An Indoor-Outdoor Midcentury Palm Springs Oasis


Modern White Low Slung Exterior

The casita cantilevers in two directions so that it seems to hover above the desert.

Modern White Flat Roof Front Elevation

Bronze Forms+Surfaces doors with a sunburst design open to Kim and Mark Dempster’s midcentury home in Palm Springs. Architect James Schmidt sensitively updated and expanded the residence. Custom floor-to-ceiling windows frame views of the valley.

Modern White Poolside Lounge Area

Furnishings from Plain Air overlook the pool, the work of Dunn’s Designer Pools. The complex construction and renovation process required the expertise of builder Mark Hahn. Landscape designer Marcello Villano looked to desert natives to integrate the property into its surroundings.

Modern White Living Room with Commissioned Art

A commission for the house, the Eric Zener painting in the living room encourages visitors to jump into the pool just outside. A vintage Paul Mccobb sectional from Ellen Ward Scarborough Antiques wraps around a custom coffee table from Martin Showroom; Sergio Rodrigues chairs are from Coup D’etat in San Francisco. Topping the polished-concrete flooring from Pacific Concrete & Design is a rug from Restoration Hardware.

Sunhat Wire Basket Accent

The Dempsters provide a wire basket filled with hats to shield their guests from the sun.

Modern White Kitchen with Vintage-Inspired Furnishings

Inspired by a vintage design, a set of custom barstools in leather, walnut and steel from Thomas Hayes Gallery faces the kitchen island. The Wolf cooktop is from Ferguson, as is the Dornbracht faucet.

Modern Cream Kitchen Backsplash

Polished cast-concrete countertops by Flying Turtle Cast Concrete complement the bar area’s wenge veneer cabinetry by Steve Webster. A back-painted Starphire glass backsplash includes words by Frank Sinatra.

Modern Cold-Rolled Steel Outdoor Dining Area

A wall of cold-rolled steel panels partially encloses an outdoor dining area. The brass dining table with a glass top and matching brass chairs wrapped with marine-grade rope are all by Walter Lamb from Design Within Reach.

Modern White Poolside Addition

To capture views of the mountain and valley, the addition has floor-to-ceiling doors on two sides. A covered terrace and the same steel panels visually link it to the main house, as does the polished concrete flooring.

Modern Indoor-Outdoor Seating Area

Jonathan Adler Bacharach swivel chairs and a 1960s Rohé Noordwolde hanging chair from 1stdibs lend a mod vibe to a seating area in the casita. The solid-brass cocktail table by Arturo Pani is a find from downtown. A vintage Moroccan rug brings color and texture to the space.

Eclectic Master Bedroom with Graffiti Feature Wall

Affectionately known as the Love Shack, the casita boasts a custom graffiti wall commissioned from artists Alynn-Mags; it features lyrics and imagery from the B-52s song of the same name. The cantilevered and upholstered Hudson bed is from Cisco Home.

Modern Master Bedroom Nightstand Accents

The master suite's motif pays homage to midcentury design.

Brown Wall Detail

Hidden images, words and song lyrics with special meaning appear on the walls.

Modern Concrete Walkway

Between the casita and the main house, a steel trellis shades a seating area.

Modern White Poolside Lounge Area

Furnishings from Plain Air overlook the pool, the work of Dunn’s Designer Pools. The complex construction and renovation process required the expertise of builder Mark Hahn. Landscape designer Marcello Villano looked to desert natives to integrate the property into its surroundings.

Modern Master Bedroom Rolled-Steel Feature Wall

Piercing the envelope of the house, a rolled-steel wall in a master suite emphasizes the flow between inside and out. At the foot of the bed are vintage stools covered in patchwork pony hair with thick black leather stitching from Orange in Los Angeles.

Modern Brown Leather Master Bedroom Feature Wall

In another wink to the area’s Rat Pack past, a case marked with Sammy Davis Jr.’s name stands in front of a master suite wall composed of leather panels hand-tooled by artist Casey Gunschel.

Modern Master Bedroom Glass Pendant

A hand-blown clamp pendant by Lindsey Adelman from the Future Perfect hangs in a master suite.

