The owners of Dazzles in Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District spend part of each summer week in two vintage trailers — one Tiki-style, the other midcentury modern — installed in a trailer park in Idyllwild. For Mike Sauls and Keith Burke, the trailers are both an extension of the sensibilities on display in their shop — known for its quirky collectibles, colorful barware, and dazzling cases of vintage costume jewelry — and a respite from it. We sat down with them to find out more about their mini mountain getaways.
Obvious question first: Why trailers?
Mike Sauls: We bought our “tiny houses” in the mountains six years ago after deciding to ditch a vacation home near Santa Fe. It was almost a 10-hour drive from Palm Springs, and we used it maybe five times before we discovered the proximity and much cooler temps of summers in Idyllwild.
We backed out of two escrows for places we thought were a perfect fit for our second-home needs. Against my better judgement, Keith talked me into looking at vintage mobile homes. After checking them out, I was hooked. Imagine Paul Kaplan’s “micro house” concept but years ago. With these you can close them up, travel, and not worry about it. People are close by keeping an eye out.
And why two?
MS: Two of our dogs just didn’t get along together.
Haggar lounges amid the vintage finds in Burke’s living area. The men stripped the painted paneling down to the natural wood.
Which came first?
MS: Our first buy was a 1958 Jewel Imperial that had been added on to twice. It is shingle-clad and really more like a house, with a yard, decks, and landscaping. It’s almost the same exact trailer as Lucy and Desi’s in The Long, Long Trailer. Keith is a collector and restorer of vintage cars, and restoring one of these trailers is like restoring a vintage car. That one fits his tastes of ’70s-mod-meets-Mad Men. A year later came a residence to house my 45-year collection of vintage rattan and Tiki culture: a neglected but entirely original 1960s gem.
“Against my better judgement, Keith talked me into looking at vintage mobile homes. After checking them out, I was hooked.”Mike Sauls
You say you appreciate the sense of nostalgia the trailers bring. How so?
Keith Burke: My grandma had a single trailer in Hemet in the ’60s. I loved it when I was a little kid. Then she moved to the desert and got a double-wide, and I loved that, too. I loved all the built-ins, the cabinets, the hutch, all the little touches. I think it stuck in my head, and that’s how we got started. Mike grew up the opposite, in the South, where you don’t get near a trailer. They are vintage, and they are cool if you get past the connotation of them.
MS: In my bedroom is the original Russel Wright bedroom set my parents splurged on when they got married in 1948. They could have bought half a house for what it cost, but they wanted something special to symbolize their marriage. Every night I think about my mom and dad when I open the drawers, because they touched those, too. It’s like you hold onto the old life and bring it into your own.
Keith Burke’s roomy trailer received two additions before they purchased it.
You each seem attached to your trailer.
KB: I absolutely love vintage, and I have all my favorite things up there. What I like about vintage is not only the look, but it’s emotional. When I go up there, it’s like stepping back in time to good childhood memories. My mom would be in the kitchen with a bouffant and pearls on when I came home; my dad was an electrician. We had the suburban house in Orange County, the station wagon, a little white poodle, and the built-in swimming pool. To me it seemed totally normal. It’s all I knew and all you saw on TV. A lot of people didn’t grow up like that, but I did.
The very first thing we liked about my trailer was its stained-glass window of chunky blue-and-green glass. Those are my favorite colors, so we decorated around that. My dad had put stones on our home, and I did the same thing around the Scandinavian fireplace … We redid the kitchen, and we put in the booth, the old chrome table with Formica top, and a hanging UFO light. I’ve got two eras going on there. It’s kind of weird, but it works.
MS: I love all things tropical, from my favorite movie, Swiss Family Robinson, to the Gilligan’s Island series. So I’ve always liked to have one room that is Tiki and Hawaiiana. I’ve never had a whole house full of it. Every last item is vintage, and I’ve never had so much fun showcasing that all in one place. Mine has the original kitchen, linoleum flooring, and Formica. You walk in the door, stir a cocktail, open a window to get a gentle breeze, put on the Hawaiian music, and you feel like you’re transported to ’50s and ’60s Hawaii. I like my step-down man cave, too. The walls are thatched, and it has a 1940s Tiki bar with a pass-through window from the living room.
Mike Sauls’ tropical paradise blends Tiki décor, hand-blown Viking glass, rattan furniture, a jungle cat, and a leopard-print rug. And a sample of Sauls’ Polynesian collection.
They really are microcosms of your store, which has a long history. You are true pioneers of the Uptown Design District.
MS: This is actually my 41st year in business. I was open for 20 years in L.A. with three locations and many stories from Hollywood. One time Faye Dunaway pulled over because she saw her movie poster in the window. She came in and said, “I can’t even get one of those from the studio!” Unfortunately, while she was in the shop, her limo was sideswiped.
Eventually I fell in love with the modern architecture and bought in Palm Springs, where we’ve been for over 20 years. I had two locations before this one — mine and Modernway were the original shops up here. I bought this space 15 years ago. I liked that it’s in Old Las Palmas, the Beverly Hills of Palm Springs, where the best architecture is. I knew it was all going to come this way. If it weren’t for the downturn in the market, it would have exploded earlier. This area has really popped.
“We put in the booth, the old chrome table with Formica top, and a hanging UFO light. I’ve got two eras going on there. It’s kind of weird, but it works.”Keith Burke
The store looks like a home around a pool.
MS: It was. One of my customers told me it was built by the town’s original dentist in 1948. The front was the dental suites, and the back where our shop is was their go-to house. She said they liked that little old house better than their mansion in Newport Beach. I’ve also heard that it’s an undocumented Albert Frey, and that he traded drawings for dental work.
Burke’s custom dining nook blends pieces from the 1950s to the ’70s.
When do you escape up to Idyllwild?
MS: We try to scoot up the hill Monday night after work and return Thursday so Dazzles can be open Thursday afternoon through Monday. And we try to spend every Christmas there. We love to go up for the snow, and it’s fun to have a fire in the fireplace. But it’s so busy with high season, and it’s so chilly up there — they’re mostly summer places.
What do you like to do up there?
MS: We love the restaurants and walking around town. There’s a candy shop that has the best dipped ice cream cones. It’s such easy living and a natural fit for us, and the pups, too. Idyllwild really is God’s country. A perfect place to regain your serenity.
Keith Burke created a hearth around his free-standing Scandinavian fireplace, inspired by stones his father placed on their family home.