Mark Davis of Modern Home Design Showroom said he and Annalisa Capurro dressed Cree House’s interiors with authentic period furnishings, art, and objects pieces to fully immerse visitors in this “midcentury time capsule.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LANCE GEBBER
Mark Davis wants to transport you back to the mid-1950s when the Modfather himself, Albert Frey, designed the Cree House, aptly named for its original owner, Raymond Cree, a former Riverside County school superintendent. Uniquely set back from Highway 111 in Cathedral City, the 1,100+ square foot home is surrounded by rocky hillsides and distinguishes itself with a 600-square foot deck bordered by yellow corrugated fiberglass panels.
During Modernism Week (Feb. 17-27), the home is available for tours along with Frey’s residential home in Palm Springs, Frey House II. For tickets to see one or both homes, click HERE.
Davis, who owns Modern Home Design Showroom and Modern Home 2 in Palm Springs, partnered with Annalisa Capurro, a designer and architectural historian, to dress Cree House’s interiors with authentic period furnishings, art, and objects pieces to fully immerse visitors in this “midcentury time capsule,” Davis says.
“In a world of faux, fake and replicas we are passionate about originality, authenticity and craftsmanship and feel the public has a real thirst for this too,” Davis writes in an email interview. “We sought to create what we call ‘Purest Perspective’ — …all inspired by Frey’s original design.”
Davis and Capurro, who have formed Capurro Davis Design for projects like the Cree House, answers questions from Palm Springs Life ranging from their design approach at Cree House to what advice they give to new midcentury homeowners.
Talk about the color pallet, period furniture and artwork you chose to furnish Cree House.
In creating interior spaces we always start with a unique concept, derived from the architecture, the site, and the particular client brief. This concept then informs all of our design decisions. For Cree House we really wanted to bring the outside in, and we were inspired by Frey’s signature color palette of greens, yellows, and browns — taken from the house itself and the surrounding rocky landscape and local Encilla spring wildflowers — which he utilized at both Cree and his famous Frey House II.
The furnishing and art we selected are primarily period vintage. We included a couple of designer pieces as we feel it is important to show how good design is timeless regardless of its era. This belief is reflected in both our design work and what we sell at Modern Home2.
Are you both Albert Frey fans and what do you appreciate about his work?
Oh, absolutely! Frey was the first architect in the U.S. to have worked directly with Le Corbusier. Frey utilized limited material palettes and embraced Le Corbusier’s minimal philosophy of “a house as a machine of living in”. What makes Frey special is the way he integrated and contrasted this architectural rigor with the surrounding organic nature of the rocky desert landscape, creating a new regional vernacular architecture which we find breathtaking and constantly inspiring!
What other historic homes have you overseen, and how did those experiences help with the Cree House?
Between us we have both worked on a number of significant homes. I carried out the original restoration of Keneston House (1957) designed by E. Stewart Williams in Rancho Mirage. This work involved reconstructing important design elements, such as the floating fireplace and indoor planting spaces, which had been removed, as well as detailed repair work to his outside/inside corrugated aluminum walls. I also had the opportunity to furnish and accessorize the house for one of the next owners. Our budget was good so I procured rare pieces from Harvey Probber, Edward Wormley, T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbons and a custom commission by Stan Bitters.
Along with decades of design work under her belt, Annalisa is the owner and custodian of the significant Jack House (1957) in Sydney, Australia, refurbishing and reconstructing particular design elements to ensure the original integrity of the house and have it historically listed.
Together under Capurro Davis Design, we have worked on numerous projects including Royal Hawaiian Estates designed by Donald Wexler, Charles Lee’s Tamarisk West, midcentury homes in Canyon Estates and rooms at the Desert Hills, a beautiful boutique hotel, which is currently on-going. We have also had the opportunity to work with other wonderful designers and trade partners such as H3K Home _+ Design, Shields Residential, Level 7 and Palm Pacific Construction. Modern Home’s finishes can be found in thousands of amazing local desert structures. This combined experience influenced our well researched holistic approach to the Cree House.
What advise can you give people who want to restore their midcentury modern home?
First, do your research! Find out as much as you can about the original architect/designer, the structure, and the site. That’s where you draw your inspiration. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Keep it timeless. And most of all keep it appropriate and holistic….don’t follow trends. If it’s popular at Home Depot, you’re definitely behind the curve. Post World War II material were in short supply so modernist architects had limited options compared to today. But they were driven by innovation and pushing the boundaries so it is easy to imagine they would seek out new and exciting materials and finishes — all of which we offer at Modern Home.
What are some of the most commonly asked questions?
We are mostly asked about direction. How can we respectfully restore/renovate our midcentury home while still making it contemporary and functional for today’s lifestyle? At Capurro Davis we specialize in this for clients wanting the full design service while our teams at Modern Home and Modern Home2 are trained to assist homeowners who want to do it themselves.
How long have you been in the desert and what was appealing to you to move here?
Coincidentally it was the same book that changed both of our lives and brought us both, independently to Palm Springs. I moved here in 2000 from the Bay area after stumbling upon Adele Cygelman’s Palm Springs Modern with stunning photography by David Glomb. Within a year my former wife and I bought Keneston House. Struggling to find appropriate materials and finishes locally to restore the home I seized the opportunity and opened Modern Home to service other homeowners having similar issues.
Also inspired by Cygelmans’ book, Annalisa won a traveling scholarship over a decade ago to research the restoration and promotion of midcentury modern architecture. Palm Springs was love at first site and Annalisa has since become a regular speaker at Modernism Week and made the desert her second home. Neither of us had ever seen anything like Palm Springs. For us the appeal lies in the extraordinary combination of the mass of remarkable modernist architecture situated in such an awe-inspiring landscape.