Although she lives in Seattle, the owner of this dwelling is often drawn to the desert of Southern California, where she has long loved the light, warmth and midcentury aesthetic that’s so beautifully preserved in and around Palm Springs. When she bought this early 1970s abode, she decided to import as much of a Sonoran Desert vibe as she could, creating a hospitable mid-mod home for herself, her teenage daughter and their many friends.
“I started the project with a manifesto and an ethos,” the homeowner says. “I wanted to begin by talking about how we desired to feel and live.” She sent the design team—architect Tori Masterson, general contractor Ryan McKinney, designer Tim Pfeiffer and interior design project manager Michelle Mele—a spoken-word poem called “Home” by artist In-Q. The piece inspired a remodel that, in the owner’s words, “left very little Sheetrock untouched.”
“The home had a modern floor plan to start with, and the exciting part for us was to ask, ‘How can we open the spaces up even more to allow the same light and flow you’d get in a midcentury desert residence?’” Masterson says. The house had five small bedrooms that the design team reimagined into a larger primary suite, a study and lounge space for the owner’s daughter, a guest bedroom and an office. They also removed barriers between the living, dining and kitchen spaces to improve the dwelling’s circulation, which now orbits around a fireplace clad in gray limestone tile enhanced by a sleek marble mantel. While the upstairs functions well for adult and family gatherings, the owner wanted the downstairs—a walk-out basement with the daughter’s bedroom and an Austin Powers-inspired groovy hangout—to provide just the kind of retreat a teen would want for hosting movie nights with friends.
Simply fixing the layout, of course, wasn’t quite enough to bring Palm Springs to the abode. “When you picture beautiful midcentury design, you think about gorgeous woodwork that’s built into the architectural interiors,” Pfeiffer notes. White oak floors and cedar ceilings find counterpoints in the living room’s bespoke slatted-wood screens and a wall of built-in cabinets in the dining room—all of which create depth and texture that nod to the craftsmanship one would find in a custom home built 70 years ago. The effect is similar in the cedar-clad powder bath, where the design team coated the wood in a clear matte stain to prevent its natural darkening and paired the look with horizontally laid subway tile.
To fully achieve the desired effect, furnishings and light fixtures naturally had to follow suit. “The owner doesn’t have a lot of walls for art, so she was willing to go for iconic and wonderful lighting selections that double as sculpture,” Pfeiffer says. As such, a kinetic fixture hangs over the living area’s coffee table, and a vintage Sputnik chandelier has a place of prominence in the dining room. Meanwhile, the furnishings are a combination of vintage finds and fresh elements that reference pieces from the mid- 20th century. In the living room, reupholstered Kai Kristiansen chairs stand beside a new Vladimir Kagan sofa.
There’s no doubt the residence is an aesthetic success. It ticks the boxes of midcentury style, which still appeals, Masterson says, because it focuses on handcrafted details, clean lines, and a scale that feels more human and comfortable than you might find in other design eras. But for the owner, the home’s triumph is the intangible satisfaction she finds in her Palm Springs-inspired space. “It can get dark and dreary in Seattle,” she says. “I love walking into the house and seeing the light from the living room’s wall of windows and the visual warmth of the wood. It feels just as I wanted it to.”