regulations. Plus we’ve designed the large desk to be positioned just exactly as it was when the library opened in 1941, carefully measuring the ghost-print on the floor just prior to the demo of the concrete slab. SWEET !
One of the more remarkable elements of the original desk was the use of a "faux-leather" or "fabrictoid" material on the front face, a product that had just come on the market in the 1930s. We know it today as vinyl or one of the trade-marked names : Naugahyde.
Glass enclosed display cases will provide the historical society and library staff members with areas to showcase artifacts, photos and books from days gone by.
Standing tables will have charging ports for laptop computers and mobile phones. Both modern and "Moderne" style seating will offer visitors a variety of options, from comfortable lounges to reading chairs to bar stools.
And we have specified durable, innovative, sustainable materials and products in the design such as recycled paper for countertops, low VOC paint finishes and special warm-white LED lighting in pendant, table top and wall sconce lighting that will comply with California's energy codes and generally help to reduce maintenance costs.
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• So that is the current update on the progress and the plans for the rehabilitation of this historic building in the heart of downtown. Look for a new update in the just after Labor Day with more details on the remodeling progress of the Welwood.
Yes, what a great time to be in PS and to see all of this renaissance happening, all right in the heart of Palm Springs. • Pretty Sweet, eh?
( If you missed the prior post about design and the official kick-off party a few weeks ago, CLICK HERE.)
Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Desert, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.