If there was ever a time to say with near certainty that a one-of-a-kind residence has just come on the market, that moment is now. The Guthrie House designed in 1935 by architect Albert Frey, inarguably the founder of what we now call Desert Modernism, has undergone a complete renovation and has been listed for $2,399,000. The home is located in the El Mirador neighborhood and is walking distance to the heart of the Uptown Design District.
The Avi Ross Group, a design and real estate development firm founded by Marina Rossi, purchased the home in 2015. They led a team that oversaw a three-year renovation of the three-bedroom, three-bathroom, over 3,500-square-foot house that has revived and modernized Frey’s original design.
The group's website notes that, "We removed layers of various fireplace mantles, layers of stucco, wallpaper, cabinets, lowered ceiling heights, and tore down inappropriate additions to finally arrive at what it started off as: a box in the desert.
Over the years, the house underwent many style iterations and a host of ill-proportioned additions.
What made Frey the epitome of desert architecture was his emphasis on the relationship between the buildings and the raw, California desert landscape. With The Guthrie House, our focus was to integrate the natural desert into the home, while accommodating today’s living standards."
They add that all of the materials utilized passed what they call "the Frey test." The flooring throughout the home is concrete, as it was in 1935. A custom range hood was inspired by a steel, circular fireplace in Frey House 1 (built in 1940), and a large brick wall in the kitchen and dining room was hand painted on the face of each brick to mirror architect Le Corbusier’s Paris apartment. (Frey was born in Zurich in 1903 and moved to Paris in 1928 to work for Le Corbusier on projects like Villa Savoye, a seminal building in the development of the International Style.)
In addition, The Avi Ross Group hired a carpenter from Paris who built all of the cabinetry from scratch in the Frey style and color. And original Frey cabinetry in the bedrooms and hallway were meticulously restored.
"The original massing of the structure is the same," says Marina Rossi. "Frey wanted the home to appear to be 'blocks dropped in the desert' and this was achieved. We maintained the form and footprint of the original home plus some additions made throughout the years [and] the stucco color and texture was replicated exactly as it was. The ceiling heights and room configuration is original, [while] the landscaping was painstakingly replicated."
The group's website also tracks the historical changes the house has undergone along with a few fun facts: "The Guthrie House has experienced many style reiterations including Spanish arches, Hollywood glam, and a host of ill-proportioned additions. Previous owners hosted many well-known celebrities including Sinatra and Marilyn in the bar lounge complete with mirrored ceilings, dark brown tile, and glass block. Errol Flynn lived in the estate while building the first nudist hotel in the area in the 1940s." (The property was once known as the Errol Flynn Estate.)
Dining Room Before: These Spanish-style arches were definitely not part of Frey's original design.
Dining Room After: The Avi Ross Group focused on integrating natural desert elements into the home while making adjustments for a 21st-century lifestyle.
An updated pool has a dark black plaster surface and stone coping that give the appearance of a natural pond or lagoon. A new pool house was sited off to the far right of the house so that it doesn't intrude on the sightline of the original structure. And native plants were identified and replanted in their original locations.
Frey was well known for his inventive use of corrugated metal and all of the gates, along with a sliding barn door on the interior and the original garage doors — which are now part of the den — are made out of corrugated metal. "Instead of galvanized corrugated metal, the metal used is raw, rusted, [and] weathered as if it had been there since its original build," notes The Avi Ross Group website. "The ultimate result is a 2019 version of a Frey classic."
Guthrie House, 688 East Mel Avenue, Palm Springs
For more information, contact Bahareh Kamoei l Bita Kamoei l Sara Kamoei, BBS Brokers Realty, 760-702-3022, email@example.com, bbsbrokers.com.
PHOTO GALLERY: More before and after photos of the Guthrie House.
VIDEO: Take a tour of the Guthrie House by One Point Media Group.