The homes featured in Modernism Week look like they’re straight out of a design magazine, but have you ever wondered how they get to that point?
Often times, it includes finding design inspiration in everyday things, preparing for months worth of renovations and dealing with supply-chain issues and delays during the age of COVID-19.
Before Modernism Week kicks off on Thursday and thousands walk through a number of homes, local interior designers gave The Desert Sun a look at the behind-the-scenes work that takes place months before the architectural event.
It’s not every day a seven-bedroom private escape ends up as a featured project for Modernism Week, but Kevin Kemper and Howard Hawkes of H3K Home+Design couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a splash.
The Limón property was constructed in 1964 and originally built as an apartment house named Stuart Manor. It’s one of the most unique buildings in Palm Springs because it’s an all-steel structure, according to the Modernism Week team.
“Normally, with the featured home, it’s actually a [single] home,” Kemper said. “This project is very different for us where it actually was built as six studio apartments then over the years has had various incarnations, from being hospitality [focused] to being a recovery center to being residential.”
Kemper and Hawkes have had several homes they’ve designed, including their own, included in Modernism Week over the past decade. The two were introduced to the Limón property in 2020 and fell in love with it immediately, they said. After the space was sold to a new client, work started in early 2021.
Design inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places, and for Limón, it was one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
“(One of our employees) had a vintage travel bag that said ‘Mexico 1968’ (when the country hosted the Summer Olympics), and I just fell in love with the graphics and color of that bag,” Hawkes explained. “It was lime, neon green and yellow, and it had this cool striping on it.”
Using those colors to guide them, the aesthetic is “a little warmer than a lot of other mid-century modern designs,” Kemper said. Each bedroom stands apart from the rest with unique wallpaper, rugs and artwork designs, but includes consistent yellow, green, pink and red colors.
The end result is bright patterns that scream Summer Olympics while still incorporating the quintessential Palm Springs modern style.
“(This is) pressing the gas a little bit more on the design just because it’s a hotel property,” Kemper said. “We did kind of make it a little more memorable versus someone’s personal home because if you’re visiting Palm Springs, that’s the kind of experience you want.”
The rooms surround a gleaming pool where guests can soak up the sun, and there’s also a large communal kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances and more yellow décor. The black and white Limón sign at the entrance was also designed by Gary Wexler, the son of influential mid-century modern architect Donald Wexler, Kemper said.
Most work on the property was finished by October, when the space was shown off during the Modernism Week Fall Preview. Returning visitors will notice a few changes this time around, like the addition of a spa, barbeque and bar area in the outdoor entertainment space and new tile added to an exterior back wall.
“We knew back in October that we weren’t going to be able to get the spa done in time, so we basically had a hard deadline of, OK, if we can’t get the plan for the permit approved in time, we’re just going to move ahead with making it look good so at least when we put it on tour in October, people would go through it, it looks like a finished space,” Kemper said.
“If someone came back to Limón who was there in October, it would be a little different than what they saw. … The people in October certainly weren’t shortchanged, it’s just a little bit different now that it’s 100% done,” he added.
Tickets for the Limón tour, which runs Friday through Feb. 27, can be purchased at www.modtix.com.
There’s plenty of pressure that comes with designing a home for Modernism Week, but showing off your own space is a whole different ballpark.
Grace Home Furnishings co-owners and partners Michael Ostrow and Roger Stoker have participated in several Modernism Week projects in the past. When the COVID-19 pandemic kept so many things “up in the air,” they decided to tackle their own home since it would offer the most flexibility, Stoker said.
“It’s harder and easier all at the same time,” said Stoker about designing his home. “When you work in design, you see all of the choices every day, and to pick one it’s kind of like a kid in a candy store. You know all of the choices, good and bad, and it’
s hard to zero in on one look you want because there’s so many different exciting design colors and motifs.”
Stoker said when he first became involved in Modernism Week about eight years ago, there was a focus on “a very specific mid-century period.” He believes that focus has evolved over the years and celebrates many different eras, which Stoker and Ostrow’s home, named the Seventies Sackley, certainly does.
The 1975 home by noted architect Stan Sackley is located in the Indian Canyons neighborhood. Stoker and Ostrow have made a few updates over the course of 10 years of homeownership, but heavy duty renovations began in November 2020. They remodeled the kitchen from top to bottom, including updating appliances and replacing cabinets, and added new carpeting, wallpaper and paint colors, all in eight weeks.
The home features a see-through fireplace with stacked stone detail and a bold green and blue color palette throughout the house. Stoker said the color palette was inspired by a fabric the couple bought at a Modernism Show & Sale event. The fabric, likely from the 1960s or 1970s, Stoker said, has blue, green, yellow and black colors. They loved the piece so much that they decided to frame it and use it for wall art.
“When we were putting the house together when we moved in, that became the color story for the whole house,” Stoker said. “We tell people that are going through the house on the Modernism tour, and you look around and it really is true that all the colors in the house were pulled out of that fabric.”
There’s also a mix of vintage and contemporary elements. There are architectural features that will remind people of the 1970s — such as the sunken bathtub in the master bedroom — as well as modern updates like those seen in the kitchen.
“If you decorate a home in all vintage furnishings from the period, it becomes kind of a museum and not really livable,” he said. “We try to balance comfortable furniture, functional pieces, with a nod to mid-century or ’70s.”
Tickets for the Seventies Sackley tour, which runs Friday through Sunday, can also be purchased at www.modtix.com.
Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ema_sasic.