Here, we're catching up with the hosts of our Palm Desert home called 'Desert Wave' to find out about its amazing history and interiors, as well as to discover some great neighbourhood tips.
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To kick things off, tell us a bit about yourselves and your home 'Desert Wave'
We’re a small, two-generation architecture firm in Los Angeles. We purchased the house in 2018 from the local government after it had been left abandoned for a decade and slated for demolition. We spent about a year and a half researching the history of the home and carefully restoring it to its original condition. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (National Park Service) and has won a number of awards from preservation organisations.
This is the historic Miles C. Bates House, which was built in Palm Desert, California, in 1954 for the heir of a Chicago cement fortune. Palm Desert is part of the greater Palm Springs area, about two hours south-east of Los Angeles. Palm Desert sits at the edge of the Colorado Desert and backs up on the spectacular Santa Rosa Mountains. It’s about two hours from Los Angeles and San Diego, so an easy weekend getaway from the city. Many foreign visitors also make it a stop on a tour of the desert en route to Las Vegas or Phoenix.
What is your home's superpower?
Time travel. At the Miles C. Bates House the experience transports you back to the 1950s, with the comforts of today (air conditioning, a Sonos sound system, etc). The light quality in the desert is amazing due to the dry air and vast open spaces - there’s a reason why artists, photographers, and filmmakers have been drawn to these landscapes for generations. Desert Wave, with its dramatic undulating roof, frames that light and shadow like no other place. It’s like inhabiting a movie camera.
How would you describe your interior style?
This is a mid-century home, but like the house this is not 'out of the catalogue'. It’s an experimental house with a roof that was patented and that influenced the direction of modern architecture in California for the next several decades. However, it was the only example of this roof construction ever constructed.
The interiors are a collection of more esoteric designers from the early twentieth century: designers who, like the architect of the house Walter S. White (not the titular character from Breaking Bad!), experimented with structural logics and novel uses of simple materials. Much of the vintage furniture is from Scandinavia, Italy, and Holland or was handmade for us in Southern California. The textiles were a collaboration with the grandson of Tibor Reich, a midcentury textile designer who was known for his designs for the Concorde and the Royal Yacht Britannia.
What do you think makes a house a home?
A story. The house has been around for almost 70 years and has lived a number of different lives during that time! Our restoration tried to incorporate its history and restore its experience—the desert landscape, the ambient sounds, the smells and textures, and the life of the house we discovered through oral history.
What is your favourite room?
This is a small house! But at the same time there are a number of very unique and different spatial experiences. We have two favourites! The living room falls below a portion of the wave-like roofline where you can simultaneously experience the lowest and highest points of the curvature. It looks great in photographs, but it’s particularly amazing to experience in person. Our second favourite, the master bathroom, extends outside of the house with a glass-enclosed shower. Walter S. White rendered a privacy screen and garden here, but it was never realised until our restoration. Now, it feels as if you’re showering inside a secluded cactus garden - it’s pretty incredible!
And what about your favourite piece of furniture?
There’s a lounge chair designed by the architect Alvar Aalto in the bedroom. It’s an early edition of the bentwood “Model 402” that he designed for the Finnish manufacturer Artek and it was produced in the 1940s from steam-bent birchwood.
Next up, what time of day is best to enjoy in the home?
Sunset. We love relaxing on the backyard terrace looking towards the house at sunset -- every evening the nearby Santa Rosa Mountains and sunset are reflected into the windows, making for a spectacular view.
What is the ultimate way, in your opinion, to relax in 'Desert Wave'?
Music. Miles C. Bates, the house’s namesake, was known for regularly hosting friends for shows and live music. In that spirit, we took great care to curate an enjoyable sonic experience at the house. There’s a Sonos and vintage Bose sound system, along with a turntable and curated vintage records, which sound fantastic below the house’s undulating wood roof.
What are the best things you can walk to from your home?
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, just around the corner from the house, is a great spot to explore outside in the cooler months and learn about the flora and fauna of the Colorado Desert and beyond. A bit further south of the house, about a 10-minute drive, is the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center, with access to some of the most spectacular hiking trails in the Coachella Valley.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite local produce stores or independent shops in the neighbourhood?
On Wednesday mornings between October and April there’s a great outdoor farmer’s market that takes place by the Art Museum.
Do you have a favourite nearby coffee shop, restaurant or wine bar?
Wilma and Frieda's Cafe on El Paseo is a great breakfast spot within walking distance. The Pink Cabana, a short drive away, is a complete Auntie Mame fantasy, all pink and teal, and pleasantly over the top. The house also has a bar stocked with wines and treats from Tilda, a small California-focused natural wine bar and shop we own in the Echo Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles.