Vibrant pops of color fill this space with cheer, from the custom-painted brass pendant lights by The Urban Electric Co. in the foyer and wet bar area to the pair of statement swivel chairs dressed in fuchsia Manuel Canovas fabric. A playful Schumacher print on throw pillows complements the golf course view.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHAWN O'CONNOR
Ask anyone who visits Lia Clarke’s desert home to recount their first impression, and they’ll likely tell you about the sense of joy that hits as soon as you step past the threshold.
“For some reason, people come in and they’re just taken,” says Clarke of the 2,628-square-foot house. “There’s a spirit here that gives everybody joy. It’s a wonderful home.”
On the surface, the reasons seem obvious: The colors are vibrant. There’s plenty of natural light and spectacular fairway views. Varied textures across floors and walls and furnishings seem at once lived-in yet sophisticated, and contemporary artwork sets a playful tone. Not to mention, the owner’s warm demeanor makes guests feel at ease from the very first hello. True to her Italian roots, she probably has a pan of red sauce simmering on the La Cornue range, because when you’re here, she wants you to feel appreciated, welcomed, and well-fed. (“It’s my mother’s sauce,” Clarke reveals. “I make it for everybody.”)
“She said, ‘I want this to be my happy home,’” recalls Colorado-based designer Pamela Chelle, who oversaw the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath Toscana Country Club project remotely from her studio in Denver. “That energy was intentional throughout the home — having it be a place of respite, a place she could grow and meet new people, a place where her adult children could come visit, and somewhere she could enjoy her time alone.”
A cheery oil painting by artists Signe and Genna Grushovenko hanging beside the porcelain-tiled fireplace in the living room inspired the rich palette. “The whole house ties into that painting,” Clarke says, pointing out that art is a big part of the guest experience. “It gives the viewer something to reflect on, a good memory that they can take away when they leave,” she explains. “Art tells a story about the person who lives there, what they value, and what they find aesthetically appealing.”
Structurally, the designer removed arches in the interior, flattened out vaulted ceilings, pushed the back of the house out 3 feet, and used a smooth Level 5 drywall finish in place of the community’s go-to skip trowel texture to modernize and make the residence feel a bit more “Palm Springs.”
“The house is such a departure from what you see at Toscana that it’s really been an attention-grabber within the community, and people want to see it,” Chelle says. “Everything was 100 percent custom. We picked custom light fixtures, custom colors, custom fabrics. Everything we did was highly tailored to what Lia wanted to see.”
“Sitting on the back patio is lovely,” homeowner Lia Clarke says.
One of Clarke’s must-haves in the kitchen was the 43-inch La Cornue range, part of the French brand’s CornuFé series. “Julia Child would cook on that stove,” Clarke enthuses. The designer appliance is almost like an art piece itself, dressed in royal blue with brass trim that matches the farmhouse sink faucet and cabinetry hardware.
Meanwhile, the bedrooms take on a tranquil tone with subdued accent colors: lavender grasscloth in the primary bedroom, buttery yellow wallpaper in the guestroom, and earthy shades of blues and greens in the casita that feel plucked from the natural landscape.
Each room has an en suite bath with dual vanities, walk-in waterfall showers, and separate water closets; the primary bath has a spacious standalone tub. An absence of color in these spaces cultivates a spa-like environment that invites decompression.
The powder bath, however, is anything but minimal. Pink dances across the walls with neon floral wallpaper alongside floor-to-ceiling rose-colored Porcelanosa subway tiles behind the pedestal sink. “She wanted something super playful,” Chelle says. “It’s pretty loud!” — in the best way possible.
“Julia Child would cook on that stove. When I heard that, I go, ‘Well, then I need to.’”
But none of these reasons adequately explain the joy that permeates the air. To get to the real heart of the house and the actual source of its happy aura, you have to understand its origin story and the unexpected turn that led to Clarke embarking on this journey alone. The joy lies in its determined completion.
Clarke and her late husband, Steve, a developer, purchased the lot at Toscana Country Club in 2014. They’d visited the Palm Springs area regularly from Denver and become acquainted with a couple who lived at the Indian Wells club.
“It’s not the biggest home in the community, but it may have the best spirit.”
“One of the selling points for Steve was [our friend] saying, ‘When I wake up here, I wake up happy every day,’” Clarke recounts. “He heard that and goes, ‘That’s it. We’re going to buy here.’”
The pair had recently sold their previous home in the Mile-High City with the intent to downsize and invest in two smaller houses. Like a handful of their friends, they planned to split their time between Colorado and Southern California.
The Clarkes had already found a smaller home in Denver’s sought-after Polo Club neighborhood and hired Chelle to oversee a complete renovation. They would bring her on for the Toscana project as well.
Around that time, Steve began experiencing weakness in his arms. After numerous tests, in March 2015, he was formally diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The neurodegenerative disease has an average life expectancy of two to five years, though the prognosis can be hard to predict. Steve died 11 months later, before they’d broken ground at Toscana.
“The ultimate goal was to fulfill the dream that Steve and I had together, to complete this house,” Clarke shares. She waited three years, first finishing the Denver renovation; seeing this vision through helped her process the grief.
True to the couple’s original plans, Clarke has made new friends at Toscana and even participates regularly in organized social activities like mahjong, golf, cycling, and even karaoke.
“The end result was realizing that not only did I fulfill a dream, but I created a beautiful space for myself and for my family. It’s not the biggest home in the community, but it may have the best spirit,” she says. “Maybe it’s Steve’s spirit.”