A note from our editors: 

It’s time for one of our favorite traditions! Each year, we spend the holidays reflecting on the stories and articles you loved most. It’s the “Best of Rue” and this is one of 2020’s top stories. Enjoy!

Previously published on June 9, 2020:

Located on a golf course tucked away in the Santa Rosa Mountains, this Palm Desert home was inspired by early 1980s design. Specifically, the Deconstructivist Movement which moved away from the linear boxes of mid-century modern design, resulting in more organic forms. “The exterior and interior walls were curved throughout and the volumes of each room changed constantly, making for really interesting spaces,” designer Brittany Gudewill recalls. “But nothing had been updated or maintained since it was first built. I felt it was my job to push my clients to embrace and respect the era the home was designed in, while bringing it back to life in a more contemporary way.”

Brittany’s clients, Canadians who have been visiting Palm Desert for the last 30 years, wanted to spend more time in the area. “The home had to be comfortable as a secondary residence, but as avid entertainers, the design also needed to have flexibility inside and out,” Brittany explains. “The original layout was dated and did not suit a modern lifestyle: each space was compartmentalized so it lacked the openness and lightness they desired from a vacation home.”

The designer’s first task was to reconfigure the floor plan. “We moved the kitchen to the south-side of the home looking out onto the golf course and mountain views beyond, adding all new appliances and an island for casual entertaining. Rather than a completely open concept with the living & dining rooms, each of these spaces have defined zones so they feel intimate and have their own moments, but structurally they are still open to each other,” she says. The outdoor area was expanded to be seamlessly accessible from the majority of the home, and an outdoor kitchen and larger pool were added. “Through large expanses of glass and a continuation of materials, the division between interior and exterior is now blurred.”

Aesthetically, the designer says it was important to her that the new design wouldn’t be distinguishable from the old. “The narrative I wanted to create was influenced heavily by the desert landscape, the period of the existing architecture and the iconic 20th century design found in Palm Springs,” she says. Natural materials like travertine tile floors, wool carpeting, and rift-cut oak cabinetry create a neutral and textural base, while pastel colors found in the mountain range and gold to reflect the sun pay homage to the desert colors. Additional pops of color were inspired by an iconic painting. “The fun thing about a vacation home is that clients tend to open up and allow for experimentation,” she says. “Early on in the project, a large Andy Dixon painting of two tennis players was acquired and became a source of inspiration. The colors found in the painting were thoughtfully continued throughout the home, such as the shower tiles, throw pillows, and dining room area rug.”

Brittany also used the furniture to reinforce the period and organic architecture. She explains, “In addition to recovering original designs that came with the home, such as Milo Baughman swivel chairs, I hunted for more vintage pieces in the area to repurpose and new pieces were sourced to create some tension and balance.” The curves and asymmetry repeat throughout and are a subtle but defining feature. “A favorite example is the quintessential 80’s sunken bar,” Brittany shares. “Although an original element, we revamped it with all new finishes, in particular a custom designed countertop that curves out into the living area to allow for more seating.”

A restoration project can be very time consuming, due to unpredictable engineering and upgrading issues you’ll inevitably run into. From start to finish, this renovation took nearly two years. The designer says her greatest challenges were working remotely and building confidence in her instincts. “Since I had limited access to the site, making assumptions was not an option, so I had to learn to ask and answer as many questions as it took to be sure we were all on the same page. Sourcing and working with all new vendors and trades was overwhelming but having a contractor with a good team who supports your vision is invaluable.” She concludes, “I also had to learn to trust my own vision, taking the time to explore my ideas and making the conscious effort to avoid just following trends. Looking back on the end result, my clients love their unique space, the team worked together to take chances and I realized the power of following my instincts; there really is no rulebook to design.”