Modern Rolled-Steel Outdoor Shower

The rolled-steel walls form a sophisticated and secluded enclosure for an outdoor shower. At night, a plain air daybed dressed in Perennials’ Bazaar fabric provides a cozy spot for stargazing. The stool is from Palm Springs Hardware.

It was a cool and foggy spring day in San Francisco when Mark and Kim Dempster made their escape to a swanky hotel in sunny Palm Springs—where they proceeded to fall hard for the area’s retro vibe and flawless weather. “The desert warmth just gets into your bones and opens you up,” Kim says.

Recharged and captivated by their sojourn, the Dempsters, who have two children, decided to put down some roots in the area, deciding on a 1959 post-and-beam home by noted local architect Hugh Kaptur. Its picturesque location nestled into the mountains at the very end of a residential street cast a spell on them. “It’s enchanting,” says Kim. “The house is fun and playful, and there are views in all directions.”

The project offered Kim, who owns Third Base, a company that develops luxury properties, a very personal opportunity to hone her design skills. Taking on the interiors herself, she turned over the task of expanding and updating the house to architect James Schmidt. “It was pretty much in its original condition but tired,” Schmidt says, so shag carpeting gave way to polished concrete and floor-to-ceiling double-glazed glass replaced the original single-glazed glass. “Now the house feel larger and more open,” he notes.

Schmidt’s plan for the house included the element of surprise. “It unfolds slowly as one walks through and experiences it and discovers the unconventional spaces,” he says. To accomplish this, he created a pair of boxes paneled in cold-rolled steel, a material that echoes the hues of the nearby mountains—and will patina in the desert climate. One holds the kitchen, a master closet and bath, and an outdoor shower; the other contains an additional master bath. “The boxes add another element of richness to the whole composition of the house,” Schmidt says. “The solid volumes are meant to contrast the light post-and-beam architecture.”

For the interiors, the words fun, relaxing and stylish guided Kim’s choices. In the living room, she paired a vintage sectional by Paul McCobb with low-slung Sergio Rodrigues chairs and a custom wood cocktail table. The mod influences continue into the adjacent kitchen, which includes a vintage dining table by Milo Baughman surrounded by a set of Brazilian rosewood chairs. The furnishings live against a backdrop of warm neutrals—the creamy sandstone shade of the concrete countertops, the earthy tones shooting through a Calacatta marble wall in a bathroom. “I took my color palette from the mountains, because I didn’t want to upstage the views,” she says.

Kim, an art lover, came up with an inventive solution to bring it into the house. “Because there is so much glass throughout, there are few walls to hang art in the traditional sense,” she says. “So I was inspired to create art walls behind each of the beds.” In one master suite, leather panels feature a tooled sunburst. The motif pays homage to midcentury design, while the rays’ triangular shape nods to the area’s Native American roots.

One of Kim’s first purchases for the project, a bold burnt orange Moroccan rug, found its way not into the main house but into another of those steel boxes. Dubbed the “Love Shack,” the casita “is a burst of party energy,” she says, imbued with Swinging Sixties flair and bright color. Near the bed, Kim hung a retro hanging rattan chair and added a pair of brushed-brass and mushroom-hued velvet swivel chairs. Another art wall graces the space, the work of San Francisco street artists Alynn-Mags.

Building the structure was not without its challenges, says contractor Mark Hahn. “We had to build a road, cut away the mountain, construct the casita and return it to its natural state,” he says. To reconstruct the hillside, landscape designer Marcello Villano hauled in 20 tons of boulders and planted brittlebush, red barrel cacti, palo verde and other desert plants. “They wanted it to be very natural looking,” Villano says, “like it wasn’t designed.”

Drawn to Palm Springs because of what Kim calls its “retro patio culture,” the house boasts spruced-up spaces for outdoor living. An enlarged patio and a relocated pool feel like a contemporary take on Julius Shulman’s iconic photographs of Palm Springs. During cool evenings, the family enjoys sitting by the fire pit, the twinkling city lights below them. “There’s something about the mountains that’s healing,” Kim muses. “It’s kind of hard not to smile when you’re here.”