A basic IKEA kitchen needed only a tile backsplash, new appliances, and a built-out counter.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY LANCE GERBER
A real estate agent and a mortgage banker saw this Racquet Club Estates home as an investment opportunity when it hit the market early last year. The friends, New Orleans native Clay Baham and desert native Sean Teague, became business partners soon after stepping inside the three-bedroom tract house built in 1962 by the Alexander Construction Company.
“Originally, when they contacted me, they were just going to dust it off and rent it to a family,” says designer Michael Walters of Dakota Design Works. “They ultimately decided to offer it as vacation rental and a fun weekend pad. Their only brief was: Steve McQueen,” yet all of the original 1960s details had been removed. “With a modest budget, my partner, Lee Bottorff, and I spent the summer rethinking this mostly 1990s structure and imagining how it might look for an early ’70s man of the world. I always like that kind of challenge.”
The homeowners recall the journey through their decisions.
Walters used handmade tile from Juniper House for the fireplace’s giant chevron.
Dakota Design Works partners Michael Walters and Lee Bottorff took a budget-smart yet style-conscious approach to creating an enticing rental. In the living area, they covered existing tile floors with a rug and built a palette around it. The former Southridge homes of William Holden and Steve McQueen echo throughout.
How did this joint venture unfold?
Clay Baham: I didn’t want to take on the whole risk of a vacation rental home and he didn’t either. I’m one of the Realtors in the area where we bought the house, so I knew what we were looking for. About five years ago, I asked Sean over to see a midcentury house I had listed. We weren’t ready, and it took a while to find another that exceeded that house. The first house was done; this wasn’t. This one came on [the market] right before Modernism Week, so I knew we had to make the offer and get it done.
Sean Teague: I trust Clay’s judgment wholeheartedly. He has a great eye for architecture. He called me and said it was a corner lot with a front courtyard, the perfect floor plan for architectural flow, and had no power lines [in sight]. I walked through the front door out to the backyard and immediately fell in love.
Walters says upholstered beds lend a luxury and softness to listing photos that reads as comfortable and dreamy.
So, it was your dream investment?
CB: It had a lot of potential, but we closed on March 16, 2020, right before COVID. We were concerned about our plan [for a vacation rental] and wondered if we should we make it a long-term rental.
ST: Our initial thought was, “Circle the wagons.” But we talked it over and it became our COVID project.
CB: Once we made that decision, we went full steam ahead with the design.
What was the home’s condition?
ST: It was a time capsule. It was structurally sound and had the natural exposed-wood ceilings that thankfully hadn’t been whitewashed.
CB: It was like The Golden Girls. It had a lot of deferred maintenance, from roof work to pool work, that we were willing to overlook because of the characteristics of the house.
How did you choose your designer?
CB: I work with a lot of designers, but Michael Walters had the aesthetic we felt was best for this house. He has done a lot of my clients’ homes, and we agreed he could make our vacation rental a little higher end and different, so when people search they would say, “Let’s look at this one.”
ST: He recognized both of our interests and hobbies, which included my love of classic film and classic Porsches. I have a close connection with the McQueen family, and we were drawn to Steve’s two homes. We started thinking about what his home would look like now.
The designers pulled earth tones into the bedrooms, tapping into mid-1970s hues like gold and coral that work with the wood ceiling. The artwork speaks to risk and danger, from a motorcycle in Joshua Tree to the smoking Brigitte Bardot wallpaper mural.
How involved were you in the process?
CB: We basically kept our mouths shut and gave Michael carte blanche. He told us we were going to have “a Steve McQueen look,” but we didn’t know exactly what that meant. We didn’t have a lot of input.
Was the theme more for you or your guests?
CB: Both. It had to be an Instagrammable house. Michael was right about that. People want a unique experience and the classic Palm Springs lifestyle, and that’s what they get at this house.
What work transpired?
ST: Michael and Lee did an amazing job with the tones, the paint and wallpaper, furnishings, the tile work on the fireplace, and the art. They made some amazing suggestions like building out the kitchen counter. They had to replumb the home, among other repairs. They added outdoor lighting and an outdoor shower, which turned out beautifully. We kept the existing tile floors but placed new carpet in the bedrooms.
Outdoor spaces were not an afterthought. The seating in front of the house (top) and back (bottom) is inviting and plentiful. “We took our cues from the landscape and went a little more Brasilia,” Walters says. “It feels a little more exotic and South American than Palm Springs.”
How did you select a rental company?
ST: We interviewed three companies and went with Relax Palm Springs. They only manage 60 to 70 homes and came highly recommended. We basically handed them the keys on Nov. 1. Our first rental was last Thanksgiving.
What is the key to its success as a rental?
CB: The look and the floor plan. The flow is incredible. We have a front courtyard, which most midcentury homes don’t have. You can open the whole house up with French doors out to the courtyard and patios. It’s also very private with the hedges in the backyard. It’s like your own oasis.
ST: And the unobstructed mountain views. To sit in the backyard and watch the tram go up and down is so charming.
Is it hard to own a home this fun and not live there?
ST: I live in Palm Desert, so if a date comes available, it’s a staycation. My position in lending makes my job a pressure cooker. For me, it’s a Shangri-La to go there and decompress. I love the indoor-outdoor living and the energy the home gives off.
CB: We bought it to use and have fun with. I book a weekend now and then too, even though I live in Palm Springs. We each want to stay there more. We actually both stayed in the house and lived in it just to experience it, and we fell in love with everything they did. When you’re there, you see why they did what they did.
Against a complex pattern of rotating tiles, the patio shower has hot water.
What was the turning point, when you knew you had made the right decision?
CB: When we started making money.
ST: Our decision has definitely been validated. It’s been rented out bumper to bumper. The feedback from the families and individuals who have rented the home has been very complimentary.
CB: It’s performing more than our wildest dreams. I wanted a house like this and it took me 20 years to do it.