When it comes to traditional show home assignments, “usually it’s a blank canvas,” says designer Michael Berman. For the Desert Oasis Show House held in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, however, the record was different. In reimagining the 1970s home designed by architect John Walling, “we were inspired by the owner,” says Berman. “I believe in creating homes that people are happy in, and I wanted to follow that guideline and make sure everyone else followed it as well.”
The 4,350 square foot home – which involved a roster of 11 designers, a builder and a landscape architect – is now open to the public until April 10 and hosts a full range of special events planned in conjunction with Design Collective. Inside, the house has transformed into a transportation oasis centered on a theme far removed from its SoCal desert surroundings: “He has a fondness for all things Polynesian and South Pacific, and loves that surf- retro, organic tiki,” Berman says of the owner. Selections from his own vintage collection are on display with descriptive text, as are his surfboards, which decorate the family room. Elsewhere, a restored fiberglass shark’s head hangs above the lounge bar. “And you know what? It works so well here because of the mid-century modern language and indoor-outdoor lifestyle,” adds Berman.
Buy now for unlimited access and all the benefits only members get.
Beyond its fun factor, the theme comments on larger conversations taking place within the industry around cultural representation and ownership. “There is a fine line between kitsch, fantasy and inspiration in this house. Once you get in, you have to deal with it,” observes Berman. That said, Berman is aware of the criticisms surrounding “tiki” culture, which at times has been seen as derogatory or exotic towards people in the South Pacific. With this in mind, he and his team aspired to treat the designs with respect and contextualize them wherever possible. “Whatever we did, we did it with sensitivity,” he says.
The Coachella Valley, Los Angeles and Orange County design team includes Linda Allen, Donna Johnson, Jenika Kurtz, Shannon Palmer, Jen Samson, Huma Sulaiman, Maya Williams, Chris Barrett and Karen Okner. Other contributors included David Wood of Big Wood Builders, John Feldman of Ecocentrix Landscape Architecture, color specialist Amy Wax and closet designer Robyn Howard. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, FIND Food Bank and the Special Olympics of Southern California.
The renovation down to the studs incorporated products from sponsors such as Pirch, Veranda View, Circa Lighting and curator Chip Tom of Heather James Fine Art, who partnered with the fine art selection. Put simply by Berman, the collaborative effort was to “alter the essence of the mood and mix contemporary and mid-century soft furnishings, as well as working with all of the home’s background materials to create a new modern decor”.
Keep reading for a visit inside.