By: Michael A. Thomas, FASID, CAPS
For the last several months, I've been working on the interior design of an existing residence in South Palm Springs with two quite special clients.
It has been an interesting journey so far and as the project is coming to a conclusion, I started to reflect on the relationships created between client, designer and the design of the house.
While the high-end residence built just five years ago had good bone structure, the interior clearly was showing its age. The interior had been finished poorly and filled with one too many faux-modern and fake-classic pieces by the previous owner.
The result was a feeble attempt at design that made the interior look more "staged" than a real home designed to be lived in by real people. • Funny or maybe not so funny.... I see a lot of interiors just like that,... images published in shelter magazines that try to suggest that a house actually has real people living in real spaces, that it functions as required and that it has an individual personality, not one that mimics interiors from days gone by. Often they come off looking like they are furnished by Ikea over a long weekend.
Initially, we all seemed to struggle with finding a key direction for the project and design. But one thing was clear: the clients expressed a desire to have a visually stimulating yet timeless space and one that would work with their collection of unique art.
A multitude of ideas were floated. Raw concepts were sketched. Detailed drawings made. And eventually after a couple of critical meetings, a vision was created and plans began to take shape, one that would transform the old interior into a warm, inviting and sophisticated contemporary environment.
But there was much work ahead for the clients who moved to the desert valley from Los Angeles last year.
First, a neutral color scheme was determined and approved that ranged from black to white and all grays in between, one that would not compete with the art yet form a solid background.
The peachy beige stacked stone walls that extend from the exterior into the interior thru large expanses of glass walls were stained a multi-toned grey. In the bedrooms, the commercial carpeting was ripped up and replaced with hand-selected, hand finished 24" square slate in a tone that can only be described as as a "raw steely" color.
The quite awkwardly scaled original fireplace wall in the living room now features angular panels of brushed stainless steel and a hearth and mantel of highly polished absolute black granite. Existing kitchen cabinets previously stained in a washed out chocolate are now refreshed in a deep charcoal color.
Furnishings were carefully selected based on their style but also on their scale as the angled ceilings rise above the floors some 16 feet in the entry, living, dining and kitchen areas. For instance, the dining room chairs are nearly five feet tall and provide a bit of visual whimsey to the space in their bold grey, silver and white vertical stripe covering, much to the delight of the clients. An overtly large white glass apple on the 66" glass dining table repeats the use of items that seem to be larger than life.... like something from the Wizard Of Oz.
New built-in wall shelves of black granite are a repeating theme in the interior, defining areas of interest and highlighting places for art and accessories. They pierce the walls at acute angles while echoing the same multiple angular design seen in the home's architecture and to a degree, making connections to the angles of the mountains and desert just outside the windows.
Diverse three-dimensional wood, metal and stone sculptures along with stimulating wall art like the one (above on the left above ) of a gang of "upside down people" crafted on sheets of lucite beckon guests to begin their exploration of the residence. Halls also provide exceptional spaces for installing art by creating strong focal points and incorporating lighting from a combination of sources: natural daylight thru windows, LED can lighting and tubular-style skylights from above.
The extensive patio deck, one with a front loaded curved pool, now has a face of fine Italian porcelain tile in a dove "greige" accented with a companion steel gray tile at the water line providing a low maintenance finish and nearly seamless appearance. The landscaping follows the same philosophy as the interior with a minimum of desert plantings and furnishings.
While there are a few remaining pieces to be installed and a select number of fine art yet to hung, the clients are most pleased with the results and glad to be living once again without the construction debris and team of workers.
"Thank you so much for helping us with this house. When people ask, we always tell them that you were always right in the all the important decisions." - JS + CQ
Actually the success of this interiors project was about the team work that occurred among the clients, contractors, me and, of course, the house, each with their own personality and contributions; a team built thru constructive conversations about what how it would function, how it might look, and what it would take to make both happen.
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.