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I had never worked in the Ocotillo Lodge before, and so I was very excited when a new client called and asked me to renovate his approximately 550 square foot condo. The client planned to occasionally use the residence on weekends, and to rent it out as an AirBnB.

Started in 1956 and finished in 1957, the Ocotillo Lodge history is rich. Set on seven acres of prime Twin Palms real estate, the property was originally designed to attract the celebrity clientele of Hollywood to this premiere luxury destination in Palm Springs. Being just two hours from the movie studios (which was the limit on how far actors and actresses could travel), Palm Springs was the perfect vacation getaway for the elite crowd from Los Angeles and beyond.

The property is set on roughly 7 prime acres, and then acquired by the famous actor, cowboy, and singer named Gene Autry in 1963, the Ocotillo Lodge features awe-inspiring views of the San Jacinto mountains from the condos, as well as the champagne cork-shaped pool. (Yes, please!) The list of celebrities who have stayed at or owned condos in this location is extensive, including a few notable favorites like Lucille Ball, Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, George Burns, Gracie Allen and Frank Sinatra.

The Ocotillo Lodge, with 124 rooms and private bungalows, was a collaboration in 1956 between the Alexander Co. and the architectural firm of William Krisel and Dan Saxon Palmer. With a pedigree of having been designed by Palmer and Krisel, built by the Alexanders, and landscaped by Eckbo, this gem stands out in Southern California as a mid-century masterpiece.

In March of 1963, the Desert Sun newspaper announced that Gene Autry and Angel owners purchased the Ocotillo Lodge. The article stated, “Palm Springs’ Ocotillo Lodge now belongs to the biggest Angel of them all, Gene Autry." The Gene Autry Hotel Co. Wednesday announced purchase of 20 hotels and motor hotels In the West, including the 100-room Palm Springs establishment, for $20 million.

Beginning April 1968 and extending through the 1990’s, the Ocotillo Lodge was owned, operated, and redesigned in a Southwestern theme by Jerry Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. Buss purchased the property from Gene Autry, and during this time the resort became a getaway for the team, as well as a place for them to stay during training.

These were the glory days of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Naturally, this created a lot of buzz around the property once again. Buss operated his office poolside. The team was able to relax and stay focused while business visitors would speak to Buss’ bikini-clad assistants before meeting with him in his bathing attire. Can you imagine?

Given its rich history and architectural pedigree, I was excited to get to work. Here is a picture of the before-

And here is the after! I anchored the living room with one of my favorite wallcoverings from Phillip Jeffries, called Jack's Jungle. The oversize monstera leaves are block-printed on white grasscloth, adding a wonderful layer of texture. Installed under the clerestory windows, it really connects to the views of the palm tree tops outside.

In small spaces, I often like to make fewer, bolder moves.



The kitchen features cabinetry from IKEA, which we customized with floating shelves made locally. Continuing the theme of bold strokes, we selected a oversized subway tile in a juicy orange hue, and installed it all the way to the ceiling. The light fixture is from Etsy.



To maximize storage and visual continuity, we continued the kitchen cabinetry into the dining nook. The tall cabinets allowed us to add a pantry and a Bosch washer and dryer, which the unit previously did not have. We scoured the internet for the vintage light fixture. The graphic artwork, commissioned from local artist Julio Machado, features the clubhouse of Ocotillo Lodge itself and the champagne-cork swimming pool.



I continued the wallcovering from the living room into the bedroom -- it is along the same outside wall -- which really connects the two spaces. On the bed wall, which is visible from the living room, we used Phillip Jeffries' Manila Hemp grasscloth, in a leafy hue that matches the Jack's Jungle.

The bathroom was extensively renovated. Below is the before-

...And here is our after!

We selected 1" mosaic tile by Hakatai and carried it behind both the toilet and the vanity -- again a trick to visuall expand the small space. We opted for once sink, as opposed to two, which allowed us to expand the shower a bit and increase the counter space. The cabinetry is custom, with paints by Dunn-Edwards, and the light fixture is from Etsy.

Even though this was probably our smallest project ever at just 550sf, my Dream Team and I enjoyed every minute of it and couldn't be prouder of the end result. And, bonus: our client loves it so much that he uses it frequently and is hesitant to rent it out!

I never judge a project by its size or budget. The client relationship, scope of work, creativity required, and ability to have fun are much more important to me than square footage.

I hope you enjoyed this tour!



Source for Ocotillo Lodge History:

Photos: Nathan Cox


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