A 1930s Cottage Nods to Western Vacation Homes of Yesteryear

A discreet locale and a historic façade add import to this newly expanded home scaled for entertaining.

Lisa Marie Hart Home & Design

An original 1930s cottage was expanded while maintaining its historic exterior. 

Smoke Tree Ranch
Design by Christopher Kennedy, Christopher Kennedy Inc.


The house was one of the original cottages built in 1936. The current owner is the seventh. Her research shows that when the cottages were built, neither kitchens nor pools were allowed. All meals were eaten at the ranch house and children attended the on-site schoolhouse. Working with Steve Poehlein of SP Design + Build, we significantly expanded the original footprint to accommodate her large family. The original fireplace, front façade, and main footprint celebrate the early cottage, built almost 90 years ago.


Our clients desired a home that was comfortable for the two of them but adaptable to accommodate their entire family or entertain friends. The home allows for all of this, with style to spare. We incorporated her blue-and-white elements and the California plein air paintings she has collected for over 25 years. Most of the paintings are by John W. Hilton and William S. Darling, who both lived in the area and painted desert landscapes. (Most of the works also feature a smoke tree.) The existing fire bench has sentimental value. Her sons sat there when they were young, long before the family purchased the home, when family friends rented it.

The newly expanded home is perfect for entertaining.
The renovation intentionally avoided overly flashy touches.

We gave plenty of nods to the original era of the house. In lieu of a real wood floor, we opted for durable wood-look tile, which captures the original essence but stands up to golf shoes, tennis rackets, cocktail parties, and children’s toys. The great room rafters were recreated in the original style. Even more than the specific 1930s decade, I sought to capture the Smoke Tree Ranch spirit of casual, Western, vacation home living. Nothing could be too fancy or overdone. Comfort and durability were paramount, and we sought to avoid clichés. Technology is limited or hidden, with televisions kept at a minimum to encourage group interaction.

The rafters of this room were recreated to match the home's original style.

We converted the previous kitchen into a bar and added a large chef’s kitchen to the back of the home. A bunk room and powder room were also added, along with four bedrooms, each with its own ensuite bath, to allow my client, her grown children, and grandchildren to gather at the holidays. I love historic homes of any era, and our work is known for honoring the best parts of the past while looking optimistically toward the future. This project holds true to that ethos. Its comfortable luxury is grounded in a crisp and neutral palette with concentrated moments of color, seamlessly mixing pieces from the past with the best of the modern day. I came to dub the design style “preppy ranch chic.”


This home is not on tour, but on Feb. 18 and 19, Kennedy opens the doors to private midcentury houses of his design, including his own, in the historic Vista Las Palmas and Indian Canyons neighborhoods. Most have never been open to the public. Proceeds from the tours and parties benefit the Palm Springs Animal Shelter.