A Bright, Sun-Shiny Day

The elements of gracious desert living blossom at an exclusive Fashion Week kickoff luncheon at the Ship of the Desert house of Trina Turk and Jonathan Skow


“OH, I LOVE PALM SPRINGS,” Trina Turk beams as guests arrive at the iconic, hillside Ship of the Desert, the house in The Mesa neighborhood of south Palm Springs owned Trina Turk and her husband, Jonathan Skow. They are hosting a “diva” luncheon to kickoff Fashion Week El Paseo — two VIPs giving about 20 other VIPs a sneak peek at Turk’s Friday-night runway show.

The luncheon proves a bright, colorful reflection of the casual, colorful elegance that defines Palm Springs style in home décor, indoor/outdoor entertaining, and fashion. Turk and Skow, a fashion photographer, live it and love it with infectious passion.

“I hate leaving Palm Springs when the weekend is over,” Turk says, not long before celebrating the local debut of her Palm Springs Eternal spring/summer 2011 collection — colorfully patterned clothes that are as casual as they are chic and elegant.

The “diva” fashionphiles schmooze, eat, and ogle at the midcentury modern touches in the home décor.

“Their house is perfect,” says Dr. Timothy Jochen, whose friend, Wendy Almasy, won tickets to the lunch on Turk’s website and drove in from Malibu to attend. “I’m not planning on going to the shows. I’m here for the house,” he concedes.

WHAT A HOUSE IT IS. The property, designed in 1936 by architects Adrian Wilson and Erle Webster, resembles a streamlined ship and enjoys expansive views of the Coachella Valley. It also encapsulates Turk’s colorful, midcentury-inspired interiors that made her lunch guests go gaga.

Turk and Skow bought the house in 1998 and, after a devastating fire six months later, restored it to its original glory. “[Webster’s] daughter contacted us and gave us pictures of what the house looked like,” Skow says, thumbing through a hardcover photo album of black and white shots.

The rooms contain a mix of quirky, modern furniture, abstract works of art, and colorfully printed textiles that mostly span the 1930s to the 1970s. Modern Missoni zigzag pillows mingle perfectly against 1930s wall sconces sourced from a Belgian girls school, while wood built-ins and an impressive floor-to-ceiling hearth fill the living room. And sun-yellow calla lilies that match the luncheon color scheme live in a Jonathan Adler ceramic bowl near the staircase to the bedrooms.

“How does Trina live with these closets?” one guest asks. It looks like it could maybe — just maybe — fit a bucket and a mop.

“Fortunately for Trina, we have a second home,” Skow says.

THE TOUR ENDS AND GUESTS MOVE around the kidney-shaped pool for a first course of seared ahi tuna with liquid nitrogen-chilled cucumber caviar. The conversation turns from décor to fashion.

“I’m having the hardest time figuring out what to wear to the shows,” says Iolanda Goodfellow, who splits her time between suburban Chicago and Palm Desert. This would be her first Fashion Week El Paseo. She wears a coral-colored skirt and turquoise cardigan inspired by Turk’s vibrantly hued designs. “You can have so much fun with your clothes here,” she says, noting, almost sheepishly that she didn’t yet own a Trina Turk outfit. “I hear she has a pop-up shop at the tent, so we’ll see.”

Jewelry designer Angela Romeo also tries to determine her ensembles for the front row at Fashion Week. “It’s a Black Swan theme, right?” she asks a circle of friends in regard to Project Runway night, as they mosey near pillows covered in orange Turk-printed Schumacher fabric. “I just bought about five lavender BCBG dresses. I may wear one of them.”

Of course, the sea of colored-and-patterned resort wear at lunch also includes several Trina Turk labels. Christy Majors of Integrated Wealth Management bought a Pucci-esque maxi dress by the designer especially for the occasion. She promptly sent a photo of it to Palm Springs Life Fashion Editor Susan Stein for her blessing. “If she said no, I wouldn’t have worn it,” Majors says.

Not every stylish guest dropped a lot of dough on their party pieces. “It’s Target,” Palm Springs Art Museum’s Brooke Devenney says of her pretty floral frock, part of the collaboration between the mega retailer and designer Tracy Feith. She paired the tiered tropical dress with a pair of red tribal earrings. “Also Target. They have cute clothes!” she laughs.

Ironically, Turk — widely regarded as a queen of color for her retro-infused, geometric creations — wears a white, long-sleeved, lace mini dress of her own design. Skow enjoys the day in a breezy white, button down; khaki pants; a fedora; and — as soon as lunch is served — bare feet.

“It’s just so easy here,” Turk says of Palm Springs, her muse since launching her line 15 years ago. “There truly is no place else like it.”

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