The year is 1962 and architectural duo Krisel & Palmer are completing the design for a brand new condominium in the desert paradise of Palm Springs. With its butterfly roofline, horizontal orientation, and patterned cinderblock cladding, Canyon View Estates was quintessentially midcentury in design. But, for the time, this was no ordinary condominium. Made to feel more like single-family homes than stacked vacation units, the properties at Canyon View reinvented condo living and helped put Palm Springs on the map as the midcentury modern capital of the world.
Fast forward fifty-five years and multiple homes at Canyon View Estates are prepping their interiors for Palm Springs’ annual Modernism Week. One of those homes belongs to Dave Arthurs and his husband Brennan Pardee.
“We’d had our eye on this exact development for several years before we bought it,” Brennan says. “Then a year ago, a two bedroom became available that we could totally afford and still have enough money left to remodel it. So we just jumped.”
Both fans of midcentury modern design, Brennan and Dave wanted to keep the original spirit of the space intact. But like any historical structure, the property needed some updates to make it functional by today’s standards.
“We compared spending thousands of dollars for an interior designer or seeking some alternative, less expensive options. So we decided to try Laurel & Wolf. We didn’t know what to expect. It could have just been a write-off and then we would have had to go back and start all over again with a traditional designer,” Dave says.
But as an engineer working at the forefront of the tech industry, Dave’s career was built on reinventing old businesses for the modern world – a concept that isn’t far off from remodeling an old space to fit a new age.
So the couple decided to take a gamble on an online service that’s reinventing the interior design industry. The work of Laurel & Wolf designer James Tabb far exceeded the couple’s expectations, but it wasn’t just a successful design collaboration. It also lead Dave to want to join the company, which he did shortly afterwards as VP of Engineering.
“The house had barely been touched since it was built,” Dave says. “The original kitchen had this tacky little window and a door that separated it from the rest of the space. Kitchens from the 1960s were not meant to be seen. Today’s kitchens are part of the living space, so we wanted to open that up,” Dave explains.
After knocking down the wall between the two rooms, James made the kitchen larger by pushing the bar out into the living room. The new peninsula opens up the otherwise small room and connects it to the rest of the space.
“We kept the modernist style intact by incorporating details that were typical of the period, such as the breeze-block partition wall and the stack-bond tile layout of the bar’s backsplash,” James says.
Though Dave and Brennan had plenty of their own design ideas, James introduced elements they didn’t even know existed. Clean, white floors made from a specialty Italian porcelain span the home and set the tone for the entire space. A kick area, overlaid with hexagonal, cyan blue tiles covers the back side of the bar where it plays against a set of authentic midcentury Bertoia stools.
“The most challenging part was planning a layout that would update the kitchen but make it still feel like it was always in the home. In the end, we decided to keep all of the appliances where they were, and just update their functionality. Just goes to show you that great design is hard to improve upon,” James says.
Just like any innovative service or technology, midcentury design is timeless because it’s amenable to change.
“If you really want to be true to the original architecture, it’s not functional for today’s standards. I think we’ve done a really nice job of respecting the aesthetic of the original design while making the home modern and functional for today’s living,” Dave says.
Brennan agrees, “I think there’s a lot of midcentury elements, like the clean lines and simplicity, that work really well for life today. The open-concept floorplans make a space more livable, and the combination of indoor-outdoor living is perfect for warmer climates like this one.”
What was meant to be a second home away from the city, is becoming a more permanent deal for the couple. “I think on our own, we could have done okay with the design, but with Laurel & Wolf, we were really able to knock the ball out of the park. I think it’s really one of the reasons we’re spending more time here than we had originally planned,” Dave says.
With light streaming in through the clerestory windows, illuminating the bright hues and playful furniture, it’s no wonder that midcentury modern design is still one of the most coveted styles today.