William Krisel in Palm Springs – Mid-Century meets Contemporary

Contemporary style is the order of the day in this original mid-century house. Located in Palm Springs, and built in 1958 by the ubiquitous pairing of Alexander Construction Company and designer William Krisel, it is a calm interlude amid an immense landscape of mountains and sea.

William Krisel in Palm Springs

William Krisel made his name designing houses like this. Graduating from his architectural education in 1949, he was perfectly poised to exploit the growing affection the American market had for modern aesthetics. His principle business ended up being work with developers. It was so fruitful that at one point, in the early 1960s, his practice employed 60 people and was refusing commissions for anything under 50 houses.

William Krisel in Palm Springs – Mid-Century meets Contemporary

Indeed, Krisel was responsible for designing as many as 30,000 homes throughout Southern California, frequently in collaboration with the Alexander Construction Company. In Palm Springs alone, he built 2,500 homes, almost doubling the size of the city in the process. According to an LA Times article “whole neighborhoods of his original homes still exist, as if in a time warp.”

William Krisel in Palm Springs – Mid-Century meets Contemporary

William Krisel in Palm Springs – Mid-Century meets Contemporary

Throughout his heyday, Krisel’s approach involved pragmatically introducing a modern aesthetic upon the tract housing that proliferated in the period. As such, it is interesting to note with this particular house how the original layout and structure works with the more contemporary aesthetic choices.

This tension is most apparent in the foundation of white throughout the interior design, which has evidently been updated quite recently. In a more faithful mid-century interior, a block of white would tend to be punctuated by a natural feature, a polished wood beam for instance. Contemporary tastes are also apparent in the presence of bold colours and patterns interspersed with the occasional greys and the brown of the wood panelling and clean sleek work surfaces, and the general absence of period furniture

William Krisel in Palm Springs – Mid-Century meets Contemporary

William Krisel in Palm Springs – Mid-Century meets Contemporary

These choices lend a much brighter and cleaner atmosphere to the house (no doubt befitting the Palm Springs culture) but it does take limit the kind of interaction between the outdoor environment which is so characteristic of a modernist interior. Even so, it is difficult to really detract from the beauty of this mid-century original, with its floor to ceiling windows, open plan and butterfly roof.

William Krisel in Palm Springs – Mid-Century meets Contemporary

William Krisel in Palm Springs – Mid-Century meets Contemporary

Moreover, the very fact of the home’s continued existence is testament to the less obvious qualities of this period of house building, such as the structural elements. This was housing that was designed with the twin concerns of quality and value in mind. As such, it was and remains characteristically mid-century.

William Krisel in Palm Springs – Mid-Century meets Contemporary

Photos via Curbed

Krisel is still alive today, and remains a member of the American Institute of Architects. As an article profiling the architect explains, he has not even seen some of the houses he built. With so many other houses to his name he is probably fairly easy-going about the cosmetic changes made to this house. And content that an effort has been made to bring his original vision more in accordance with contemporary taste.

Read more

Read more