Las Palmas’ iconic Harvey House already blurred the line between nature and nest; a design firm set out to erase it. When Vince cofounder Rea Laccone and her partner, Paul Perla, purchased the house as their desert getaway in 2013, they enlisted design-build practice Marmol Radziner to renovate the property in a way that would elevate the aesthetic while honoring the original design.
Built for actor Laurence Harvey in 1969 by architects Buff & Hensman — a design duo known for erecting exposed post-and-beam homes with expansive glass walls lessening the divide between indoors and out — the house was, and is, quintessentially California Modern.
“This house is a very strong example of their work,” says Ron Radziner, cofounder of the Los Angeles-based firm that refurbished the 5,500-square-foot structure, which includes 2 acres with a cruciform pool and pool house, a tennis court, and thoughtful layers of native plants. “The forms of the original house are fantastic. In the end, we wanted to enhance them but for the home to feel like it had always been this way.” New modern appliances, they decided, would blend in seamlessly, while the opened spaces and fresh finishes should look like they could have been part of the original architects’ design.
Rea, whose Beverly Hills residence Radziner also renovated, envisioned their desert escape as both a relaxing retreat and entertainment haven, where guests could gather comfortably indoors as well as amid open-air patios and around the large pool.
A favorite feature of Radziner’s is the “outdoor” entryway — the only part of the home visible from the street, as the rest of property is made entirely private by a towering fence and shrubbery. “When you enter the house through these [heavy] walnut doors, you’re under cover but still actually outside,” he explains of what can be described as an airy garden foyer. Straight ahead, a sliding glass door separates it from the living area (now called the “great room,”) soaking in majestic views of the surrounding gardens and Mount San Jacinto. Ample outdoor spaces hug nearly every room of the house, which also comprises a kitchen, master bedroom and two guest suites, a private spa, six luxe bathrooms, and an outdoor kitchen and bar.
To accentuate the fluidity, they knew they would need to knock down a few walls, completely redo the floors, and soften the stark monotone finishes with earth tones that mimicked the Sonoran’s natural landscape.
Solid walnut plank doors with custom bronze hardware swing out over gleaming terrazzo floor tiles.
“In the desert, all white can be too bright, but lighter tones make sense,” Radziner says. To de-emphasize the contrast between indoor and outdoor color palettes, they’d make the inside light, too, and incorporate subdued grays, browns, and greens.
They removed a dividing wall between the den and dining areas, replacing it with a warm walnut partition that subtly separates the two. To create transparency between the kitchen and dining rooms, they tore down another solid wall, putting in its place a custom buffet beneath a midcentury-style metal screen, and eliminated the “strange” breakfast room off the kitchen.
For the den of the Harvey House, Marmol Radziner selected soft shapes and plush materials — a silk shag rug, parchment waterfall table, and sheepskin-covered chairs — to create a cozy retreat for the cool desert evenings.
The house has a desert tonal poured terrazzo inside and out. The original tile floors in the house were a taupe glazed tile that looked like Saltillo but not red or orange like you’d see in a Spanish house. Radziner replaced old ceiling boards, worn past the point of repair, and stained the new wood rock-gray. Inviting some contrast, a frame of deep brown remains.
All six bathrooms have been refinished with elongated walnut cabinetry (“The walnut mimics the trunks of the palm trees,” Radziner says) and marble countertops, enclosed by white-and-gray marbled Okite walls. Industrial skylights were inserted to maximize natural light. In the master bath, on the shadier northeast side, an exterior stone wall extends indoors alongside the deep corner tub. Separated from the backyard only by glass, the room’s earthy feel is heightened by jasmine and wispy sword ferns that line its adjacent garden.
“The outside features were just as important as those inside the house,” says Radziner, who planted a montage of deergrass, palms, agave, palo verdes, ocotillos, yucca, white sage, and desert lavender to create a dreamy private oasis. They also retained a citrus grove and added a perk for home chefs: vegetable planters.
One might forget while lounging under the shadow of palm fronds and beside large boulders dropped into one shallow end of the pool that they are in a backyard and not dipping their toes in the creek of nearby Indian Canyons.
Past a bespoke D&J brass screen, Mies van der Rohe Four Seasons Barstools tuck below the kitchen’s custom walnut cabinets with OKITE quartz countertops.
Ample outdoor spaces hug nearly every room of the house.
In the garden-view master bath, an interior-exterior stone wall runs alongside a corner tub; Calacatta Manhattan marble tops custom walnut cabinetry.
An American walnut and brass Polanco Dining Table pairs perfectly with six Saarinen Executive Chairs upholstered in classic boucle. Alexandra Hedison’s inkjet print Untitled #26 (Nowhere) (2012) and a Branching Disc Chandelier add optical interest.
elongated walnut cabinetry.
To provide continuity throughout the home, Radziner and the owners opted for plush but minimalist décor, such as a curved Vladimir Kagan cream sofa and beige hand-knotted rug that perfectly complement a mustard upholstered bench and large, moody blue abstract photograph of the Pacific.
A branching disc chandelier and inkjet print in the dining area stand out against a modern wood table and simple cream and brass chairs. In the master bedroom, custom white Marmol Radziner parchment cabinets and the cloudlike Scarpa Soriana lounge chair and ottoman nicely contrast with a bright-yellow Phil Chang painting. In the other rooms, an eclectic mix of dark wood, brass, glass, Lucite, cowhide, clay, and classic leather Eames chairs effortlessly play off each other. On the patio, simple white furnishings and a circle of wicker chairs around white nesting tables, pull the style outdoors.
The 1969 home by Buff & Hensman wraps around the pool, where Baia Sun Beds offer the ideal place to lounge between dips. Native plants in Stan Bitters Thumb Pots from Heath Ceramics bring the desert landscape in even closer.
Rea envisioned their desert escape as both a relaxing retreat and entertainment haven, where guests could gather comfortably.
Nido Chairs and a Nido Pouf in Cemento rope cord and Giro Tables, all by Paola Lenti, gather on the patio.
For the master bedroom, Radziner designed the bed and cabinet that complement a Scarpa Soriana chair and ottoman. Painting by Phil Chang.
“The spirit of the original home should really remain,” Radziner says. “It shouldn’t feel like new architects came in and did something that wasn’t based on the initial concept, and I hope we have been successful at that.”
He continues, “Updating these midcentury houses so they’re modernized for the people living in them 50 and 60 years later is something we need to be able to do. This ensures that these important pieces of history are not in danger of being torn down and replaced with something new.”
An Eames Lounge and Ottoman and Nelson Platform Bench by Herman Miller tag team Jim Kempner’s modern Apocryful Now.