One of the early lots developed by the Alexander Construction Company in Vista Las Palmas is also one of the largest. Architect Tony Stark added a casita behind the house without disturbing the 50-plus-year-old palm trees.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LANCE GERBER AND STEVE KING
As I settle at last into the newly constructed poolside casita, surprised to be so comfortable in a chair fashioned from leather cord, the scale of the three-year project that homeowners Raymond Banks and Eric Erickson completed earlier this year begins to settle in, too.
The delicate cords wrapping around the chair’s metal frame are strong enough to support human weight, an artful detail I can’t ignore. Same for the thin bands of wood that bend in a fluid swoop around a linen lampshade in the corner, where it hovers over a conical walnut base.
When I turn to take in the mountain views across the pool, I am distracted by the delights in the foreground. Fringe trim on paneled umbrellas dances in the slightest breeze. Small white tiles on the circular raised spa wink with a hint of iridescence. Framing the marigold-colored outdoor kitchen by Hestan, a new set of spider-leg beams pitches high then angles down sharply to form a pergola. This modern shade structure nods to the 1960s as it shields a dining table and seating for 10.
Considering the home was designed to be a relaxed desert refuge for the Michigan couple, it emanates an exuberant Palm Springs energy.
The entry announces the color palette through a glass tube chandelier and “Pink Panels” by Jeff Downs through Melissa Morgan Fine Art.
“We wanted light, bright, and color,” says Banks, as a contrast to their traditional condo in Chicago and a cozy craftsman they have owned in the Midwest. “Something unmistakably midcentury modern but elegant.” The architecture and interior design had to befit the history of one of the first homes in the Alexander Construction Company tract in Vista Las Palmas. The men purchased it in 2020 after a video call with their agent. They anticipated the work it required would also transpire via phone calls and Zoom meetings, so they sought a team they could trust to guide them from afar.
Banks and Erickson found architect Tony Stark, principal of Palm Springs– and Los Angeles–based Corsini Stark Architects, by way of a midcentury-inspired pool pavilion he designed for a nearby home. They valued Stark’s sensitivity toward their home’s circa-1959 architecture by Charles Du Bois and placed their confidence in his vision for a new casita and a new wing for the primary suite and for liberating the closed-in kitchen.
Stark would also need to rehab the front elevation per city preservation guidelines then connect all the dots with a cohesive program for enjoying the outdoor areas. His canvas: one of the largest lots this side of downtown at over 1/3 acre.
Shortly after Stark came aboard, the couple enlisted designer Christopher Kennedy to develop Stark’s exterior color palette across the interiors and impart personal meaning to its new identity. The previous owners had spent a lifetime in the home. Only a full-scale overhaul could equip it for the present and the years ahead.
A fireside sitting area makes an inviting transition between living and dining spaces.
Drawers, rather than upper cabinets, provide kitchen storage. Gaggenau appliances and a Falmec hood join cabinetry by European Touch.
Kennedy introduced a bold blend of vintage, custom, and new pieces throughout the 3,000-square-foot home to infuse a distinctive desert vacation vibe, right down to the seagrass-encased glass that holds my Pellegrino. His choice in drinkware is casual yet fresh. Tactile and unexpected. The home exudes all of these qualities.
Our tour began outside the front doors, painted Quack Quack — a plucky yellow — by Dunn-Edwards. The former owners had coated the surrounding stonework — along with the entire home, including the doors and windows — in a peachy apricot, prompting Stark to sandblast the paint to uncover the original stone, returning dimension and authenticity to the exterior. For the rest of the façade, Stark swayed the owners into signing off on Powder Blush by Benjamin Moore, a friendly pink akin to the dusty rose shades favored by Mamie Eisenhower, who hails from Erickson’s hometown of Boone, Iowa.
Cohesive colors and materials in the communal living areas combine with pleasing textures. A green cork wallcovering defines the den, where interior and exterior clerestory windows guide light through the house. In the living area, a screen replaces a solid wall, and a wood console hides the TV. On the far wall, “San Benito” by Marcia Roberts is through Melissa Morgan Fine Art.
The new troop of colors — an intrepid yellow, 1950s pink, and the sprightly green of perfectly manicured turf — references the exterior’s original palette. These shades band together as they move through the home and its entertaining patio, starting with the expressive entry.
As we open the doors and step inside, the pastel glass tubes of an Italian chandelier catch the light above an imposing triptych painting. The pairing assures all who enter: This home refuses to have a dull moment when it could have a cool, crisp, and colorful one.
Past the entry, past a powder room wallpapered in a surrealist print and a guest bedroom with access to the reopened breezeway, the impact of Stark’s work spreads out like majestic midcentury wings. To the right, the dining area adjoins the open kitchen, each topped by a ridgeline mountain view through new clerestory windows. To the left, the den, living areas, and additional bedrooms unfold in an instinctive progression. The pool and its outdoor lifestyle components sit just beyond the new glass sliders, composing the rear elevation.
