An abridged version of the below paragraph appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of ARCHITECT as part of expanded coverage of the 2021 AIA Interior Architecture Awards.
The lone single-family home among the AIA 2021 Interior Architecture Award recipients, San Francisco–based Aidlin Darling Design’s High Desert Retreat won honors in this category for a reason. The house, located about two hours east of Los Angeles in Mountain Center, Calif., has a sleek, low-slung profile that creates an alluringly anomalous presence in the wild landscape of the San Jacinto Mountains. But its interior is what is so unexpected. With a limited palette of blonde timber, acetylene-burnt wood, dark steel, and polished concrete, the architects have achieved a domestic ambience of exquisitely rustic sublimity. The interior’s siting is rather daring—not boosted above the ground plane but placed unusually close to it, such that the floor-to-ceiling windows gracing most rooms appear to bring the great outdoors right inside. The effect is particularly striking in the master bedroom and bath, where trees and rock formations creep right up to the building perimeter, creating the thrilling sensation of being simultaneously exposed to the elements and ensconced in luxury.
Project: High Desert Retreat, Palm Desert, Calif.
Architect: Aidlin Darling Design. Joshua Aidlin, FAIA (partner-in-charge), Adam Rouse (project architect), Ben Damron, Sarah Kia, Jeff LaBoskey (project team)
Mechanical Consultant: Monterey Energy Group
Structural Engineer: Strandberg Engineering
Civil Engineer and Surveyor: Feiro Engineering, Inc.
General Contractor: D.W. Johnston Construction Any other consultants, with their roles:
Interior Designer: Aidlin Darling Design
Furniture and Art Selection: FAD Architecture Design
Low-Voltage Systems: Custom Controls
Geotechnical Engineer: Sladden Engineering
Size in Square Feet: 3,100-square-foot home and 600-square-foot garage
MATERIALS AND PRODUCTS
Interior: Benjamin Moore Low-VOC Paints
M. Bathroom Towel Heater: Vola
Wine Refrigerator: Sub-Zero
Wine Cellar: Viking Bathroom Fixtures:
Shower Faucets: Dornbacht, Waterworks, Rohl
Sinks: Agape Design (Pedestal Sink in Powder Room only)
Tub: Zen Bathworks Carpet:
Cabinetry in Kitchen, Pantry, Living Room, M. Bedroom, M. Closet
Cabinetry in Bathroom: Henrybuilt
Kitchen Countertops: Carerra Marble
Master Bedroom Flooring: ReSawn Timber Co.
Thermal & Moisture Barriers: Grace Ice & Water Shield, Stego Wrap
Faucets: Blanco Culina
Lighting Control System: Lutron
Switches and Plates: Meljac
Window Shading System: Lutron Lighting:
M. Bathroom Vanity Light: Vode Lighting
Exterior Wall Sconces: B-K Lighting
Exterior Trellis Lighting: B-K Lighting Masonry and Stone:
Photovoltaics: 15kw system
Roofing: Carlisle Syntec System
Exterior Decking: Kebony
Spa: Diamond Spas
Outdoor Shower: JEE-O
Outdoor Gas heater: bistroSchwank
Outdoor Decking: Kebony
Exterior & Interior Siding: ReSawn Timber Co.
Windows, Window Wall Systems, & Roof Windows/Skylights: Monumental Windows and Doors
Custom Glass & Steel Entry Door: Pivot: Dorma
Lock Set: Schlage
Door Hardware: Emtek
This project was recognized with an AIA 2021 Interior Architecture Award. From the firm's 2021 AIA Award submission:
Perched on a rocky plateau near California's Palm Desert, this retreat embraces the rugged climate and offers captivating views of the Coachella Valley and the San Jacinto Mountains. Informed by a simple brief that called for a modest home to serve as a retreat from the owners' busy urban lives, this abode quietly contrasts with the surrounding landscape's lighter palette.
Many camping trips on the site allowed the team to better understand the climate's nuances, including the significant temperature swings between day and night and the positioning of the site's pinyon pines and sculpture-like boulders. Enhanced by the power of the ever-changing light conditions, these trips shifted the thinking around the house, leading to a vision of it as a simple framing device through which to observe the dynamic terrain.
Crisp in its geometry, the house sits low to the ground to minimize its presence on the landscape, and it contrasts with the desert's organic forms. The exterior is wrapped with wood siding that has been acetylated, burnt, and wire-brushed to provide a highly textured finish that is both insect- and rot-resistant. Inside, the team opted for a mix of concrete, wood, stone, and steel that works in concert to provide both durability and warmth.
The home's diagram is split into three discrete elements: a floating roof plane, a collection of wooden volumes, and two concrete anchor walls. The square roof handles several functions, namely shelter from the intense desert sun and ample exposure, through a single aperture, at the pool area. Below the roof, seven wooden volumes define the home's program, and the two anchor walls frame the entry sequence from the garage. The parallel walls not only lead to the glazed entrance of the home, but they also frame the dining area and the grand view of the valley to the east.
Many who live in this remote region, which is only accessible by vehicle, have pledged to keep the environment as intact as possible. In alignment with the owners' wishes, no ancient pinyon pines or rock formations were disturbed during the construction process. On a site where wild meets constructed directly, the pool and other water features provide evaporative cooling and serve as fortuitous watering holes for local wildlife. The home's open-air breezeways have not disturbed existing animal pathways, allowing jackrabbits, quail, and other animals continued access to their cross-ridge trails.