Kor Architects Flips the Script on Custom Build at Toscana Country Club

An open backyard area promotes indoor-outdoor living at this contemporary residence at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells.

June 13, 2024
The Zen-like outdoor space of this Toscana Country Club home incorporates water features by utilizing concrete “lily pads” similar to those at the front entrance. The design by Kor Architects creates a seamless connection between the outdoor areas, main living spaces, and the primary bedroom.
The Zen-like outdoor space of this Toscana Country Club home incorporates water features by utilizing concrete “lily pads” similar to those at the front entrance. The design by Kor Architects creates a seamless connection between the outdoor areas, main living spaces, and the primary bedroom.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREW POGUE

Picture this: A typical shed-roof construction home opens wide to capture golf course views, while the lower side of the structure faces toward a less visual portion of the lot and, in some cases, the street. That could have been the case here, but the homeowners wanted something special. They engaged architect Matthew Kent, AIA, principal of Kor Architects in Seattle, who took a decidedly different approach to this custom home at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells.

Neighboring structures on the north side of the street tend to sit back in the lots with courtyard-style pool areas placed in the front. High retaining walls surround the south-facing courtyards to shelter outdoor living spaces from the street. This home not only takes an inverted approach to the roofline but also features an attractive street-side approach with the outdoor living areas facing the course to the north.

By eschewing the walled-off entrance, the approach to the home is both inviting and reflective of the architectural design to come, punctuated with a Kor Architects’ signature detail: water. Concrete “lily pads” in a symmetrical grid hint at the clean lines and attention to detail inside the home. “We created a very nice entry sequence from the street and ensured that the north-facing pool and outdoor rooms received a lot of afternoon and evening sunlight,” Kent says.

The floating steel roof, transom windows, and pocketing glass doors mirror one another in two sections of the home as the exterior limestone extends inside, blending the distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces.

The floating steel roof, transom windows, and pocketing glass doors mirror one another in two sections of the home as the exterior limestone extends inside, blending the distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces.

The clients requested a laid-back, California style, so Kent and project architect Michael Conover specified a palette of only two stones, stucco, and steel, which flows seamlessly from outdoors to in. “We’re trying as much as possible to blur the lines between the interior and the exterior architecture,” he says. The roof, perched above transom windows with its backward-sloping construction, floods the home and, specifically, the great room with natural yet indirect southern sun.

“The floating effect of the transoms and the way the indirect light fills those spaces throughout the day is really quite beautiful,” Kent adds. Many hours of sun studies on the site directed the “floating” roof design. It worked so well, in fact, that there are no pocketed shades in the south-facing transoms because they aren’t needed.

Gregory Carmichael, founding principal of Gregory Carmichael Interior Design, also based in Seattle, put his fingerprint on the home’s design by selecting cabinetry stain colors, tile, and furnishings to complement Kent’s material selections. “Clearly, there was a strong aesthetic already established by Matthew’s architecture, which the homeowners were very excited about,” Carmichael says. “They wanted a contemporary home with contemporary furnishings and also a hint, as the wife put it, of that ‘Palm Springs thing,’ meaning a nod to midcentury influences, but nothing overt.”

In alignment with the desert-inspired color palette derived from the architectural materials, most of the cabinetry and tongue-and-groove ceiling throughout the home is a warm, bleached oak. In contrast, the kitchen island, a trellis ceiling feature adjoining the great room, and built-ins in the husband’s office are darker for contrast and a whisper of moodiness.

rea, the ceiling transitions from interior wood to exterior steel.

In the main living area, the ceiling transitions from interior wood to exterior steel.

“Since the house is so open, having that cohesive, neutral palette was important to maintain the flow,” Carmichael says. “We changed moods in a few spaces, keeping with the same materials. We emphasized it in his office with a dark grasscloth wallcovering.” The neutral backdrop emphasizes the homeowners’ varied, interesting art collection and its often intense colors.