“The owners wanted more light throughout the house, as well as connecting it to the exterior,” Stark says. “One of the first things we did was open it up to capture the views.” The ridgeline had been there for the taking, yet solid walls left it standing outside for almost 65 years. The intuitive removal of the dining room wall, which had a mere pass-through into the kitchen, joined the new clerestories and produced one of Banks’ favorite moments in the home.
Palm Pacific Construction followed Stark’s lead. “Our project manager, Chris Tefft, was great to work with,” Banks says. “He put it best when he said, ‘I really enjoy working on this project. It’s a combination of artwork and a construction site.’ It is a house at one level, a piece of architecture at another, but there’s a lot of art to it as well that both Tony and Christopher put into it.”
New angled clerestory windows stretch from the dining area to the kitchen, framing a wide swath of green palms and mountain ridgeline.
We move to the den where a deeper shade of turf green feels doubly organic when I learn the wallcovering is cork. The adjacent living area, widened by 10 feet, lives true to the era thanks to a few tricks by Kennedy. Banks wanted a console TV like his parents had in the 1960s, not a wall-mounted one. “Christopher pulled it off with a custom piece that hides the TV when not in use and enables us to have art above it,” Erickson says.
Custom-fabricated to incorporate a photo of a palm frond, this glass panel traveled by boat from Italy to pair with a Murano glass chandelier over the tub.
The ’60s Italian marble coffee table swirls in muted shades of the home’s signature palette and the custom double-sided sofa faces the TV as well as the fireplace. (The striking stone centerpiece between the living and dining areas wore white paint before Stark reached again for his sandblaster.) Off the dining area, a new wet bar serves the open floor plan, a natural enhancement I find hard to believe wasn’t there all along.
“This is really Tony Stark,” says Banks, standing at the invisible line where the house once ended and the new home continues. “This is all inspired by Tony’s design. The win for us is that nobody knows this isn’t part of the original.” The level of personalization Stark and Kennedy poured into the home reaches an apex in the new addition, home to the primary bedroom, bath, and walk-in closet.
“By sloping the bedroom roof up to the north, I was able to create a clerestory for natural north light and palm-top views,” Stark notes. Here, Kennedy veers from the signature colors to set the suite apart. Blues, creams, grays, and rust emerge in the bedding, printed drapery, and art. Polished burl wood drawers gleam on a desk, and a bar invites nightcaps or snacks. In the shower, a photo-realistic glass wall depicts a fossilized palm frond, an ode to Banks’ background as a geologist.
Our tour ended in the new casita-cabana, an open-front oasis, designed by Stark and finessed by Kennedy that functions as both guesthouse and pool house. If guests prefer these spectacular vistas for their overnight stay, they need only slide the furnishings to the side and pull down the Murphy bed from the back wall. Come sunrise, the cocktail bar obliges for morning coffee or tea.
“We’ve been through several other major projects, so we were ready for the work of renovating an older home,” Erickson says. Banks adds, “This was an opportunity to modernize, staying as true to the original home as we could, and to do some things that would make it our own.”
The custom upholstered bed and walnut nightstand are by Kennedy.
Outside, the owners explain that abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky’s “Circles in a Circle” — a thoughtful study of the circle as an artistic unit — formed the basis of Stark’s graphic site plan. The architect organized the property with a series of overlapping arcs and circles, grounded in different colors and textures of materials. The hot tub, fire pit, tanning shelf, and so on all relate to one another by rising from this sequence of harmonious elements.
The remodel included a plan for longevity, as the owners see themselves there for the long haul, like the owners they purchased it from. Stark made safe, seamless transitions into the showers, added smart home features, and improved energy-efficiency by replacing all windows while maintaining the existing proportions. Months after its completion, the home participated in the 2023 Preservation Matters symposium.
The views from the new casita determined its location on the property. Details shine in Kennedy’s choice of a leather-cord chair to mirror Stark’s spider-leg pergola.
Concentric circles of the deck enhance the original pool, which received a tanning shelf and spa.
“When we finally conceded to the idea of a pink house, we put some splotches on the garage,” Erickson recalls. “Sample colors First Crush, Bubble Gum, and Piglet were in the running.” Erickson says their choice of Powder Blush was affirmed by unexpected crowdsourcing: people walking by, captured on the security camera and microphone.
“I hope when they see the house now, they still see the original home and the genius of Du Bois and the Alexander Construction Company,” Banks adds. “We also hope that someday when we pass this home on, with all the work we’ve done, it will last another 60 years.”