The Warm Side of Modernism

There's a warming trend in contemporary homes, and it speaks to buyer preferences

July 28, 2017
Skye Palm Springs Hannouche Woodbridge Pacific

Palm Springs, Calif., has been a redoubt for snowbirds and show business royalty at least since the 1930s. It’s had ups and downs and is now experiencing another revival, with artisanal coffee shops and home design stores on its main street. The town’s modernist past, lovingly preserved, is annually celebrated in mid-February when architects, designers, and aficionados descend for Modernism Week. (Passing through unaware? A concentration of distinctive eyeglasses and inspired outfits is a reliable tell.) Lectures, parties, and house tours offer an immersive experience of the style known as Desert Modernism, including landmarks such as Sinatra’s home by E. Stewart Williams and the Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra. 

Palm Springs is steeped in modern architectural history, so building new homes within walking distance of downtown is a bold move. Hannouche Architects, of Newport Beach, Calif., rose to the challenge with Skye Palm Springs, pictured above, which nabbed a Project of the Year Award nod at this year’s Gold Nugget Awards (photo by Anthony Gomez). The homes fit gracefully into their mid-century milieu. But they accomplish something more: meeting the demands of current buyers by offering a warmer kind of contemporary. “We went back to mid-century and had to modernize it,” says founder and principal Samir Hannouche, who notes that original modern homes had lower ceilings, darker materials, and smaller windows and doors than what’s available to builders and architects today. Of Skye, he says, “When you’re sitting, you feel the whole house at the same time and aren’t confined to a corner. Dining, living, and kitchen flow into each other.”

This month, in “Modern Love,” you’ll read about Skye and other contemporary homes across the country that speak to buyer desires. Senior editor Susan Bady, who reported and wrote on the current state of modern design in production architecture, notes a warming trend. “The aim,” she observes, “is houses that don’t look like museums, and that you can actually live in.”

Creator-practitioners of modernism found a haven in Palm Springs. Hannouche, aware of his forebears, recalls that as an architecture student in the 1970s, he was most excited about modernism, but that people weren’t ready for it. What’s different now? “The new generations are looking for simple, abstract designs and less being more, instead of more decoration,” Hannouche says. “I think it fits better everywhere.” As you’ll see, a growing number of builders think so, too.

editor-in-chief

Amy Albert is editor-in-chief of Professional Builder magazine. Previously, she worked as chief editor of Custom Home and design editor at Builder. Amy came to writing about building by way of food journalism, as kitchen design editor at Bon Appetit and before that, at Fine Cooking, where she shot, edited, and wrote stories on kitchen design. She studied art history with an emphasis on architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania, has served on several design juries, and is a recipient of the 2017 Jesse H. Neal Award. 

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