Upon spotting an original William Krisel designed home for the Alexander Company via our Mid-Century Home Owners Facebook Group, we got in touch with homeowner Steven Ferrarese to inquire about how he came to be in possession of the Vista Las Palmas home.
As a fresh owner of this historic house, Steven has steered clear of renovations and plans to fully embrace its authentic, timeless design. Needless to say, the house is gorgeous and with walls of glass and clerestory windows, stunning mountain views come with the package.
First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am originally from New York City. After practicing law for a short period of time, I decided to change careers. I always thought that it would be nice to spend a couple of years in Los Angeles and enjoy the temperate weather. I moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school at UCLA. By the time that I graduated, I had not satisfied my desire to live the California lifestyle so I stayed. I am a big fan of sports, especially college football and college basketball. I am a bigger fan of dogs – I have two rescues named Chase and Stella.
How did you come to live in your house and what drew you to the mid-century style?
Before I moved to Los Angeles, I visited Palm Springs many times to enjoy the stark contrast to the East Coast that the desert offered. While exploring Palm Springs, I noticed many of the homes looked very hip and original. Many of them had soaring roof lines and walls of glass. To me, they were stunning. On the inside were simple layouts with very little excess. The walls of glass and the clerestory windows not only provided mountain views but also brought in beautiful light and made the living space expand beyond the confines of the floor plan.
During my visits, I would drive throughout various neighborhoods and early on I discovered Vista Las Palmas.. The neighborhood is a classic Mid-Century Modern area with every house looking authentic and ready for a photo shoot.
For the past 20 years, I saw many great examples of mid-century modern architecture in many desirable neighborhoods. However, no matter how great the house, I kept coming back to Vista Las Palmas and I realized that no other neighborhood could compare.
What do you think was so special about this period in American design?
This period was post-war and it captured the optimism of our nation. Many of the homes appeared to be influenced by the space age with an eye toward the future. Even some of the roof lines pointed toward the sky. It was a design that was applied to modest tract homes that looked like custom homes. It allowed the residents to enjoy the inside and the yard at the same time. This design is exemplified in open floor plans filled with light.
What do you know about the architect who designed your house?
William Krisel was the architect who designed the house for the Alexander Company. From what I have read, throughout his education and practice, Mr. Krisel continually explored, refined and redefined Modernist concepts. In his mass-produced housing tracts, he was able to use Modernist design to satisfy the pragmatic economics of the home building industry. In many developments,he used one floor plan and made them unique by using different facades.
Do you feel a certain sense of responsibility when living in a house designed by such a famous architect?
I do. I don’t plan on changing the style of this house – I searched for it. If you are lucky to own a house that has some architectural significance, I believe that it should be embraced. I embrace this style because I love it.
What are the advantages/struggles of living in a mid-century house?
Good design is timeless. For me, it feels like vacation time all of the time. These houses, especially in Palm Springs, evoke a leisure lifestyle. You enjoy the beautiful views and the special sunlight from inside and outside of the house. The main advantage is an indoor/outdoor lifestyle that is well-suited for an area with abundant sunshine and warm weather.
Do you feel constrained in your interior design choices because of the property’s heritage?
A little bit. I stick to mid-century modern furnishings to create a cool stylish mood; however, I believe that a few modern or some hollywood glam pieces could fit in well if that is what you desire. I do not think that eclectic decorations or shabby chic would be appropriate for these homes. In spite of my constraints, the clean lines of the interior design should not interfere with furnishings inspired by other periods.
Last but not least, do you have any tips for people interested in buying a mid-century house today? What should they pay attention to and why?
Ultimately, you are buying a very functional house without much excess. Since the windows are a big part of the design, you should make sure that the windows are energy efficient.
Since the ceilings are exposed, you need to plan your lighting and ductwork for the HVAC. In addition, it would be great to find a house in a neighborhood of mid-century modern homes so that when you walk out of your front door and down your block you are greeted by the architecture that you appreciate.