First impression of this righteous residence at The Madison Club? It’s a gas, gas, gas.
Two-tone portraits of Twiggy and David Bowie stare intently from bedroom walls. Silver pendant lamps that bring to mind a pair of dangling earrings worn by Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In shimmy down from the ceiling in the kitchen, which resembles a second cocktail bar. From the billiards to the powder room, wallpaper designs by Andy Warhol and Lenny Kravitz put on a wild show, while bullseye light sculptures programmed to glow after dark are subtler, moving slowly through a fluid change of colors that match the décor. Can you dig it?
In the courtyard, the childlike temptation to splash into the swim-spa the size of a merry-go-round is eclipsed only by the urge to meander into the circular pool, sitting flush with its deck at the Madison Club property’s edge. Tanning ledges and a 16-person spa are disguised below the glassy surface — positioned by the architect to reflect the palm trees, golf course, and distant mountain views like a massive mirrored disk.
However, all this fun requires incredible forethought — not to mention truckloads of custom-designed furnishings, plus a collaborative design team that bands together like The Rolling Stones. From the Madison Cub home’s birth of cool to its final reveal after 16 months of construction, the team wrote hit after hit for a property that riffs on 1960s pop art, design trends, and mod fashion while marching to the beat of its own modern drum.
“The home is inspired by classic Palm Springs modernism with an updated twist,” says Gordon Stein of Stein Design, the firm behind the home’s architecture, landscape design, and, in part, its interiors. Rucker Muth Luxury Homebuilders of Palm Desert — the client’s builder — assembled a strong team that translated his vision to complete the Madison Club estate, finished with interior design and custom furnishings that Stein collaborated on with designer Carla Kalwaitis.
While some clients get in their own way of having a good time with the home’s outcome, this project proved the opposite. “Carla and I fell upon the idea of doing white-on-white interiors with dayglo colors displayed throughout in the artwork, wallpaper, fabrics, and LED light sculptures,” Stein says. Tapping into the creative explosion of ideas born during the ’60s and ’70s, they would take a reimagined version of modern then infuse it with a mod vibe and original custom pieces.
“When we brought that idea to the table, the client was very receptive,” Stein says. “They were open to letting us run with that and create something really unique.”
Rucker Muth Luxury Homebuilders and the team behind this Madison Club estate built the home for a client who sought to part ways with the expected and construct something extraordinary. The breezeway is a fresh version of midcentury indoor-outdoor plans, complete with a breezeblock-inspired screen by Gordon Stein of Stein Design. The sculptural water feature is also a swim-spa.
Bright, white environments receive texture and punches of color.
Growing up, one of them had visited the area often and took a shine to “the old Palm Springs, midcentury vibe,” Kalwaitis says. “And since there isn’t much of it down valley, we’ve been trying to infuse a bit of Palm Springs modern whenever clients are open to it. It makes for a fun vacation house.”
Stein is no exaggerator when he says, “We had a lot of area to cover.” Between the master suite, two interior guest suites, two casitas, seven bathrooms, and a sprawling great room, the Madison Club home spans 6,636 square feet. Its footprint nearly doubles to 11,436 square feet when covered entertaining areas factor in.
On the exterior, lightly overpainted Thassos stone panels clothe the buildings’ monolithic forms. The material follows the home’s lines, moving to the indoor surfaces where bright, white environments receive “texture and punches of color from the era, when people weren’t afraid to use it,” Kalwaitis explains. “Since the house has so much glass, every room needs to relate to the next so it all ties together when you see it from afar.”
“In a house this clean-lined, any slight flaw, even a 1/64th on an inch, show,” notes Dave Muth of Rucker Muth Luxury Homebuilders. “Getting everything to look nice and sit flush isn’t happenstance. It’s kind of surgical.” Stein designed the table and collaborated with Kalwaitis on the chairs.
Stein often favors plucking out a common design element and weaving that thread through a project to achieve exactly that, repeating it in various sizes and forms. In this case, the huge round pool in the backyard and the raised circular water feature/spa are part of a literal sphere of influence that includes rounded-back chairs, rounded-base bar stools, and circular shapes that crop up in lighting, artwork, relief porcelain tiles, and Stein’s geometric metal screens, his reinterpretation of cast concrete breeze block.
