It was 1988 when haute home builder Michael Fedderly arrived in the Coachella Valley to retire. He envisioned the desert as his sanctuary. But the builder never shelved his tools. In the uninhabited hillside, Fedderly found a blank canvas.
“I’m inspired by nature: texture and colors, and the desert is an amazing palette of both,” he explains. “The homes in Indian Wells were nice, but it wasn’t the organic form I envisioned for the desert.” He saw the possibility for harmony between an arid landscape and modern design. And, nearly three decades later, Fedderly continues to build on that idea. Fedderly and Associates has developed custom homes in Tradition Golf Club, Hideaway, The Madison Club, and Bighorn Golf Club. “So much for retirement.”
Perched 1,160 feet above the valley floor, the 8,532-square-foot estate at 149 Tepin Way is Fedderly’s latest masterpiece — a linear, modern fortress seemingly carved from the landscape on which it stands. It overlooks Bighorn’s Mountains Course and is close enough for golfers to chip down to the sixth hole from its private backyard putting green. Fedderly was one of the first to develop property at the club, beginning with two Mountains lots in 1991. “I found Bighorn to be very intriguing, and the absolute essence of what the desert — when developed properly — should be,” he explains. “ ‘In partnership with nature’ was a very appropriate mantra.”
A gigantic rockscape looms outside the double row of floor-to-ceiling glass in this spa-style master bath. The vast space mirrors the grand proportions of the view, and a glass door leads to an outdoor shower that’s tucked into the base of the mountain.
The front of this Bighorn Golf Club estate opens to endless views; the back embraces the mountain’s rock.
When Fedderly and Associates began the Tepin project, the development/construction/design firm faced its greatest challenge: leveling the land. “The preparation of the lot was months in advance of breaking ground on the actual construction of the home,” Fedderly says. A large mechanical hammer pounded eight feet deep into the side of the 20-foot high slope to ensure the pad was large enough to hold the appropriate footprint.
His team works with the terrain to preserve the natural habitat, creating a haven that fulfills Fedderly’s desire to build in concert with nature. “The rocks and the surrounding indigenous landscape cannot be separated from the design of the home. They all work together,” he explains. “For example, all existing mature creosote shrubs were protected in the 17 months of actual construction so that upon completion it gave the illusion that the home had been there forever.”
This developer cultivates a sensory experience. For Tepin, that begins with the journey up the winding road that leads to the 1.09-acre property (its panoramic view sold him on developing the lot) and continues throughout the state-of-the-art home where no luxury is left to imagination. “Textures in materials, sounds from water features, and even smells are all considered in the final outcome,” Fedderly says. “The familiar pungent smell of creosote is as powerful as the visual of the burnt granite rocks.”
The four-bedroom, four-and-a half-bath Tepin estate takes open-concept design to a new level. Floor-to-ceiling glass pocket walls disappear with the click of a button, opening the great room to the sunbathing deck and outcropped infinity pool. Between the office and dining room, a granite waterfall lends a fresh, soothing sound when the glass walls slide back.
Fedderly, who owns Desert Art Collection, a gallery in Palm Desert, first earned his keep as an interior designer. The artwork he curates for each room is well-considered.
A granite waterfall with a colorful sculpture sits between the dining room and the office, providing a natural soundtrack for tranquility when the glass walls slide open.
The hot spot at this Bighorn residence by Fedderly and Associates is the outdoor fire pit lounge. Accessible by an inconspicuous staircase built into the hillside, the seating area offers panoramic views across the estate.
An oversized canvas hangs as a rolling wall in one hall. It glides across to reveal a secret passageway to the main floor lounge, with theater seating, a climate-controlled walk-in wine room, and its own secluded outdoor sitting area. Pops of color enliven earthy tones.
Every corner offers something to see. Fedderly suggests that artwork is crucial “to set the tone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive art, but it needs to conjure emotions that complement each living space.”
Sometimes, the best art is found. At Tepin, Fedderly used existing rock formations as wall art, framed by bedroom windows. Looming boulders become privacy screens for glass-walled showers. Balconies off the guest suites sidle up to the stone. He admits the choice was risky. But, for Fedderly, nothing enhances a space as well as nature. “The drama of rock is so very unique, as it evokes both quiet and strength at the same time,” he says. “It is God’s art.”
His homes’ connection to the outdoors surpasses the ordinary. In addition to Tepin’s covered living and dining areas, he added an elevated hidden firepit lounge with 360-degree views. Only those in the know ascend a staircase built into the rocky hillside to reach it.
An elevator and bright, airy stairways connect the home’s multiple levels: the base level four-car-plus-golf cart garage to the main floor to the third story, three-suite guest wing (with its own family gathering area, morning bar, and laundry facilities). Fedderly says the main level chef’s kitchen and great room are meant to bring everyone together. “Bighorn’s typical homeowner likes to entertain, whether it’s with family or friends, and the kitchen is the central gathering spot.” There’s even a catering hall. He calls the slump glass countertops in the kitchen and atop the L-shaped bar “a very expensive experiment.” An icy blue, they look like frozen arctic streams. Each is made of 2.5 inches of poured solid glass with a radius edge. Fedderly suggests the brackets that secure them are an engineering feat on their own.
The demonstration-style kitchen is fit for the Food Network’s next star. “Our idea was to make it look fabulous, almost as an accessory to the rest of the great room,” he explains. “Having it central and exposed would only work if we also had a catering kitchen nearby to hide the ‘messy’ parts.” The offshoot workspace has all the trimmings to prep plates — and hide them — for an evening soirée.
A balcony off one of the guest suites presents a quiet place for morning sun and any time reflection. Preserving the natural terrain and incorporating it in a meaningful way into the home’s design was Fedderly’s top priority.
Built into Fedderly’s design is a message about lifestyle: living well while respecting the land we call home.
“We live in a beautiful desert,” Fedderly says. “The contrast between a contemporary, midcentury modern-style home of glass and polished stone tucked up against a solid wall of rugged granite is the epitome of ‘diamond in the rough’ to me.”