Photo by Chipper Hatter. Mesa Modern, a 2020 Modernism Week Feature Home, is an exceptional home highlighted by extraordinary luxury design, produced by an all-star team. “There's no mistaking that that swimming pool is the star of the show,” said John Feldman, landscape architect.
The story of Mesa Modern, a 2020 Modernism Week Feature Home, is primarily one of connection and collaboration but it is also one of serendipity. Karen Okner, the mastermind behind Mesa Modern, just happened to park on the right street in the Palm Springs neighborhood “The Mesa” on the right day two years ago, where she ran into a couple who had plans to build a house there. After a brief conversation, she ended up with their plans in hand and an idea percolating in her head.
Photo by Manolo Langis. Mesa Modern Project Manager/Producer Karen Okner and the new, serendipitous start of Mesa Modern Home.
“I just thought to myself, ‘What if these clients would let me turn this into a Modernism Week showhouse?’” said Karen. “And I can invite my team—be Willy Wonka and have the golden tickets. I'll give a ticket to my favorite designer, my favorite landscape architect, and I'll bring in all the tile vendors that I love. And I'll do things that nobody else has done and I'll elevate the brands and the quality of product that are in a feature home.”
The client, of course, said yes. Modernism Week is an annual spectator’s delight that takes place every February and is the mecca for midcentury modern architecture, art, interior and landscape design in the Palm Springs area of Southern California, drawing design lovers from all over the world. Karen had provided stone and tile for featured Modernism Week homes over the years, but the Mesa Modern project was the first time she was able to oversee the entire project. With more than 350 events, including tours of iconic homes in more than 30 neighborhoods, being a Feature Home is a badge of pride in the community.
With a vision in her head and her clients’ approval, Karen began handing out her “golden tickets,” with one of her first calls going to interior designer Michelle Boudreau, who had designed the Pool House for a 2019 Modernism Week Feature Home.
“Karen had the idea to have one designer create the design vision for the entire house, so that the house flowed with a consistent approach and thread throughout, showcasing the pinnacle of Palm Springs luxury indoor/outdoor lifestyle—and she invited me to this party!” said Michelle.
The next call went to landscape architect John Feldman of Ecocentrix Landscape Architecture.
“I was so fortunate to cross paths with Karen on projects in Los Angeles in the two years prior to Mesa Modern,” said John. “And she just did some magic for us, I mean, that's the thing about Karen. She's got such a handle on everything and her network is huge. She's such a key person and she definitely becomes a teammate, an invaluable collaborator.”
This collaboration between Karen, Michelle and John was further built on the foundation of the design team at Juniper House, where Karen, owner Bob Allred, and their team provide expert guidance in indoor/outdoor luxury living. For Mesa Modern, Juniper House provided the project’s furnishings, lighting and décor, to capture that new Palm Springs feel—a contemporary take on midcentury modernism.
“The design approach was really to embrace the modern architecture and surrounding environment,” said Michelle. “It was carefully curated with unique, custom details, shapes and texture that were inspired by the sculptural mountains and unique graphic shadows of the desert plants.”
Annie Selke was brought in and the home was outfitted with her Pine Cone Hill fine linens and Dash & Albert rugs. The 3,200-square-foot home and 700-square-foot casita was built by Dantor Martinez Construction and featured artwork from Heather James Fine Art, as well as brands such as Ferguson, Brizo, JennAir, Corian, Hunter Douglas, Dunn Edwards. The house isn’t only beautiful, it also showcases innovative and energy-efficient products from around the world, including smart-home technologies, and incorporates sustainable design and building practices. Looking for brands that fit the bill of “rooted in midcentury design and inspired by a global perspective with an eco-friendly and luxurious vibe” meant that Karen’s next call was to Island Stone.
“The house, even though it was located in the desert, it developed a very global look,” said Karen. “There were definitely manufacturers that were important to me to bring into the house, and Island Stone is a great example of that.” Karen, with her extensive background and expertise in the stone and tile industry, has worked with Island Stone’s David Fatula and Jeff Nibler for more than 20 years, and was adamant about using Island Stone tile in the project.
“It was really important to me to celebrate our friendships and the quality of work that we do together and to support them at Island Stone,” said Karen. “I felt this was a great way to promote a brand that I love so much. It was a win-win on many levels.”
An important part of the partnership with Island Stone was using the tile in less-than-traditional applications, highlighting all the different ways the products can work within a space. When walking into the home, you are immediately greeted by Island Stone’s The Vtile™ II.
