The Cree House, designed by architect Albert Frey, will open its doors to the public during Modernism Week for the second time since its original construction in 1955. Hidden among the stones of a hillside bordering Cathedral City and Palm Springs, the Cree House is Frey’s most intact residential work, aside from his own home.
This year, the home’s interiors were reimagined in advance of public tours in partnership between Herman Miller® and Modern Hacienda. Lawrence Lazzaro and Nicholas Hertneck, the duo behind Modern Hacienda, gathered their design inspiration for Cree House from the historic Eames House in Los Angeles.
“I always love looking at the pictures of the Eames House and seeing how Boho they were,” says Lazzaro. “People don’t usually describe them as Boho, but they truly were the original Boho.”
The Douglas fir wall paneling complements warm, earthy tones.
It’s a style that Lazzaro describes as California Modern — an interpretation of midcentury design different from similar movements also happening in New York, Chicago, Berlin, and Paris in the 1950s. To Lazzaro, California Modern is defined by a casual and welcoming attitude, combined with modern and bohemian influences.
The simplicity of Frey’s architecture informed the revised interior space. Inside the 1,300-square-foot Cree House, clever pops of primary colors flutter throughout as bold gleams of personality that glide along warm, earthy tones of the Douglas fir wall paneling.
“To me, a desert house should be playful,” says Lazzaro. “The desert’s about playing!”
The Eames chair and Eames house bird.
Indeed, a sense of play comes to life through the Herman Miller® furnishings selected for the interiors. In white ash wood, the curvy Eames lounge chair takes residence in the living room, aside the Noguchi accent table in oak. Sandy brown rocks, visible through the home’s expansive windows, set a natural backdrop for a light, airy interior motif accented by dark walnut tones.
“Blending quintessential modern architecture with iconic furniture from the same period creates a very authentic space,” says Karn Adams, senior retail sales manager at Herman Miller®. “The scale of the furniture was designed for just such a home and the people in it.”
The view from the expansive patio looks out onto Palm Springs and beyond.
Visitors during Modernism Week will also discover a few token finds from the collections at Modern Hacienda. Most notable is the quilted giraffe, seen juxtaposed against the stone fireplace, which Frey had constructed using rock sourced from the surrounding property.
“There used to be a famous restaurant in New York called The Quilted Giraffe,” says Lazzaro. “So, the minute I saw it, I thought, “Oh wow, there’s a real, quilted giraffe!’” The designers discovered the piece in Northern California.
Soon, the quilted giraffe would become a natural fit for the Cree House. Thanks to the giraffe, another theme evolved — little animals, thoughtfully placed throughout the house. Lazzaro made sure to include the famous Eames house bird, a classic favorite.
Albert Frey’s Cree House will be open for tours during Modernism Week, February 13-23. For tickets, visit: tickets.modernismweek.com.