Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

 

Set against the backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains in Palm Springs is an unassuming weekend retreat for San Francisco architect Jim Jennings and his wife and architectural writer Terese Bissell. The deceptively simple structure is defined by tall concrete-block walls that enclose 280 square metres of space. These stark white painted walls are arranged in a grid formation which dictates the scale and precise proportions of the house.

Jennings’ work is characterised by clean lines and geometric forms so it’s no surprise that his own dwelling is highly resolved and rigorous to the core. Every detail has been considered and designed to Jennings’ exacting specifications. He recounts that “when you’re your own client, you can be as demanding as you like. And you know how difficult everything will be, especially when it appears simple.” The couple took their time with the process, moving into the house in 2009, ten years after they purchased the block of land.

 

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

 

The rectilinear retreat seems to float in the landscape. The approach to the house is not via a driveway but rather across the white desert sand and native vegetation up to the carport entry. An anodised aluminium pivoting door ushers you from the carport to the front courtyard which also doubles as the main dining area. The enclosed area of the house is around 70 square meters and makes up only a quarter of the entire site. It is anchored by the modest kitchen, bathroom and hearth grouped in the centre of the plan. This central zone is flanked by the living room and bedroom each opening out onto a larger second courtyard and luxurious lap pool. The view of the mountains beyond the courtyard is simply breathtaking. Jennings explains that “the emptiness of the pool courtyard intensifies one’s sense of the mountain… it is a void that works in counterpoint with the solid.”

With sunny day far outnumbering dull days, the courtyards are an extension of internal space. Jennings redefines indoor-outdoor living by creating intimacy through enclosure, where openness is experienced within the walled perimeter. Creating an inside-out expression of modernism, the home contrasts with typical Palm Springs modernist architecture, which celebrates openness as an extension of the surrounding landscape.

 

Related: Stories on Design // Outdoor Rooms.

 

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

Jim Jennings' Own Desert Retreat in Palm Springs | Yellowtrace

 

The interior is left minimal and pure yet the decor divulges flourishes of the couple’s personality. Instead of sourcing anything new, the house is furnished with architectural drawings, a Charles Eames splint, a Parentesi lamp, abstract art and other furniture that Jennings designed – all of which the couple already owned. Reinforcing the indoor-outdoor mode of living, each piece was considered for its weather-resistant properties and if they were suited to external elements such as Cappellini’s Spring plastic chairs by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec which sit in the living room.

This desert retreat is an elegant structure with strange allure. It is altogether orderly and refined as well as intimate and residential. Jennings describes the home as an “antidote to urban living” where it takes cues from the surrounding landscape to create an ideal dwelling for two. Experiencing the space must be utterly sublime.

 

See more projects in Palm Springs on Yellowtrace.

 

 


[Images courtesy of Jim Jennings. Photography © Joe Fletcher.]

 

About The Author

Fenina Acance

Architecting away in Melbourne, Fenina is a shameless fashion, art and design fanatic who loves defying the relentless Melbournian uniform of black on black on black. Often spotted strutting a boisterous mix of pattern and colour, her eclectic love for the bold, raw and textured fuels her passion for design and contemporary art. When not indulging in Cy Twombly’s sensitive scribbles or Serra’s evocative sculptural forms, her love for everything Italian consumes the rest of her time. Whether it’s the language, design or food (especially food), Fenina is obsessed!

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