When it comes to successfully building a home, experience is a two-way street. On the clients’ side, assembling a group of seasoned professionals is the best way to ensure easy sailing. For the design team, working with savvy clients means much the same. Having built residences internationally in the past, one such couple, moving from Virginia to the California desert, brought with them a deep understanding of the process—down to the mathematical precision required to perfect it.
“It was nice working with someone who had so much experience building high-end homes,” their designer, Wendi Young, notes. “These are clients who appreciate quality craftsmanship, attention to detail and elevated finishes.” Hiring general contractor Mike Jeha—himself a longtime resident of the same La Quinta community where they planned to live—ensured an advocate familiar with the ins and outs of building in the desert area.
To craft the residence, the clients turned to residential designer Brock Payton. Among the top requests from the clients: “The husband wanted a view in every room,” says Payton, who notes that the back of the house showcases 87 feet of glass along with only 15 feet of solid wall. “He was set on certain compass readings he felt gave the best views from all rooms and would check them through the forming of the slab.” Getting the sight lines just right also necessitated flipping the house, so even the kitchen has its own spectacular vista.
Payton developed the overall site plan as well, gracing the property with porcelain retaining walls, ample outdoor seating areas and placid water features, before turning to landscape architect Chris Hermann who refined the plantings, including olive trees and palms. Inside, the residential designer conceived the coffered ceilings, slatted screens and meticulously detailed cabinetry. “It’s hard for me to do a project where I don’t design the cabinets—they are a crucial part of the initial layout.”
Young joined the team early in the process, soon after architectural schematics were in place. “There’s a geometry to this house, and we definitely wanted to soften that a bit,” she notes, “but my intention is always to make a home feel like the interior design and architecture came from one mind. It’s important to me to marry the two.”
The designer also was keen to create tension between the rugged setting and the feminine flourishes the wife favored. Appealing to her preferences, delicate silhouettes with slender lines, tapered legs and subtle curves balance the home’s weightier moments such as the stone-clad interior walls, steel accents on the front of the bar, the stone-faced hood in the kitchen and the wood ceilings, yielding anchoring moments throughout Payton’s open, midcentury-inspired, entertaining-inclined floor plan. “Every project starts midcentury for me,” explains the residential designer. “I like to push to see how far we can take it before closing it up.”
Personalized pieces also proved key for owners loath to cut corners with the design. “It really raised the sophistication level of the home—to be able to use those special pieces from amazing manufacturers and custom vendors we loved,” says Young. For example, when Young presented a photo of a remarkable metal-and-glass chandelier by Cox London for the breakfast room, the wife took it as an opportunity to visit the firm in person. Seeing the studio during a trip to their London flat became an occasion to fall in love with the process and the message behind the work. The resulting commission “truly had soul and meaning for her. It wasn’t just another fixture for her,” Young says.
Integrating the couple’s existing art collection, which includes pieces by Jerry Van Megert and Dennis Smith Carney, offered another challenge for the designer. “They were concerned it wasn’t going to work, but I wasn’t concerned at all,” she explains. “I was kind of excited about having those warmer colors and traditional pieces to juxtapose the contemporary furnishings. They did fit right in, and we didn’t have to reframe any.”
In the end, Payton muses, having clients of this caliber was a great benefit to the design team. “They’re cultured and in the know,” the residential designer notes. “They knew what they wanted but didn’t push—we molded it together. It is always a team that puts together the best homes, and that team includes the owners.”