A Grandeur Welcome

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Estate owners open their doors for the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert’s sixth annual home tour

Driving past the Coachella Valley’s sumptuous residential properties piques curiosity about what lies beyond the massive iron gates, behind the walls, and in the back yard. Wonder no longer about a handful of them when you take the Home Discovery Tour (Feb. 9-10), an annual fundraiser for the nonprofit Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert. This year, three luxurious model homes in the hills above Rancho Mirage have been added as a bonus. For tickets, call (760) 321-0602 or visit www.cdmod.org.

Brian Buchan & Jaime Rook Residence – Palm Springs

While the extra-smooth stucco exterior of Brian Buchan and Jaime Rook’s house emulates Venetian plaster, this new structure was framed with 24-inch steel I-beams. And though it weighs 888 pounds, the stainless steel front door is so perfectly balanced that it is a breeze to open.

The interior of the 5,600-square-foot house utilizes the finest materials, including Ann Sacks glass tiles and cabinetry custom-made of the best woods from Africa, Tangier, and the Andaman Islands. The ceiling is tongue-and-groove plank Santos Brazilian Mahogany.

The walls are primarily bright white with accents of lime green, purple, and Ponsardin orange. Artwork ranges from modern paintings to a centuries-old African mask and a stone sculpture from the Shona tribe of Zimbabwe.

The heating and air conditioning, lighting, security, 51-speaker audio system, pool/spa, and theater system can be operated from anywhere in the world via computer or telephone. Window shades are programmed to open and close depending on weather, time of day, and sun exposure.

The main fireplace is 16 feet long, and the living room opens by way of disappearing doors to provide an expansive indoor-outdoor area. The pool was built 30 inches above ground to create seating along its perimeter for large outdoor parties.

Designed and built by the owners, this house was featured in October on the national television program Spectacular Homes.

Photo Credits – Chase Lindberg


Roy Sklarin Residence, Old Las Palmas, Palm Springs

Owned by Los Angeles designer Roy Sklarin, this Old Las Palmas estate showcases ultra retro-chic interiors and tantalizing outdoor views.

At approximately 6,000 square feet, this four-bedroom, 4.5-bath, midcentury home sits on more than two-thirds of an acre of walled and gated, landscaped grounds. A dramatic entrance of graceful arches and colorful art welcome visitors into the massive great room that was restored by Sklarin with large-scale modern art paintings, an apple green rug, custom faux white pony seating, and a mirrored sunburst atop the dramatic fireplace.

The massive master suite, featuring a super king bed and night stands in white lacquer and stainless steel with red highlights, is complemented by the pristine white spa master bath. Each guest room is located on a separate wing with its own color scheme and design details.

The state-of-the-art kitchen features stainless steel appliances, including Sub-Zero refrigeration and Thermador double ovens.

The outdoor space is a masterpiece on its own, with an outdoor living room complete with a stacked-stone fireplace, poolside kitchen island, elaborate fountains, vivid colors, and a 60-foot fiber-optic spa and pool with a tanning shelf.

A temperature-controlled, six-car garage completes the package.

This house sits on almost three quarters of an acre.

Photo Credits – George Guttenberg and David Blank


Peter Solomon Residence – Rancho Mirage

After four years of planning and construction, developer and builder Peter Solomon is unveiling his five-acre estate. The Mediterranean-influenced main house and guest house comprise 18,000 square feet.

Visitors enter through iron gates and drive up the winding stone-paved drive, passing over waterways, to the porte-cochere. Inside massive iron and glass doors lies an expansive foyer with twin circular marble staircases and an overhead bridge.

Neutral colors soften the grand scale of 24-foot coffered ceilings, tall arched windows, massive fireplaces with elaborate mantles, and a great room large enough to host a party of several hundred guests. Dennis Buchner not only orchestrated the interior and architectural details, but also designed and supervised production of most of the furniture.

Fine finishes embellish the entire house, from the hand-painted Venetian luster walls to custom wallpaper and artistic iron scrolling. Other special areas of interest are the mirrored gym, Victorian theater, and two-bedroom guest house with living room and full kitchen.

