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Balboa Living Room: The Voyage Home

The tour of our Forever Home Fixer continues with the formal living room.

We bought our new home, our #foreverhomefixer, in the summer of 2020 -- during the most uncertain times of the pandemic.

The home itself is 3160 square feet and built in 1978. It had 3 bedrooms and 3 baths when we purchased it. We added a powder room half bath. It is on the golf course in the historic Indian Canyons neighborhood of Palm Springs, which was started development in the 1960s and boasts the first 18-hole golf course in Palm Springs.

The house was For Sale by Owner, with a faded hand-written sign featuring a phone number with a San Diego area code. To say that it was a "fixer upper" would be a vast understatement! The owner, who was indeed based in San Diego, had practically abandoned the property. I could tell, from photos he showed me, that he enjoyed good times in the house several years before, but he had not used the property in quite some time -- obviously.


Before & After: The Living Room

Above: This is a photo from the first time that I toured the house. It was the summer of 2020, in the depths of the COVID pandemic.

I knew immediately that it was meant to be our home. Does that sound crazy?

The living room had parquet wood floors, which I have never seen in Palm Springs, that were crumbling up in places.

The homeowner was "showing" the home with this mess inside! He didn't seem embarrassed by it, at all. He actually talked about his plans to remodel the home and how much more money it would be worth once he did so.

Obviously, I couldn't let that happen. I already loved it, mess and all.

I wish I could say that I had it all designed in my head the first time I saw it, but that's not really the case.

Design is a journey, and designers are notoriously indecisive when it comes to their own homes. So, how does an interior designer go about designing their own home?


The Journey

Well, first we cleaned it out. Friends helped us clear and donate as much as possible.

Then, we removed the parquet floor.

Then, we moved in.

As you may know, we did not officially close on the house for over seven months due to, shall we say...escrow complications.

But, we moved in before we officially got title to the property. In no small part to secure the deal. But without legal possession, of course we did not want to over-improve the space.

As much as I love my home now, and as impatient as I was at the time to have it done, this COVID-crazy multi-year remodel is something that I will never forget -- and I look back on it fondly.

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.

I love that quote from Omar Khayyam. It reminds me that life is made up of a series of moments. Sure, we can plan for the future. Dream about it. Make plans for it. But the secret to success and happiness is to be joyful in the present.

If you look closely at the picture above you can even see my swatches and samples for possible design schemes on the coffee table. Dreaming about it, and planning it, was almost as fun as the final result. And, although I am sure it went through many iterations, the end palette is not far off from those samples on the table.

I guess I like yellow, green, black and brown. And I like my living room furniture to be arranged sort of like a hotel lobby, with various seating areas that accommodate groups of various sizes. And I guess I always have.


The History

Recently, I found some pictures of our first home in Indian Canyons. This would be around 2012. I was very much into my design icon, David Hicks, at the time. 1970s resort-style glamour had a hold on my design psyche, and apparently, it has never let go.


Well, this looks familiar.

  • vaulted ceiling with whitewashed beams

  • double sofas in a light fabric with yellow and green pillows

  • fireplace separating two rooms

  • large pieces of abstract art

We sold this home over ten years ago, and I had not thought about these pictures in a very long time.

Then came our next home.



Apparently, I am a creature of pattern and habit.



It was a two-year journey of down-to-the-studs renovation during a pandemic -- and, coincidentally, a boom in the housing / design / construction business -- but we are finally, once again, home.

I like to think that it gets better with each iteration.

Until I looked at these old photos, I didn't really know exactly why I felt so comfortable in our new home. Of course, home is where David and Harley are. But, apparently I also got back to me, design-wise.

There are only two decor possessions that David and I will never sell. One is our Ibex dining table, which is the focal point of our dining room.

The other one is a Brutalist chandelier, which as you see, has graced each of our living rooms since we came to own it. We feel very fortunate to be stewards of this beautiful piece. Some of our most prized possessions are actually cast-offs from clients, and this was actually the first.⁣

Early in my career, I was in a dinner meeting about a whole-home remodel. My gracious Italian client was cooking us a fabulous meal when her brother politely "crashed" the meeting...and proceeded to casually mention that he had recently bought a new house. (They both already owned properties in Palm Springs.) His new house was in fact a pedigreed one, built by TV star Jack Webb at the height of his fame as Sergeant Joe Friday on the iconic show "Dragnet." ⁣

Would I consider working on the house, he asked? The family was Chicago-based, and I the distinct pleasure to bring their new winter home to life. The Brutalist chandelier came with the house, and was not to my client's liking. We traded some design services for the chandelier, and I would say that it was a win-win, wouldn't you?

Above: Pillow fabric by Elitis France. Vintage coffee table from Dragonette Ltd.


Finally, Home

There are a few design adages that I tell my clients during the collaborative process.

  • If you love something the first time you see it, chances are you will love it the 1000th time.

  • Listen to your gut and to your initial internal reaction.

  • Don't worry about what your friend, or neighbor, or sister-in-law thinks. This is your home. Preferably, don't even show them our design plans.

  • To thine own self be true.

I hope you enjoyed this tour,

and thank you for walking with me down memory lane.




Photography: Public 311 Design

Styling: Keith Fortner




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