From Stark to Finish

Layers of texture and style transform a ‘blank slate’ into an inviting retreat.

February 16, 2020
The back side of Peter Slaugh and Stephanie Farmer’s home — tucked against the steeply rising San Jacinto mountainside — epitomizes the desert’s indoor/outdoor lifestyle.

House-hunters typically spend weeks or months eyeing properties before making an offer. Peter Slaugh and Stephanie Farmer crunched their search into one day and bought the last of the dozen possibilities presented: a 4,300-square-footer with San Jacinto Mountains rugged outcrops immediately to the south and an overview of downtown Palm Springs to the north.

“Peter and I have our own companies and spend a lot of time working and parenting teenagers,” Farmer says, explaining that they were looking for a second home with “a lot of room to breathe and relax.” Slaugh works in commercial real estate and she is an executive producer, mostly for TV commercials; their blended family includes four children ranging in age from 15 to 20.

“We wanted an alternative to our Truckee home — something that didn’t reflect another mountain town,” says Slaugh, who had fallen in love with Palm Springs in the early 2000s when he came to town for client meetings. “We love the old-school vibe of the Rat Pack days, and [Palm Springs] really appealed to the lifestyle we want.”


Designer Richard Read’s clients had the electric-blue sofa when they hired him; he balanced its boldness with subtler shades of blue, gray, and black. Abutting teak blocks add warmth and texture.

We wanted a sense of home, but also someplace that is sophisticated and fun.

Being new construction, their investment harbored no structural, plumbing, electrical, or cleanliness issues. But, as a spec-built house, it lacked something else: warmth.

“It was all-white, solid materials — very sterile; and we are not very sterile people,” Farmer says. “We wanted a sense of home, where we could have fun with the kids, but also someplace that is sophisticated and fun for weekends with friends.”

The couple needed a designer to infuse coziness into the spaces while they went about their work in Northern California. Through a local referral, they reached out to Richard Read, whom they hired before ever visiting his Palm Desert showroom. In fact, early “meetings” took place via phone calls and text messages.

“We explained to Richard that we are very grounded people,” Farmer says. “We like nature and comfort. At the same time, we wanted to give a nod to Palm Springs in a sophisticated, sexy version of what we have in Truckee.” (The couple describe that home as “mountain modern” architecture with décor “leaning toward Bohemian.”)

“I grew up in Northern California, so I had a sense of their style from living in a mountain home,” Read says. “They like modern but were interested in bringing in organic and Moroccan elements.”


Slaugh and Farmer’s black lab, Blue, enjoys swimming in the pool, especially when it involves a tennis ball.

The designer took a layered approach, starting with the addition of textured wallpapers. In the living room, he covered the east and west walls with a tung-bark grass cloth that looks like wood planks in a chevron pattern. To avoid distracting from the location’s astounding views, he left the walls surrounding large glass doors that open the house to the north and south white, but softened their edges with sheer drapery.

Though elegant in appearance, the only warmth the kitchen could generate would be from its stove or oven. The builder had used the same veined-white-marble-look stone on the waterfall-edge island, countertops, and backsplash. Read replaced some of the shiny white cabinetry with steel shelves on a backdrop of Brazilian walnut. A trio of pendants over the island brings light down to a more intimate level, while perforations in the wood drum shades allow light to wash outward.

Read duplicated the wood and metal shelving in the wine cellar (the only structural addition he made to the home) and over a wet bar in the adjacent family room. Other textural wallcoverings include vertical grass cloth (in the family room and guest bedrooms), wallpaper that resembles fabric in the powder room, and rich blue faux snakeskin in the master bedroom.

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Read also blended textures in the family room, including Sunbrella fabric on the 
sectional sofa, leather chairs, a wool rug, and bamboo grass cloth wallpaper. Above the wet bar, he mounted steel shelves on Brazilian walnut.

They like modern but were interested in bringing in organic elements.

As for furniture, Read placed a statement piece in the entryway: a reclaimed chamcha tree root serving as a table.

Chamcha also adds an exotic touch as a tabletop in the dining space that bridges the living room and kitchen. A wood-and-metal chandelier of geometric honeycombs and bulbs orbiting a center pole inject midcentury modern flair and complement the walnut, curved-back chairs surrounding the table.

Though mostly working with “a blank slate,” as he puts it, Read had to design the living room around his clients’ electric-blue sofa. He turned down its volume with throw pillows and balanced it with a custom blue leather bench and a pair of barrel-shaped, swivel chairs in blue-gray velvet with wood trim, accented by ikat pillows. He brought the seating into a conversational context with a textured, denim-gray rug and a “coffee table” of two large teak blocks that can be separated as desired.

Read made the family room wear-resistant casual by covering the floor in a cream-colored rug of hand-woven wool and upholstering a custom sectional with gray Sunbrella fabric. A brown leather-topped bench/table invites “throwing feet up,” as Read suggests. Leather, in a lighter tan, also plays well with a duo of square-shaped chairs.


A chamcha tree root serves as an entry table; its tung-bark grass cloth backdrop resembles wood planks.

Farmer enthuses that Read’s design for a custom bed makes the master suite her and Slaugh’s “favorite place on the planet.” An 8-foot-tall, forged-steel “canopy” frame balances the mass of the headboard and base in blue-gray tufted velvet.

“Had I walked into a furniture store, that would not be a bed I would walk toward, but I love it,” Farmer says.

One corner of the bedroom hosts a chaise that speaks to midcentury modern’s S-curve but with the coziness of Mongolian shearling. Other furnishings throughout the master suite include midnight blue nightstands and cabinet, a full-length mirror bordered by bone inlay in cream and gray, walnut pendant lamps in midcentury modern style, and a light shaded with tiers of woven coco beads hanging over the bathroom’s freestanding tub.

Both north and south patios feature outdoor furniture with rounded frames of webbed Viro fiber strips in a silver walnut finish. Aqua ceramics and umbrellas match the pool/spa tiles, while cobalt ceramic drums serve as tables between lounge chairs.

In deference to the natural landscape, Read replaced an incongruous faux-grass inset for poolside lounging with an ipe deck and finished the stucco grill island with ipe cladding.

Throughout the house, Read expertly tied together all the spaces by repeating elements without making the whole monotonous.

“It really has become our go-to for when we want desert energy,” Slaugh says.

“It lends itself to lighthearted fun,” Farmer adds. “We do a lot of entertaining there. Sometimes, we arrive on a Friday and don’t leave the house for three days straight.”

“The house really has become our go-to for when we want desert energy.”

The master bed Read designed makes a statement with its steel frame and extra-high headboard. The faux snakeskin wallcovering adds a sexiness his clients requested.


The dining table made from chamcha wood gets a midcentury modern treatment, literally highlighted with a chandelier whose “honeycomb” walnut pieces match the backs of 
the chairs below.