“The horizontal and vertical lines of the structure are softened by those circular forms,” he notes. “They appear again and again in the home’s seamless flow.” The front private courtyard gives way to covered outdoor living spaces, drawing everyone out to “that spectacular pool. Guests can come and go from their suites and casitas to the outdoor areas without having to traverse the main interior, creating more of a boutique hotel layout.”
The volume of the great room challenged the team to build conversation areas that felt intimate while optimizing acoustics. A thick shag rug absorbs sound, topped by a loungey layout of channel-back furnishings that Kalwaitis custom designed. Stein’s son, Blake, fabricated the coffee table based on his father’s design, inspired by midcentury artist Louise Nevelson. Square and circular shapes of varying heights mingle together below its Lucite top.
Floating from the ceiling, diaphanous round orbs by Moooi glow from within. Custom sound panels encircle the group. “With the incorporation of hard surfaces such as stone walls, terrazzo floors, and expansive glass, large houses can become an echo chamber,” Stein says. His design for round acoustic panels in a flower-power theme employs more than 1,000 pieces of heavy felt that he and his studio team hand-assembled over the course of several days.
A “hidden kitchen” keeps the majority of cabinetry and appliances out of sight. The island provides a vast surface from which to serve from before any mess is cleared away and the party carries on.
“He really wanted to break from the norm,” Stein says of the client. Instead of the expected waterfall-style island, the builder fashioned cantilevered countertops that mimic the roof forms. Long sconces on either side of the range hood are another father-son creation, inspired by hippie bead curtains of the 1960s.
Relief porcelain tiles across the kitchen island and backsplash required meticulous layout and installation by the builder.
Glass walls that disappear open the great room up to the courtyard. Handcrafted acoustic panels and a gigantic shag rug prevent an echo effect when closed. Kalwaitis designed the channel-back sofa and lounges; Stein designed the fireplace sculpture to add reflective interest and fill the empty space inside.
“The horizontal and vertical lines of the structure are softened by circular forms.”
The billiards room comes alive at night when an outdoor light sculpture by Stein reflects colors found in the wallpaper and the tangerine-orange felt of the pool table.
“We’ve been trying to infuse a bit of Palm Springs modern whenever clients are open to it.”
There’s peace to be found around the Madison Club home’s multiple fireplaces with custom sculptures placed inside, love in the custom artwork (one of which pays homage to the 1973 “LOVE” postage stamp; others commissioned by Palm Springs artist Shawn Savage), as well as a bright chord of rock ‘n’ roll, particularly in the billiards room. There, a rare vintage Brunswick pool table purchased at the Modernism Week Show and Sale faces one of Stein’s outdoor light sculptures.
Aside from custom round day beds Kalwaitis designed, most outdoor furnishings came from Juniper House in Palm Springs. Stein crafted the Zen surrounding landscape in tandem with the architecture.
“In the backyard, we placed 200 blue flame agaves in a very regimented layout where, with painstaking effort, they all align,” notes Dave Muth of Rucker Muth Luxury Homebuilders. “Around the plants, we used that 1960s-style white rock you still see in PalmSprings — hand-picking out the off-color ones.”
Marble meets Lenny Kravitz wallpaper in the powder room. The custom pendant lamp repeats from those in the kitchen.
Nate Rucker stresses the importance of those finer details the eye takes in, sometimes without even realizing it. “We finished the zero-edge pool with one of the original old Palm Springs finishes called dolomite, which is a limestone,” he says. “That’s what gives it a beautiful, ethereal blue inside.”
When the clients passed through the courtyard to tour the final design, it was a bit of a “Hello, I Love You” moment. Stepping back to let the team roll with their vision proved a smart decision that rocked their world.
While not a literal translation of the Age of Aquarius, the home stirs up the effervescent spirit of the 1960s — and represents the further dawning of a mod movement at the east end of the valley.