Desert House

Palm Springs, California, US
Jim Jennings
Joe Fletcher

The Southern California region is known for its famous deserts, and also its resort cities such as Palm Springs. The relationship between the urban area and the relentless nature all around is a signature condition in itself. The lifestyle of the inhabitants is shaped by the constant shift in temperature for example, and thus its architecture is also prompt to adaptability. To blur the limits between inside/outside living is most imperative consequently.

Standing at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains sits the aptly-named Desert House by architect Jim Jennings. Designing the residence for himself and his wife, it is a project both traditional in its Mid-Century Modernism style, as well as a bold proposition to flip expectations about what it means to conjure minimalism as modus operandi.

The refuge boasts an impressive 280m² private area, as the dwelling is entirely surrounded by a 2,40m wall of painted concrete blocks. The pattern is ever-present on all sides, resulting in a homogenous geometric element that sets the tone with confidence. The absence of windows or any other openings is a statement about absolute privacy. The white colour stands out in the desert landscape as a modernist intervention—the inner space holds the same visual identity present on the courtyards and inside the house as well.

The sense of serenity is achieved through a sparse and visually lightweight interior design. The boundaries are practically non-existent most of the time between the inner and outer spaces, as the sliding glass doors on the east and west side are unsurprisingly open for most of the year, given the climate. The inside is merely 70m² and marks the dynamics between indoor and outdoor a mere convention, as the daily life is essentially a mix of both spaces. Or better yet, the blurred lines are the central idea behind this inventive project. Minimalist compositions are particularly present in beautiful arrangements, found in the living room clad with a Charles Eames design, in the in-line kitchen, and in the beautiful swim-lane pools—devoid of any ornamentation.

The influence of 1950’s post-and-beam architecture is evident, as the openness of the ambient works as an extension of the surrounding landscape; Jim Jennings innovated when he proposed a bold contemporary variance with a minimalist stance.

It is worth noting the editorial photography by Joe Fletcher—it is an impressive stand-alone vision pushing the minimalist characteristics of Desert House beautifully.

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