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Palm Canyon Retreat
Palm Springs, California
Inspired by travels around the world, this couple decided to build a Moroccan-themed house in the desert near Palm Springs. Tichenor & Thorp Architects devised a refined refuge that wraps around a luxurious pool and a garden that perfectly frames a mountain view. We worked closely with the architects to incorporate luxurious materials and details to enhance the house’s happy blend of modern lines and antique forms.
Having recently sold a midcentury modern house nearby, the clients were ready for a more “dressed up” décor. Taking cues from the architecture, we developed a scheme for the interior that is inspired by Morocco but contemporary in mood. Luxurious textiles such as linens, chenilles, and tapestry weaves add texture and color to the rooms. In the main entertaining area, we created a hanging constellation of lanterns the clients brought home; it activates the room’s tall ceilings and adds visual interest to what is traditionally an overlooked space.
Surprisingly, many of the decorative elements in the house were sourced not from Northern Africa, but from India, including an inset medallion of black and white marble in the entry hall, red sandstone floors laid in varying patterns throughout the house, and the white marble fountains that accent the landscape.
The house was build for pure relaxation. Large comfortable spaces indoors, under cover facing the gardens, and in the gardens themselves invite all kinds of diversions. The kitchen is set up for cooking parties and accommodating large events. The master suite is equally generous but intensely private; guest rooms are arranged discreetly around the public rooms.
Captions: Indian sandstone floors, a black and white marble medaillion inset, and a white-lacquered mashrabiya window grille in the entry hall begin the house’s exotic theme. The walls are finished with Venetian plaster and textured to emulate stucco.
Moroccan-inspired custom consoles in distressed red lacquer punctuate a long hallway and repeat the shape of its Moorish arches.
In the dining area, a Portuguese-style table and chairs and custom-designed sideboards with recessed door panels in a traditional Moorish pattern reinforce the North African theme.
A door rendered almost transparent with large panes of light-colored glass in a simple geometric pattern allows the light from a generous, welcoming bay window beyond to penetrate deep into the house’s interior.
A collection of Moroccan lanterns with different forms animates a dining area, which flows into an entertainment room.
Painted cabinetry is framed with a lively Moroccan tile backsplash.
The view from the pool pavilion extends through the house and to the mountains beyond.
This compound in California wine country took over ten years to complete. First came the pool and pool house, followed by a one-of-a-kind tree house, where we occasionally slept on hot nights; next we planted a pinot noir vineyard, an olive orchard, and a large rose garden. Only with all of that complete did we begin work on the main house. Having become so familiar with the property, we knew exactly what we wanted to build: an airy one-bedroom house with a studio, a library, and several indoor and outdoor spaces for cooking and entertaining. Working with Tichenor & Thorp Architects, we created a contemporary structure that echoed the symmetry of classical pavilion architecture and had dashes of whimsy throughout.
The interior is a modest 2,500 square feet but feels much larger, thanks to an enfilade connecting the rooms along one side of the house, creating a sight line through the length of the building that exaggerates its scale. High ceilings and large windows add to the effect. Planked floors of white oak reclaimed from a nineteenth-century Pennsylvania barn laid throughout the house provide a warm, well-burnished ground for the otherwise crisp interiors.
The grandly proportioned living room is perfect for both large cocktail parties as well as for two people watching the home theater we discreetly hit behind a large, mixed-media folding screen. The kitchen is an inviting room for social gathering and for entertaining on a grand scale, with its abundant storage and counter space and a built-in grill just behind the range. A large studio—in lieu of a family room—provides ample space for working on various projects. The library is a jewel of a compact space, with a spectacular bronze and olive-burl desk designed by Andrew and the best view in the house through enormous triple-hung windows. The master suite is arranged as a series of rooms with generous spaces for sleeping, reading, bathing, and dressing. The circular master bath with its freestanding steel tub below a six-foot-tall, shell-encrusted chandelier and tub filler is the house’s showstopper. But the true pièce de résistance is the landscape, which we embellished with a cantilevered rear terrace shaded by a massive awning inspired by the great tents of India that overlooks the Russian River and vineyards.