When it comes to traditional show house assignments, “generally, it’s a blank canvas,” designer Michael Berman says. For the Desert Oasis Show House held in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, however, the brief was different. In reimagining the ’70s abode designed by architect John Walling, “we were given inspiration by the owner,” Berman explains. “I believe in creating homes people are happy in, and I wanted to follow that directive and make sure everyone followed it too.”
The 4,350-square-foot house—which involved a roster of 11 designers, one builder, and a landscape architect—is now open to the public through April 10 and is hosting a full slate of special events planned in collaboration with Design Collective. Inside, the home has transformed into a transportive oasis centered on a theme far removed from its SoCal desert locale: “He has a penchant for all things Polynesian and South Pacific, and loves that retro, organic surf-tiki vibe,” Berman says of the homeowner. Selections from his own vintage collection are on display with descriptive text, as are his surfboards, which backdrop the family room. Elsewhere, a restored fiberglass shark head hangs over the living room bar. “And you know what? It works so beautifully here because of the language of midcentury modern and the indoor-outdoor lifestyle,” Berman adds.
Beyond its fun factor, the theme comments on more important conversations taking place within the industry surrounding cultural representation and ownership. “There’s a fine line between kitsch and whimsy and inspiration in this house. Once you walk in, you have to go with it,” Berman observes. That said, Berman is aware of the critiques surrounding “tiki” culture, which, at times, has been seen as derogatory or exoticizing towards South Pacific people. With that in mind, he and his team aspired to treat motifs with respect and contextualize them where possible. “Whatever we’ve done, we’ve done sensitively,” he says.
The design team from the Coachella Valley, Los Angeles, and Orange County regions includes Linda Allen, Donna Johnson, Jenika Kurtz, Shannon Palmer, Jen Samson, Huma Sulaiman, Maya Williams, Chris Barrett, and Karen Okner. Additional contributors included David Wood of Big Wood Builders, John Feldman of Ecocentrix Landscape Architecture, color specialist Amy Wax, and closet designer Robyn Howard. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, FIND Food Bank, and the Special Olympics of Southern California.
The down-to-the-studs renovation incorporated products from sponsors including Pirch, Veranda View, Circa Lighting, and curator Chip Tom of Heather James Fine Art, who partnered on the fine art selection. Put simply by Berman, the collaborative effort was about “editing down the essence of the vibe and mixing in soft contemporary and midcentury furniture, as well as working with all the background materials in the house to create a new, modern setting.”
Continue reading for a tour inside.