I‘m one step away from fanatical when it comes to modernism and authenticity,” says designer Daniel Krog. “It’s a period that’s so defined and has so much ideology that, well, it’s blasphemy when the interior design for a modern house doesn’t take its cues from the architecture.” And the 1975 John Walling-designed residence in Palm Springs that Krog restored for himself and his husband, Adam Bonnett, is proof of that conviction.
The couple knew immediately that they wanted the residence–a structure of mostly glass, aggregate concrete and wood that harmonizes with its craggy backdrop of mountains. “We love modern design–and the house is a classic example of late modernism and also has many Brutalist elements,” Krog says. “One of its defining features is that it’s nestled into the intersection of the Santa Rosa Mountains and the San Jacinto Mountains. There’s this sense of being enveloped by that exquisite landscape.”
While the home’s architecture and setting were its selling points, the interiors left a lot to be desired. Previous owners had completed at least two renovations (in the 1980s and 1990s) of Walling’s design, which meant the finishes no longer related to the architecture. “There was a lot of contemporary-style tile in the bathrooms and the kitchen was mauve and purple,” Krog says. “I restored all of the bathrooms and the kitchen with period-appropriate materials.” But before doing so, the designer, with the original plans of the house in hand, surveyed the property with Walling. “John came to the house while we were still in escrow, and we walked the property and went into every room together,” he says. “He told me what it should be and what his intentions were. I wanted the house to be as close to his original design as possible.”
Krog began the restoration process by gutting the bathrooms and the kitchen and replacing the contemporary tile with tile by Heath Ceramics. “I used it throughout the house because Heath was very happening in the ’70s and because it has a classic ’70s palette,” the designer says. Much to his satisfaction, the raw slate flooring and the wood ceiling and beams in most of the rooms remained intact. “And thank goodness,” he notes, “the aggregate concrete walls and the travertine on the fireplace were also exactly how Walling originally designed them.”
In keeping with modern design principles, the materiality of the floors, walls and ceiling was understated and related to the natural landscape, but Krog wanted to pair that aesthetic with the sleeker sensibility that also marked the era. “The energy crisis bummed people out and they wanted an escape,” he says. “There was chrome and the Space-Age-like style of designers such as Pierre Paulin. It was this dichotomy and you really see that in this house. I juxtaposed Sciolari light fixtures and Warren Platner chairs with things that have an earthy feel.” When selecting the mix of pieces, Krog employed only furniture and fabric from the 1970s in each of the rooms. “All furniture, textiles and art are either period original or licensed original,” he says. In the living room, the designer arranged curved Milo Baughman sofas covered in Knoll velvet. There are bronzed Platner chairs and tables with smoked glass tops, and three large brass wall sculptures by William Bowie hang above the fireplace. The dining area, where sunlight pours in through the glass walls, showcases a Sciolari chandelier suspended above a Saarinen table and chairs. “All the lighting with the exception of the Verner Panton pendants in the kitchen is vintage Sciolari,” Krog says.
The designer also revamped the landscape. “I wanted to bring the mountain behind the house into the landscape so that the two were one,” he says. Previously, abundant foliage and grass had effectively separated the house from the mountains. He replaced the trees, bougainvillea and hedges with creosote, furcraea and Mexican feather grass. “Now, it’s as if the mountain is the backyard,” Krog says. The pool area, situated to the side of the house and framed by concrete and raw slate, underwent only one change. “We jackhammered and removed a slab for outdoor sculpture that was on the edge of the pool and put a spa in its place,” says general contractor Jack W. Doyle, who managed the construction.
One of the best compliments Krog received about his new-but-not-new home was a comment made by a close friend, also a designer, when he came to see the house for the first time. “He said he couldn’t tell the difference between what is new and what is original,” Krog reports. “It was music to my ears.” But the living experience the designer and his husband now have is even better than that. “Modernism is so much more than clean lines,” he says. “It’s classical architecture stripped of its ornament so you’re able to focus on proportion, light and views.”