A designer’s first foray into Sonoran style results in an enviable family getaway
Kelly Phillips Badal
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You’d never guess that Sarah Sherman Samuel’s reaction to the Palm Springs-area A-frame she now owns was horror. Horror directed at, of all things, the bathroom. “It was a windowless black hole made even darker with black tile, black-and-gold foil wallpaper, a black toilet, and exposed stone that made it seem like you were walking into a cave. And the lights weren’t working,” recalls the designer and blogger. “I literally felt scared to walk in.”
The rest of the 1,100-square-foot house was no great beauty either. Tinted film on the lofty triangular windows conspired to hide the Sonoran Desert views, and the whole place was very, very brown, from the walls to the carpet to the painted wooden beams. Still, Sarah and her husband, Rupert, an advertising production executive, fell head over heels for the home’s iconic architectural style. And they saw promise in one ingenious little trait: skylights along the very tip of the “A.” “Natural light is one of the main things I look for in a home,” says Sarah. “I knew that if we brightened the place up with white paint, the light coming in from all the windows would bring it to life.” This was the only property the Venice Beach–based couple saw while house hunting in their favorite vacation town—and a major fixer-upper to boot—but they snapped it up.
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; from $1,280
A custom 10-foot sofa and a striking vintage Franco Albini chair make an inexpensive army green chair look high-end by association.
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(underneath vintage rug), from $118
When Sarah couldn’t find a large vintage rug she liked for the room, she came up with a clever solution: placing a higher-end antique kilim atop a more basic floor covering.
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; $99 each
Sarah gave Ikea cabinetry a custom facelift by adding higher-quality doors and drawer fronts she painted dark green.
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An eye-catching rattan bed frame is the singular star of the bedroom. Sarah snapped the bedroom’s cactus prints herself, blew them up, and had them mounted using the online framing service .
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in Thunder Gray; $3,389
(on wall); $35/sq. ft.
The Samuels splurged on a spa-like hydrotherapy bathtub kitted out with a custom wood-and-cement surround and hexagonal tile. “My rule is, spend your money at eye level,” says Sarah. “That’s why we’re walking on $3 tile and staring at $35 tile.”
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Outdoor Living Spaces
While the major makeovers happened inside, the Samuels’ 3/4-acre yard received some sprucing with an eye toward outdoor entertaining. Rather than creating one outdoor-living space, the duo went with several. A rebuilt pergola atop the existing concrete patio provides a shaded extended living room; then there’s an alfresco dining area, an umbrella-clad sundeck, and a rustic-chic soaking pool.
Now that the home is done, the couple is thrilled to put down their paintbrushes and their nail guns for a while. “This is a place with no clutter, no TV, where we come to escape the sensory overload of our lives,” says Sarah. “It’s our little sanctuary.”
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; from $60
A rattan hanging chair is a high-style riff on a kids’ swing. For an inexpensive coffee table inspired by a designer piece, the couple took an Ikea tabletop and drilled in three sturdy white terra-cotta planters for the base.
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; from $320
; from $90
A lounge area is a little ode to the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs, with a retro patio umbrella shading the chaises.
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Rather than shell out for a built-in pool in the backyard, the Samuels purchased a 2- by 8-foot galvanized stock tank from a farming supply store. With the addition of a pump, filter, tubing, and coat of white paint, they turned it into a sweet spot for a soak. Nearby, cool concrete side tables fill in as stools, paired with a farmhouse-style table.