the wee house project
royal carrizo, california
The wee house was one of the first homes to be built within the community of royal carrizo with panoramic views of the Coachella valley. The community consists of single family homes, each with a minimum of 2.5 acre properties. The master plan was designed by Tommy Tomson, a notorious landscape designer credited with several elite los angeles estates including stars Robert Montgomery, Joan Crawford, Tyrone Power, and Henry Fonda. He also designed landscapes at Santa Anita Race Track, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, the Brown Derby Restaurant, Union Station, and the Beverly Hills Hotel. Tomson also did extensive work in the Coachella Valley; he helped to establish the city of Palm Desert, and thus his work up the mountain to Royal Carrizo. The wee house, originally designed by Rowland Crawford and built in 1966, is nestled comfortably into the rocky landscape. It now shines as a diamond in the rough. Due to many years of deferred maintenance, the house was neglected and forlorn. The floor plan has been reworked, and the interior finishes have been removed and replaced. As is often the philosophy of Secoy, the exterior space defines the interior space, and the house organically blends with the natural terrain and boundless beauty. Modern architecture coexisting seamlessly with nature.
palm springs, california
Southridge is one of the most exclusive and historic estates in Palm Springs. Development on the steep hill began in the early 1960s. Its spectacular site overlooking the Coachella Valley spurred designers like John Lautner to create the area’s most dramatic properties: the legendary Bob Hope and Arthur Elrod houses. William F. Cody and Hugh Kaptur also designed homes there and the community attracted stars like Steve McQueen and William Holden. This home, originally designed by the local team of Patten & Wild is one of the first homes to be built in Southridge. It is a simple California ranch style with a hip roof and concrete shingles. Original breeze-blocks still wrap around the lower level, where the architect has created her studio. The house has been gutted internally and the floor plan has been reworked, removing a clumsy lower-level addition that detracted from the home’s outlook, re-siting pool equipment, and returning the property to its minimal design. The house embraces the landscape, blurring the boundaries of interior and exterior, with the exterior being equally important. “The best design goes unnoticed…the eye carries beyond the house.” The home had interiors more suited to Beverly Hills than the desert, so beige marble was removed in favor of poured terrazzo. A previously secluded kitchen now opens to the tremendous views. Bathrooms feature original vintage tile and are updated with new fittings and Dornbracht hardware that matches the Crane originals. The neutral color palette throughout provides a soft backdrop for classic midcentury furniture by Eames, Saarinen and Mies van der Rohe. Outside the landscape has also been reworked and simplified with desert plantings.