Abitare Design Studio has long been a destination for contemporary furnishings and artwork, but it’s the level of expertise and collaboration that owner Jim Snustad and manager David Wehrspann deliver upon time and again that keeps clients coming back for projects requiring immeasurable originality. Rancho Mirage, California, was one such canvas fit for the Minneapolis firm’s artistic approach. Having worked with Abitare on multiple projects over a 20-year span, the clients (now more like friends) were eager to create a desert oasis that oozes modern California cool.
To accomplish this, California-based architecture firm Hudgins Design Group made sure to keep the outdoors front and center. The home sits high above the Coachella Valley, capitalizing upon postcard-worthy views. The great room features 15-foot ceilings and a retractable glass door that totals 50 feet of uninterrupted vistas. The door disappears into the exterior wall completely, providing seamless access to the veranda. “There’s no mistaking that it’s the hub for indoor/outdoor entertaining,” says Wehrspann. To appropriately fill such an expansive space, the designers anchored the great room with a generously sized sectional and a custom 14-by-24-foot rug that not only grounds the area but also establishes the color palette for the entire abode.
Wehrspann had a sample of the rug stowed away for years, waiting for just the right adventurous client. “Starting with the rug was key,” he notes, its palette and pattern a perfect suit for this unique project. Ochre and mustard hues evoke the rawness of the landscape and are offset by hints of cream, black and gray in a bold, angular pattern. The natural tones travel throughout the home, as highlighted in the modern bergère lounge chairs with woven leather straps as well as the ochre linen barrel chairs in the dining room.
Outdoors, luxury living abounds. The vast 58-foot veranda boasts multiple zones for respite, including an alluring lounge space with fire feature as well as a hot tub and infinity pool with waterfall edges that sit flush with the patio tile for an ultra modern look. A deep roof overhang provides shade throughout the day and cloisters the interiors for a sheltered feel amid the rocky terrain.
Keeping scale top of mind, the Abitare team designed a king-size daybed primed for poolside lounging; it also offers a bench along the back, making for easy conversation between sunbathers and diners at the nearby table. Snustad and Wehrspann truly made dreams come to life, collaborating with North Carolina–based Thayer Coggin to transform specific lounge chairs to be outdoor-friendly. “They had never produced outdoor furniture before,” explains Wehrspann, but the brand was eager to take on the challenge thanks to the dedicated duo. Traditional indoor wood slats were substituted with marine-grade stainless steel and the cushions constructed with quick-dry foam.
The veranda isn’t the only area where the team delivered on indoor/outdoor living. The two guest rooms have private patios, while the casita boasts a bedroom, kitchenette, office, laundry and retractable glass wall leading to a covered courtyard. “Within the casita, guests have total control,” Snustad declares. “It’s their own private retreat.” Indeed, the entire property feels like an intimate sanctuary. The slatted ipe wood exterior is decidedly Californian, warmly welcoming you into the courtyard. Once there, overhead slats shield the 100-foot walkway to the front door, which provides an artful entrance thanks to a CJ Rench stainless-steel sculpture situated in the reflecting pool.
Much of the artwork was specially commissioned for the design-savvy clients. One notable composition hangs above the linear fireplace in the great room: a 5-by-11-foot fiberglass piece by Minneapolis mixed-media artist Peter Geyen with a sci-fi landscape that includes cast bronze mountains and earthquake fault lines. “To say it’s a conversation-starter is an understatement,” the designers remark of its scale. The artwork mimics the contours of the courtyard sculpture while balancing another stunner within eyesight: the dining room light fixture. Made of carbon fiber, the unique chandelier sprawls over the oak table, lending a futuristic touch to the modern interiors.
Another personal piece in the owners’ collection is a grouping of white matte glass ovals in the primary bedroom. Each one was individually placed by the artist himself, Christopher Jeffries, who transposed the arrangement from the clients’ previous home then expanded upon the organic pattern. Beneath this installation sits a custom ombre Italian leather headboard flanked by stately nightstands. The adjoining closet, vanity station and bath are an absolute haven, featuring a clean palette of wood and porcelain as seen in the rest of the residence. Wrapped around the spa-like wet room is laser-cut Corten steel, forming a beautiful geometric barrier for added privacy.
The open-concept floor plan demands that each space is as beautiful as the next. In the kitchen, the Abitare team quite literally leveled up the interior by taking the porcelain wall slabs all the way to the ceiling, drawing the eye upward. This effect is complemented by latch-close cabinetry designed with multiple depths for visual interest. The outer edges of the etched glass and wooden cabinets are wrapped in blackened steel for a bit of warmth, matching the range hood. A prep kitchen accommodates larger gatherings, housing all the essentials as well as a built-in espresso bar and a wine cellar.
When the owners aren’t entertaining, they can comfortably cozy up in the media room, which Snustad and Wehrspann refined from the original floor plan. “We wanted to give them a more intimate space for their day-to-day,” Snustad concludes. “It was a great pleasure working on this project and collaborating with clients so open to unique and fresh ideas.”