inhabit's palm springs interior + custom furniture design appear in VARIETY. A COLLABORATION with BOOTH HANSEN

We wanted to have something very modern, that took full advantage of the views but didn’t interfere with the views of the original house

VARIETY | Kathy A. McDonald
Photography Nick Merrick of Hedrich Blessing

Chicago entrepreneurs Linda Usher and Malcolm Lambe are no strangers to architectural jewels: they own the 1956-built Frederick Loewe Estate, a highlight of the desert enclave’s popular Modernism Week tours.

In fact, Usher became enamored of Palm Springs after touring celebrity homes during a 2010 Modernism Week outing and the Loewe Estate caught her eye. Set on a promontory in the Little Tuscany Estates, the low-slung house is surrounded by greenery, an extensive planked view deck and fanciful gardens. Although the house has four bedrooms in its 4,600 square feet, when friends and family gathered, “there was never enough room for everyone.” Usher and Lambe say they needed more bedrooms and wanted “a really cool house.”

To that end Usher brought in Chicago-based architect Booth Hansen who cites Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as an influence. The vision: “We wanted to have something very modern, that took full advantage of the views but didn’t interfere with the views of the original house,” says Usher. The new house needed to be dramatic but also warm and comfortable. Driving the layout was a 42-footlong Keiko Hara painting, which Usher bought for the setting.

“It became obvious it ought to go on a wall that would shield the house from other houses close to it,” Booth says. To achieve privacy and preserve the boulder-strewn landscape, a lower portion of the estate was excavated and re-graded allowing the new house to be located at the edge of the property. The result: its infinity edge pool seems to drop into the Coachella Valley below.

The Palm Springs tradition of bringing the landscape into a building and embracing the natural terrain was another key factor in the design. “It’s a very poetical landscape: the way the valley spreads out below, the lanky tall palm trees, vegetation and boulders,” Booth says.
The continuity between indoor and outdoor spaces is almost seamless. A sheltered courtyard off the kitchen serves an outdoor dining room with fireplace and built-in barbecue. Custom-built, glass walls slide open with a gentle touch. “Everything is connected when the sliding doors are open,” Usher says.

The horizontal, plaster and glass pavilion-like space is intended to appear as if it was dropped into the site; the surrounding boulders were placed specifically. Olive trees and drought tolerant plantings fill in the gaps. Usher also notes that the home’s mechanical aspects (air conditioner ducts and electric wires) are under the house, further preserving the views. And although other homes are close by, berms and plantings hide them from sight.

Coming full circle, the house will be on view during 2016’s Modernism Week (Feb. 11-21) to select attendees at a Feb. 20 event at the estate, which includes a tribute to textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen who contributed many of the fabrics and materials used in the newly built residence.