“I love how The Vtile™ II has a very modern graphic dimensional V shape that is softened with the natural stone texture,” said Michelle. “I cut the tile wall at an angle to create an unpredictable shape that emanates the mountain angles.”
Another place where Michelle and the team creatively utilized Island Stone tile was as a feature wall in the casita bedroom. “I presented a full wall of the Dunes in Crystal White to act as an interesting dimensional feature wall behind the bed,” said Michelle. “The beautiful soft greys and white crystal create shadows and contrast, with the sunlight streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Since it is dimensional it shares many different looks throughout the day. I love it!”
Outside, landscape architect John Feldman used Island Stone tile in more traditional capacities—for the pool, spa and outdoor shower pad. But given the indoor/outdoor nature of the home, the design decisions inside informed the decisions made for outside as well. The original renderings had the pool and spa with a raised rim in black, but John and his team had to consider all the adjacent materials, as well as the looming mountains.
Photo by Chipper Hatter. The full wall of Dunes tile in Crystal White was done as a “thank you” to Island Stone CEO, Nigel Eaton. “Nigel had said to me in conversation that he'd always thought about how beautiful it would be to have the stone as a headboard behind the bed or as a wall instead of wallpaper. I was thrilled that we were able to do that for him,” said Karen Okner, project producer.
“We thought that there needed to be some levity in the exterior and lighter and brighter colors and colors that tied into the San Jacinto Mountains, which are so close and immediate that they are reflected in the pool,” said John. “The Ripple tile in Stratos Matte is blue but subtle. It’s a color that hearkens to the temperament of the sky.”
Photo by Chipper Hatter
“I would say that it also harkens to the shapes of those of the interior. It's that thread, it's the continuity of all these things that is really key.”
Rembrandt Pools & Spas built the homes’ pool and spa, both of which used Ripple tile, with the spa presenting an exciting technical challenge.
“As a landscape architect, we kind of relish the opportunities to design custom features,” said John. “One of the issues was that we needed tile that could become, in this case, radial. And one of the coolest things, I think, is when we put the Ripple tile on the lateral surfaces of the spa, how it lent itself so well to that.”
The completed outdoor space is vast, with full views of the San Jacinto Mountains and showcases an agave garden, the pool and spa—and plenty of places to soak in the sun, which John finally had a chance to appreciate on the last day on the site.
“During our photoshoot, I finally laid down on one of those chaise lounges under the shade of the umbrella—and to just to sit back and just take it in was so great,” said John. “It was so beautiful. I mean, this is a private residential luxury resort.”
“Just creating these beautiful spaces together, there was just so much joy, because I got to choose all my people that I admire and find so exceptional and really have differentiated themselves in the design industry,” said Karen. “It was such a gift to be able to give them the golden ticket and say, ‘Hey, come on, come to my party.’”
The result of this once-in-a-lifetime collaboration is a modern home that is midcentury inspired, but definitely looking to the future.
“I felt it was important to have a nod and wink to the past and an eye on the future,”said Michelle. “It was meant to explore modernist perspectives of California elegance with an edge.”
During Modernism Week, Mesa Modern was open for self-guided tours, and it was part of a record setting year: Modernism Week officials say the annual event, now in its 15th year, set multiple new records, including an estimated total attendance of 162,000 across all the events. “I have been doing stone and tile for 20 years,” said Karen “I have known I was in the right place at the right time, but boy, the universe put me in front of that house for a reason.”
A number of great partners came together to bring Mesa Modern Home to life. To explore more from them these talented professionals, use the links below:
Karen Okner, Mesa Modern Project Manager/Producer
Michelle Boudreau, Interior Designer
John Feldman of Ecocentrix Landscape Architecture, Landscape Architect
Furnished by Juniper House
Custom home built by Dantor Martinez Construction
Pool and spa built by Rembrandt Pools & Spas
Featured artwork from Heather James Fine Art
Ferguson and Brizo plumbing
Corian floors throughout the entire home
Hunter Douglas custom window coverings
Dunn Edwards paint
Island Stone Product featured in Mesa Modern Home:
The Vtile™ II in Tropical White in the entryway
Dunes in Crystal White as the bedroom headboard
The pool and spa feature Ripple tile in Stratos Matte
Outdoor shower pad finished with Spindrift Marble in Tempest