Enjoy Panoramic Views From Every Room In This Bespoke Idyllwild Gem


architectural carport leading to mudroom...

Architect Stan Boles designed a modernist, fire-resistant residence for himself and his wife, Wendy Kahle, in the rustic mountain community of Idyllwild. His mastery of detail is evident in every space, including the carport leading to the mudroom.

steel and wood entry footbridge...

An entry footbridge leads to the upper-level great room. The interaction of various wood types with black detailing is an element of contrast throughout the house.

great room with cedar tongue...

“We played the wood against the more minimalist white walls to make it not heavy,” architect Stan Boles says of the materials in the great room of the Idyllwild home he shares with his wife, Wendy Kahle. The tight-knot cedar for the tongue-and-groove ceiling by general contractor Rob Gray’s team and the red alder for the bookcases, shelving and storage units by Red Barn Custom Cabinetry appear throughout. Underfoot is Expanko cork flooring from Del’s Flooring Contractors.

open kitchen and dining area...

A pair of hand-blown glass pendants from Desert Lighting Solutions acts as a subtle space divider between the open kitchen and the rest of the great room. The Arco Esssenza table and Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs from Fritz Hansen complete the dining area. Large sliding doors on the north wall access the main deck. The couple selected a Wolf range and Axor Citterio faucet, both from Ferguson.

wood-walled stairwell with collage artwork...

The infusion of natural light is fundamental to Boles’s architecture. In the stairway, which leads from the great room to the gallery and the carport, a cut-out reveal expands the illumination to the lower level. “We left snow and rain and ice behind,” says Wendy of the couple’s move from Oregon to Southern California. “The winter light here is especially beautiful to us.” The artwork is a collage by Boles.

den with sleeper sofa, coffee...

Located on the main level, the den doubles as a home office and a guest bedroom. An American Leather sleeper sofa from Interior Illusions sits beneath a Chuck Close silkscreen. Both the Bensen coffee table and the pair of Artemide Tolomeo table lamps were originally purchased from Design Within Reach.

primary bedroom with dresser and...

Boles situated the primary bedroom at the west corner of the lower level for separation and privacy from the rest of the house. An Alex Katz silkscreen is placed above a Bensen dresser from Design Within Reach. The hand-loomed Safiyya bed blanket is from The Citizenry.

primary bathroom with black leathered...

Cambrian Black leathered granite countertops from Formation in the primary bathroom match those in the kitchen. The floor tiles by Architectural Surfaces continue in the shower and form the shower wall; the Milgard windows feature blinds from The Shade Store. “Stan wanted no window coverings, and I wanted privacy—even in the forest—though I knew he was right aesthetically,” says Wendy. “We compromised with the perfect, minimal reverse roller shades.” The Kohler porcelain sink and California Faucets taps are from Ferguson.

Living a life immersed in design, in the arts and in travel, people amass things along the way that reflect the richness of their experiences. This often results in a collection of personally curated objects that, space allowing, they wouldn’t dream of parting with. For architect Stan Boles and his artist wife, Wendy Kahle, in relocating from Oregon to Southern California, the idea was to create a residence expressly around the pieces they cherish—and make the house a symbol of their aesthetic.

And their shared design experience made them well-suited to the task: Boles is a founder and former senior design principal of Portland-based Bora Architecture & Interiors, and Wendy had previously remodeled a pair of midcentury William Krisel homes in Palm Springs. For several years after their retirement (Boles from his firm and Wendy from a career in advertising), the couple split their time between Oregon and California before deciding to go full-bore California. The one drawback was the desert’s summer heat, which ultimately led them to an undeveloped property in the small alpine community of Idyllwild, an hour’s drive from Palm Springs and, at a mile-high altitude, some 25 degrees cooler. A second residence with a distinctly different environmental profile held enormous appeal—and would accommodate what Boles describes as “this core group of things we love, essentially the history of our lives.”

Packing up in Portland, they assiduously measured their major pieces of art, noted the lineal feet needed for their book and vinyl collections, and even counted how many drawers they’d need for their dishes and cookware. “Our big thing is functionality and making it all work,” says Wendy of the programming part of the design process, for which their comprehensive inventory provided a critical data set.

“We were collaborators on the basic layout and all the major decisions,” she notes. “We see eye to eye on design. But this is Stan’s house. He did the heavy lifting.” Indeed, Boles drew everything by hand, old-school style, removed as he was from the tech amenities of his former firm, where he had master-planned institutional projects that could take as many as 15 years to complete. This was a far more immediate, intimate exercise—he built scale models of three designs, each with the same program—but still a challenging one. 

The rugged half-acre parcel was on a steep slope laden with trees and boulders, the latter often buried. Fire and drought conditions persist. Correspondingly, strict building codes dictated the use of exterior materials. So, Boles complied with cedar siding over non-combustible sheathing, metal roofing and a concrete-block foundation wall. “Understanding the constraints going in—structural, topographical—simplified the form,” he says of the 20-by-60-foot rectangle he sited on an east-west axis to minimize heat gain and maximize views (achieved, remarkably, by taking out just one tree).

Panoramic views from every room—north to the San Jacinto Mountains and south, east and west through the forest—are a defining feature of the geometric 1,900-square-foot residence. At the main level, a pedestrian bridge leads to the great room, a single volume that includes dining and an open kitchen; at the opposite end, the den transforms into an en suite guest bedroom. On the lower level, the primary suite on the west end connects via a gallery to a multiuse studio and utilities and to the carport at the east. 

Wood is the dominant interior material, the discrete varieties (cedar, red alder, Douglas fir) choreographed in a way that avoids monotony and heaviness—a decided leap from mountain cabin vernacular. The taut interplay of wood surfaces with white-painted sheetrock gives a warm contrast, while the infusion of black steel in major elements, like the fireplace wall, and in smaller moments, like the track lighting, acts as a sleekly graphic through line.

Boles credits general contractor Rob Gray and associate architect and structural engineer Jim Marsh and the trades they brought to the project, with the degree of refinement attained. “We committed to working with very skilled and talented local subcontractors knowing they’d become invested in what was for them a first in terms of a modernist vocabulary,” he says. And, perhaps, a first in terms of client thoroughness: It may end up achieving lore status among the building community here that Boles and Wendy supplied their cabinetmaker with the exact dimensions of their books.

Which leads to the question: How did everything—the artworks, the furniture, the pottery, the textiles, the vintage vinyl, even—ultimately fit into the meticulously crafted spaces? “Beautifully,” says Boles. “Like they were designed to be there,” Wendy confirms.