A Los Angeles Couple Updates a Midcentury Modern Beauty in Palm Springs, California
From our interview with Jeff Olde and Alan Uphold
Alan: Jeff and I met in Palm Springs, California, 26 years ago when we were both on vacation, and we’ve thought for years that we would eventually settle here. We lived in Los Angeles and would visit Palm Springs three or four times a year. After Jeff stopped working in 2018, we decided to make the move. Jeff is a retired Hollywood producer and executive, and I’m a communication consultant and public speaking professor.
We put our beautiful 1928 Spanish Colonial, which we had done a lot of work to, on the market. It had been badly remodeled in the 1980s, but it still had its spiral staircase and coved ceilings and enough hints about what it had once been. We kept the original elements and took the remodeled spaces down to the studs to bring back period details such as Saltillo tiles and period light fixtures.
Jeff: We love the remodeling process—I consider myself a frustrated designer. We were driving by this house in Palm Springs and saw a “For Sale” sign. It was rare to find one that was largely untouched, unlike so many other midcentury homes. So much was original, including the built-in terrazzo coffee table with a firepit, the kidney-shaped pool, and the rock fountain in the front. We thought, “What a jewel!” We closed on it right at the start of the pandemic, in April of 2020.
We believe the architect may have been Howard Lapham, but we are still confirming that. The owner was Edward “Bud” Furer, who won an Oscar for developing special-effects equipment for movie production. There are very few right angles and a lot of diagonal walls in this house. You can tell that the architect designed the rooms in order to maximize the lighting—the angles feel very strategic. And there are clerestory windows that frame the mountains perfectly. It is in Deepwell Estates, an older neighborhood of Palm Springs that is known for Midcentury Modern houses.
Alan: All of the sliding doors open for indoor-outdoor living. That’s the Palm Springs dream!
Jeff: The owner of the house, Mary Moody-Lewis, told us it had been in her family since the 1960s. Furer was a friend of her aunt and uncle, and he sold them the house. It was a shared vacation home for them and her parents, Phil and Grace, who were musicians and worked in Hollywood. Phil and Grace later moved here to live full time and opened a famous nightclub, Moody’s Supper Club, about a mile from the house. Mary had great stories about how her parents would often close the bar at 2 a.m. and bring their favorite friends back to the house to keep the party going. The firepit in the living room didn’t work, so her parents used to fill it with ice and Champagne! The Moody family was a really fun family, and the house has always been a happy house. I think it has good ghosts.
Alan: Mary and her family did a great job preserving the spirit of the house. We’re just paying homage to what has been done before us. The St. Charles kitchen is actually not original—it was installed in 1971—but it’s in perfect mint condition. Our designers [Howard Hawkes and Kevin Kemper at H3K Home+Design] said they rarely see a St. Charles kitchen.
Jeff: They told us they would not take this job if we touched the kitchen! It’s a lot of yellow, but we love it.
From the photos that Mary was so kind to share with us, we could see what was original. The old white floor tile had been replaced with black tile, so we pulled it up and replaced it with white tile.
We did make a few changes to augment what was there and bring things up to speed. In the original design, the entryway faced a flat wall and a closet, so we replaced them with low cabinets and a screen, which brought the entry and the living room together. We also had to redo all four bathrooms, which kind of killed us, but they featured original step-down showers, and we had to make them safe to use. We joke that they must have been from that six-month window when step-down showers were in style.
Alan: If we had wanted to go with the original design, we would have had to demolish the garage to bring back the carport—which we decided not to do. The firepit didn’t have a hood over it, so we got it working again and added a hood. Mary gave us the curving sofa that wraps around the firepit. The sofa was originally blue, and we had it reupholstered in blue again. There was a brick planter in the living room, which we re-created in a different spot. And we replaced the landscaping with environmentally friendly, drought-tolerant landscaping. The biggest compliment that we’ve gotten is that it’s true to the Modernist style but it doesn’t feel like a museum.
Jeff: When we had the house ready in time for the Modernism tour in March last year, Mary came over. She almost canceled because she thought it was going to be too emotional for her to see it. But when she walked in, she was very touched and said that her parents would have loved it.
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