A lake, waterfalls, bridges, gazebo, glass-tiled pool with a grotto, barbecue area, tennis court, and ficus-lined maze and victory garden enhance the parklike grounds created by landscape architect Jim Schrope.

Photo Credit – Imagine Imagery

The Villas of La Mirada – Rancho Mirage

A bonus on the tour, The Villas of Mirada are located in the hills above Rancho Mirage. Developed by Senterra Real Estate Group, the residential project offers three floor plans in Spanish or Tuscan style.

Villa Santa Rosa homes are approximately 2,950 square feet, Villa San Jacinto homes are 3,580 square feet, and Villa San Gorgonio homes are 3,730 square feet. Each is distinguished by attention to detail and exudes the warmth of Old World charm. Artisan finishes and custom design work include hand-distressed wood beams, wrought-iron hanging fixtures, and innovative stone and brick work. Tranquil infinity pools grace the back yards beyond comfortable loggias.

Creative design and stunning architectural features seamlessly integrate lavish indoor space with the spacious loggias in all floor plans.

The outdoor living areas are complemented with comfortable furniture, ceiling fans, built-in fireplaces, and attention to detail, ensuring harmony with the surrounding environment.

When the renovated Ritz-Carlton opens, homeowners also will enjoy access to the first-class amenities and privileges of the neighboring five-star resort. 

Photo Credits – www.ArthurColeman.com and Taylor Sherrill


 Neil & Terry Barker Residence, Vista Dunes Estates – Rancho Mirage

Philip Pekarek designed this California Mission-styled estate on an elevated one-acre lot. The year-old house features more than 10,000 square feet of living space.

Guests arrive by way of an Old World cobblestone drive leading to a spacious courtyard and casita complete with living room, fireplace, kitchenette, and cozy master suite.

The main residence greets visitors with a dramatic rotunda foyer with an 18-foot ceiling. Looking through the grand room, 12-foot disappearing doors bring the outside in. Artwork includes pieces by Salvador Dali, Manaz Thomas Easley, Aldo Luongo, Amiry, and Fabian Perez.

The professional gourmet-inspired kitchen features a butler’s pantry that leads to a formal dining room with arched, beveled-glass doors, carved fireplace, and 1,080-bottle wine cellar.

Highlights of the home are the 1,800-square-foot master suite and bath that includes an oval soaking tub, hand-carved glass, and a private gym. A few steps away is an office with a dry sauna.

The outdoor living area features a massive fireplace, infinity-edge pool, rock waterfalls, and regulation-size shuffleboard court. The palapa-covered outdoor kitchen even has a beer keg.

In addition to an oversized four-car garage, the estate boasts a motor coach barn and heated/air-conditioned workshop.

Photo credits – Neil and Terry Barker


 Joseph & Dee Wambaugh Residence, Thunderbird Estates – Rancho Mirage

The Joseph and Dee Wambaugh estate comprises 8,000 square feet on 2.5 acres, including a main house, guest house, and four-car garage. Beyond the iron gates, the Wambaughs enjoy phenomenal views down into the valley on one side of the house and, frequently, of bighorn sheep in the canyon on the other side. (A fence was erected to keep sheep off the roof.)

Though large, the home exudes a casual warmth with wood, burnt orange, red, and cream tones and “dog-friendly” furnishings. Two large canvases were painted in the late 1800s by English artist Sir Frank Brangwyn. Other oil paintings are by Russian artist Alla Tsank and Mexican artist Alfonso Sosa. Michael Ayrton’s bronze sculpture inside a copper enclosure marks the dining room.

The kitchen features Wolf appliances, a six-burner cook top, glass-fronted cupboards, and butler pantry with wine storage.

The pool has a shallow shelf with holes to insert umbrellas, perfect for lounging in the water on summer days. Above the pool is the spa, and a waterfall with a small grotto behind it tumbles over rocks into the pool.

A modernized version of Mediterranean/mission Spanish with classic white walls, a red/brown tile roof, and dark wood beams, this home was completed in 2006 and interior designed by Dee Wambaugh.

Photo Credit – Dee Wambaugh

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