The lower side of the shed roof in no way impedes the selective openness of the rear of the home. As with all of the exterior construction materials, the robust steel supporting the floating roof transcends the indoor-outdoor barrier. Because of its heft, Kent designed disappearing corners in the great room and the primary bedroom. The glass slides back to create connection to the outdoor living area.

The scale of a home with soaring ceilings such as this, if not carefully considered, can feel cavernous. To bring it down to a human scale and create a sense of cozy comfort, Kent elected to lower the ceiling in certain areas. A boardwalk of sorts that runs east and west through the home is delineated by wood flooring — contrasting the large-format stone throughout — and a dropped trellis-style ceiling treatment to temper the scale. “I think we managed to do that very well by using the hierarchy of form,” Kent says. “By creating the larger-scale space and then pushing things down and making them more subtle in other areas, the focus is the great room experience.”

A lower ceiling in the kitchen creates a more intimate feel for cooking and conversing with anyone sitting at the island. The dining area’s slanted ceiling is high, but two striking light fixtures shift  the focus downward with the whimsy of a mobile. The homeowners didn’t want the home filled with light fixtures that would attract attention, so Carmichael identified this one location for a jaw-dropping Calder-esque piece. “We opted for something really dynamic,” he says. “In fact, that fixture moves. When the doors are open, the wind can turn it around, which is exciting. It’s completely adjustable and fills the space.”

As the homeowners walked the home during construction, the wife noticed the beautiful sightlines from this area and they redesigned the kitchen layout for the best views. Dining light sculptures by David Weeks Studio.

As the homeowners walked the home during construction, the wife noticed the beautiful sightlines from this area and they redesigned the kitchen layout for the best views. Dining light sculptures by David Weeks Studio.

Carmichael aligned the headboard's height with the top of the pocketing glass doors for a quiet, streamlined look. Its upholstery provides a softness to the space rife with stone and steel.

Carmichael aligned the headboard’s height with the top of the pocketing glass doors for a quiet, streamlined look. Its upholstery provides a softness to the space rife with stone and steel.

The living room hosts some quite literal midcentury furnishings, including a pair of Vladimir Kagan armchairs, as does the primary bedroom with another Kagan chair and ottoman. “The dining room chairs, while a contemporary Holly Hunt design, are based in a classic sled-style chair, as a nod, if you will,” Carmichael says. Likewise, the Ted Boerner swivel chairs in the piano room are contemporary but with strong modern lines.

Because the primary bedroom opens almost entirely on two walls, Carmichael sought to create a grounding in the space by anchoring the upholstered bed to the interior wall. A noteworthy feature in the primary bathroom is the room-length skylight tucked up into the ceiling that creates a reflective effect on the back-painted glass tile on the wife’s vanity wall, explicitly selected to amplify the light reflection.

The main home includes a secondary bedroom, enjoyed as a home gym. An attached casita accommodates overnight guests, but it’s accessible only from a private outdoor entrance — perfect for complete seclusion and privacy for visiting friends or family.

Set between the home and the golf course, the outdoor living area repeats many elements from the front entrance including a geometric aesthetic, greenery, and water. A web of reflecting ponds integrates with the infinity-edge swimming pool and its zero-edge spa. There’s a tranquil, effortless blending, leaving one to question where one pond stops and another begins. In the stillness of the water lies flawless reflections of the angles of the home and the towering palms. At the touch of a button, water spills through spouts built into the swimming pool for a waterfall effect that can drown out sound traveling back and forth between the home and the nearby tee.

“The most successful projects spring from the site, the environment, the location, the views, and the micro- and macro-climates — everything that affects the building,” Kent says. “I let the architecture evolve from all of that research.”

 The bathtub’s glass wall peers 
into an enclosed 
courtyard, creating a spa-like setting.

The bathtub’s glass wall peers into an enclosed courtyard, creating a spa-like setting.