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photo of Desert House
Photo: Dominique Vorillon

Desert House

Rancho Mirage, California

Desert House

Rancho Mirage, California

  • Design Principal

    Jim Olson

Palm Springs was developed as a winter resort and a showcase of modernism through the 1950s, but after the advent of air conditioning, it was transformed into a twenty-mile sprawl of generic suburban developments. The Desert House recaptures the freshness of the first settlement. It is located on a ridge above an arroyo in a community that preserves the natural beauty of rocks and mountains and gives each plot a sense of privacy.

Natural materials—concrete, stone, stucco, and wood—blend with the earth tones of the surroundings. Broad overhangs provide shade yet allow the winter sun to warm the house, and the mass of the construction moderates the extremes of temperature. Two offset colonnades outside the living areas augment the interiors and provide architectural frames for art, and a cylindrical breakfast room with glass doors plays against the rectilinear facade. A central circulation spine, topped by a clerestory that diffuses natural light, extends from the entry to a garden plaza and reflecting pool. Generous public and more intimate private rooms open from this concourse, and the soft tones of walls and furnishings blend house and desert. Interior design by Terry Hunziker.

The movement of wind across water brings architecture to life and reflects the changing environment. Jim Olson, FAIA




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