Chris Barrett packed up and moved into one of the famously pink abodes by John Elgin Woolf at Marrakesh Country Club.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KARYN MILLET
Actor. Designer. Pro golfer. Two out of three for now, says Chris Barrett. But, she adds, the possibilities seem endless when your windows face a refreshing new view: a pool, palm trees, and not-so-little pink houses on manicured green lawns.
A force in the design world, Barrett has created rug and textile collections while her work has been featured in the pages of influential industry publications. In her hometown of Los Angeles, she edged out the competition as a television and film actor for 15 years before attending UCLA’s interior design program and working on the other side of stardom. Her celebrity and A-list clients have entrusted her to work in a variety of styles from traditional Tudor and Spanish Colonial to Manhattan, and Manhattan Beach, modern — always with a clean interior and an approachable mix of modern and vintage.
“Then, during COVID, I woke up one day, and said, ‘I just don’t want to be in L.A. anymore,’” she recalls. “‘I think I’ll sell my house and move to the desert.’” The commutable distance would let her maintain her clients while building a new base in the Coachella Valley. And she would certainly yield better bang for her buck. (The entire contents of her midcentury urban bungalow now fit in her guest room at Marrakesh Country Club.)
Still, the move was surprising, even for her. Aside from teenage memories of spring break in Palm Springs, Barrett had little exposure to the area. “I hadn’t really come at all for years and years,” she says. Designer Jenika Kurtz Cuadra, who once worked for Barrett, and her mother, Becky Kurtz, a real estate agent, had introduced Barrett to Marrakesh Country Club many years ago, predicting its laid-back Hollywood Regency glamour would be a perfect fit.
In short order, Barrett packed up and moved into one of the famously pink abodes by John Elgin Woolf. When the club opened in 1969, the 364 villas appealed to the more glamorous side of midcentury living and golf-home architecture. Now, they are a favorite among designers and the home-industry set, who have since flocked here like flamingos. She counts designer Patrick Dragonette and former shelter magazine editor Stephen Drucker as old friends and new neighbors.
“Patrick kept asking when I was going to move out here. And designers continue to move in,” she says. “You can’t help it. The architecture is so good. It just feels good here. It must be the reflection off the buildings, because the light is a little bit pinker somehow.”
Barrett needed a rose-colored outlook to direct the project. She purchased the three-bedroom, three-bath home from the original owner, who was never inclined to evolve beyond its original design. A ficus tree in the front courtyard had roots growing wild below the foundation. Inside, a gold-foil striped wallpaper clung to the entry walls so stubbornly that Barrett had to remove the drywall to take it down. Faux terra cotta tiles begged to be ripped up and replaced with poured concrete throughout the home.
A clean interior and an approachable mix of modern and vintage.
She gutted the kitchen, anchoring it with a marble peninsula and black cabinetry with wood pulls the diameter of a baseball. A ring of tassels forms a UFO-size chandelier above the dining area. The Saarinen Oval Tulip Table is one of the L.A. pieces that acclimated to her new environment, along with most of the art. There is a small oil painting that reminds her of a trip to Venice with her son when he was young, and a large portrait purchased 30 years ago at the Santa Monica swap meet that brings familiar comfort. “I like to think of him as my grandfather,” Barrett says.
Marrakesh Country Club rubbed off as she designed her way through the generous spaces, gravitating toward a certain hue. White swans gather on pink wallpaper in the home office. A pink rug with delicate white diamonds softens the hard floor in her bedroom. She didn’t hesitate in choosing a subtle shade of pale pink for the guest bathroom and bedroom, which she favors as a den and nighttime chill-out zone.
“My style is very much relaxed. It’s not fussy. I’m less of a perfectionist for my own home,” Barrett says. “I needed to come up with my version of Hollywood Regency that was more relaxed and comfortable. I like a mix of vintage and modern. You live with it. You see what you like, and I know I can change it.”
“My style is very much relaxed. It’s not fussy. “
“I needed to come up with my own version of Hollywood Regency.”
Barrett finished it off with a trip through the candy stores of online vintage at Chairish and 1st Dibs and by shopping local instead of reverting to her usual L.A. haunts. A pair of lamps from Christopher Anthony Ltd., a credenza from Modern Home2, and a table and artwork from L’INDY infused her living area with a breath of desert air.
Even after a summer initiation of losing power for two days and surviving with ice packs and a mini generator amid 120-degree temps, Barrett is all in. The views from her 10-foot windows in every room make her forget she occasionally has to sit in L.A. traffic again to meet with clients. Her new puppy, a long-haired dachshund named Roger, makes good company. Further seizing the local lifestyle, she has taken up golf.
“You have to get a golf membership at Marrakesh, so I got myself a golf cart and learned,” she says. While many newcomers find the sport frustrating, she likes the way it heightens her competitive nature. “I’m athletic, but I’m not great by any means. It’s fun. I didn’t come here to retire. But if I ever do, hopefully I’ll be a whole lot better at golf by then.”
Barrett has established fast connections through her work at the Desert Oasis Show House (open through April 10 at Eldorado Estates in Indian Wells) and the Morningstar Modern Luxury Show House, set to open this fall at The Vintage Club.
“I’ve lucked out,” Barrett says. “I’ve made great friends, and we’ve had great food; everything just seems easier here. The clubhouse by Tom Scheerer is supposed to be done by the end of this year, and I think it’s going to be beautiful. I liked living in L.A., but don’t think I could go back. I’m happy here. So happy. Best thing I ever did.”