One light, one dark, and both very inviting: two second homes share the art of relaxation
By Lisa Marie Rovito
Photography by Scott Van Dyke
In Seattle, where designer Ted Tuttle keeps his office, it rains roughly 150 days a year. When it’s not raining, the weather is often cloudy, damp, and gray.
But there’s nothing cold or dreary about two Palm Springs second homes Tuttle designed for two couples with very different desires. While both envisioned retreats that traveled down avenues unexplored by their modern homes in Seattle, Tuttle transformed one with a white-and-bright scheme while the other envelops with a dark and moody vibe. A look at both shows how one designer captures these clients’ wishes and, without even meaning to, imprints a bit of his signature style.
“The link between the two homes is that there is some sense of traditional style in both,” says Tuttle, who was involved with commercial interior design work for Nordstrom before his transition into residential. Tuttle used the same window treatments and floors throughout the rooms of each home to provide a smooth flow and avoid choppy, room-by-room decorating. “Even though the homes have some antiques and gilt furnishings, both are cozy and inviting. You feel like you can flop down and read a book without being intimidated by the interior.”
What would seem like a study in contrasts — a new home in Las Palmas and a 1954 home purchased from the original owners — turns out to be a glimpse into the harmonious portfolio of a designer who knows that elegance
surpasses time or place.
Light and Easy
If you closely study its lines, its angles, its bones, you can see this is a midcentury home. It happens to sit in the south part of Palm Springs. But its sophisticated mix of reupholstered antique furniture, modern art, decadent finishes, and up-to-date landscaping contains not a trace of the mainstream mod-podge décor that might reveal its age. “The home’s footprint didn’t change when the couple bought it from the family who had lived there full time for decades,” Tuttle says. “But every room was gutted and completely redone.”
Because Seattle can feel so dark, the owners wanted their second home to be light and airy — a place that complemented the sunny weather. Tuttle started with whitewashed pine floors, followed by a fresh palette of natural reed blinds and neutral rugs. In the den, the pine expands up the walls and across the ceiling, creating a cocoon of relaxation.
Then Tuttled added splashes of color. To top custom cabinetry in a long hallway, he collected antique blue glass plates from London, blue Peking glass, and Chinese blue-and-white porcelain for a display with height and depth. Out the window above it, similar pieces can be seen on the patio — several grouped together in a display and two that double as small side tables. Nearby, patterned lounge pillows and solid pool towels add to the consistent color scheme. Colorful contemporary artwork fills the walls of the home along with a few select traditional works from London. The white kitchen wows with long marble counters, casual cabinetry, and touches of stainless from the island and a professional-style range all focused around an eye-catching piece of art that hangs above the sink.
As a finishing touch, Tuttle reworked the exterior and generous yard for the couple’s enjoyment. An outdoor living area with the crisp, clean look of a Hamptons beachside cottage adjoins the house as a place to sip iced tea and take in the views.
“In 46 years, the original owners had never put in a pool,” Tuttle says. “So I had a chance to do the pool and the landscaping, which gave the house a whole new life.”
Dark and Mood-Setting
At home in Seattle, this couple’s abode is an ultra-contemporary showcase for a collection of art glass for which the city’s artists are so well known. “For their second home, they wanted something that felt Italian, that had a European flavor,” Tuttle says. When the couple spotted this Las Palmas home, it was brand new and still under construction. Through Tuttle’s interviews with his clients, they immediately agreed to changed the flow of the house, all finishes, the floors, and the lighting. “It was going to have ceramic floors and a glass-block shower,” Tuttle says. “We went with dark wood floors and dark fabrics, again with contemporary artwork.” Several traditional pieces were picked up in Palm Springs art galleries.
“They wanted to start out fresh. They came to the house with just a piano,” Tuttle says. “We became friends shopping in Palm Springs, San Francisco, and Seattle for art, antiques, and furnishings. It was a wonderful shopping adventure. We got to experience the Palm Springs area in a different fashion while we shopped at places like House 849, Stewart Galleries, and The Antique Collective.”
Throughout the home, the antiqued oak floors leading to arching windows with dark wood frames certainly feel more European than ceramic tile would have. In the master bathroom, where the glass-block shower would have gone, ornate crystal sconces complement custom tub-surround and cabinet in antiqued walnut. As a swift contrast, the geometric art on the wall is pure modern.
That’s signature Tuttle. In each of these homes, he assembled fascinating, balanced compositions of styles, eras, textures, and prints. In this home — with its gilt mirrors and frames, its antique beds and brass lamps — a wild pop of leopard print from a throw pillow or the back of a chair always pleases an unexpecting eye.
The couple loves the result as much as they love sharing their home. Intimate dinner parties for six, eight, or 10 are a favorite way to spend a weekend in town. They also enjoy inviting friends over for drinks before going out to dinner in Palm Springs.
“I think the living room is so successful in this house because of the big daybed; it divides the two spaces,” Tuttle says. “The layout really lets the owners utilize the whole room. They like to have cocktails in the living room then move to the dining room for dinner. They eventually move back to the living room afterward, where people always migrate to the daybed.”
Tuttle recently completed a very modern 11,000-square-foot house in Arkansas, an apartment in New York, and a sleek, stark home in Seattle where much of the furniture was white leather —proving these two second-home looks aren’t the end of his story.
“Whoever they are and wherever they live, I like to include my clients in the process because it can be so much fun,” he says. Though he has been in the business long enough to have a national following, he adds, “I am branching out all the time.”