Spec homes are a gamble, designed, quite literally, for self-assured bettors only. Even the most experienced developer with a track record of big-attention homes and fast sales hedges their bets every time a new speculative project breaks ground. Stakes are high and the budget is tight when building a home with the mere hope that a buyer will purchase it over all other options on the market. The architecture and design need to be just unusual enough, without jumping over the edge. The club and the site – like The Hideaway in La Quinta – along with the home’s size, spaces, and amenities all need to strike the right chord. Every last decision could cost — or yield — a small fortune.
Yet the team behind this five-bedroom spec home at The Hideaway in La Quinta had no qualms about committing to a confident black-on-white palette. Leaning the opposite direction of most design inclinations in the desert, the home feels more at home with its surroundings and more at peace with itself than some that wear safer, more predictable, schemes.
Black makes its entrance in the geometric panes of the front door and continues its understated monologue in the entry courtyard. There, interior designer Carla Kalwaitis added a series of inset black diamond tiles to the stairs, which lead up to the balcony lounge and two second-floor bedrooms of The Hideaway in La Quinta.
Only three tiles from the pocketing glass doors, the pool edges close to the interior spaces, pushing the boundaries of modern indoor-outdoor living. Artwork from Coda Gallery.
The name behind the architecture, Gordon Stein of Stein Design, suggested a trio of black laser-cut steel panels that balance the white space above a low water feature.
Once inside the main house, black’s role becomes bolder. Like a fine-point eyeliner that draws attention to the eye rather than the makeup, the effect it has in enhancing each space is elegant and exacting.
At the far end of the great room, quintessential pocket doors are paned in black. The unusual design choice falls in line with the home’s more traditional shell that ticks The Hideaway’s architectural boxes. The paned doors also connect the home’s classic architecture to its modern, black-laced interiors. “Those doors kind of steered the ship,” Kalwaitis says. “Once we had the black frames we said, ‘Let’s just do it.’ ”
A black marble double-sided fireplace is at the heart of the great room, sharing its flame with the living and dining areas. Creamy 24-by-48-inch Italian porcelain floors carry out to the patios and pool at The Hideaway in Palm Desert.
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“We went light on the walls and the floor, and you just set the black into it,” she adds. “When all these doors are open, it’s just one space,” punctuated by a wavy pair of black Brown Jordan sun loungers.
The pool itself sits just three tiles from the pocketing doors, a subtle positioning that adds contemporary style. “We brought the pool back to engage it with the living room and make the great room feel like it’s part of the pool,” says Gary Lohman, vice president of Andrew Pierce Corp., the home’s developer. “When the pool lights up at night as it wraps around the home to the step-up spa, it really shines as an integral part of the design.”
Two more pieces from Coda Gallery hang above a concealed bar and in the entry.
With the team’s awareness that homebuyers are shying away from formal dining configurations, the dining area was conceived for more than just dinner. “We learned this up at The Vintage Club, that these rooms are becoming multipurpose,” Lohman says. “Guys are playing poker, the girls are playing Mahjong. Or, for a dinner party, instead of the big table, we have two tables and it’s more fun. Maybe all the girls are at one table, or you put my wife at one table and me at another, and now it’s different. But, for Thanksgiving when you have the big crowd, you push these two tables together with 10 chairs and you’re in business.”
Stein designed the wood ceiling sculpture to reflect the shape of the tables. Each of the three panels integrate both focused and ambient lighting that adapts to the placement below. (A customary hanging fixture would have appeared off center with certain table set-ups.) Crafted of rift white oak with a dark stain, the panels highlight a material the team used throughout the home.
This dramatic backdrop showcases swaths of luxurious taupe Taj Mahal quartz on the island and backsplash — a bona fide spec-house splurge.
A waterfall island in Taj Mahal quartz from Formations softens the kitchen’s black perimeter.
Custom dining tables by Carla Kalwaitis and Gary Lohman. Gordon Stein designed the ceiling panels.
Dacor Modernist Collection appliances in the kitchen blend with dark cabinetry along two walls. This dramatic backdrop showcases swaths of luxurious taupe Taj Mahal quartz on the island and backsplash – a bona fide spec-house splurge. Adjacent is a discreet walk-up bar with concealed appliances that saddles up to a temperature-perfect wine room behind glass.
A deep skylight brings in natural light above the sink. Pendant lighting from The Lighthouse.
Three downstairs bedrooms access the outdoor spaces, while the two upstairs enjoy private entrances behind black paned doors. Each is steps from an al fresco balcony lounge and its elevated views of the golf course and the Chocolate Mountains. Having opted for the casual coolness of a firepit, the team installed a flat-screen TV where the standard fireplace would have been.
So what keeps the black-infused home from feeling heavy, or even Gothic, at a time when buyers insist on light and bright? First is the desert’s own light that moves through the open plan from sunrise to sundown at The Hideaway. Next is the designer’s training and technique. “It’s really beige, white, and black,” Kalwaitis notes, with related tones in the mix to prevent the home from reading as either too stark or too literal. Ivory upholstery, natural wood accents, and deep brown-black doors mingle with shades of gray in rugs and window treatments. Strong black-and-white patterns are limited to pillows, ottomans, accessories, and artwork.
Wood bedside consoles echo the wood of the chairs in the outdoor conversation area. above: The edgy painting from Coda Gallery is by local artist Jay Johansen, a fellow member at the club.
“Everybody loved the house. So, we didn’t get the constructive criticism you sometimes do with spec builds.”
Stein says he sees a progressing yen for similar aesthetics. “We’re definitely doing projects like this elsewhere, at The Madison Club and those clubs that are little more forward,” he says. “This club has more of a period style, and the exterior architecture has to fit that. But either way, clients want the sense that they’re in a very modern home.”
The completed home that Lohman describes as having a Napa or Santa Barbara style sold for the highest price per square foot in the club in 2019. It was off the market within three months and had a backup buyer waiting in the wings.
Black furnishings and accessories in the guest bedrooms combine with creamy neutrals, from gray to beige, to keep the theme from feeling gimmicky.
“We knew with this color scheme and the high-tech appliances and lighting we added that it would be a younger couple from L.A.” Kalwaitis remarks. “That’s what we predicted. And that’s what it was.”
New owners Melinda and Dan Berman at The Hideaway even elected to purchase most of the artwork, which Coda Gallery curated in collaboration with the design team. (Three pieces were completed by artist Jay Johansen, a fellow member at The Hideaway.) Leaving the artwork just as it was placed preserved another important element of the home’s sleek intention.
“Everybody loved the house, so we didn’t get the constructive criticism you sometimes do with spec builds,” Lohman laughs. He bet well, putting all his chips on black. “We had fun doing it, and the buyer is in love with it. So the house, and the black, were a success all the way around.”
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