Thunderbird Heights Residence

Stuart Silk Architects were tasked with updating a mid-century modern house originally built in the 1960s without sacrificing its charm by keeping the bones of the space while Maison Inc. completed the interior work in Rancho Mirage, California.

  • area / size 6,357 sqft
  • Year 2017
  • Type House,
  • Situated on a 1.3-acre site perched on a plateau above Coachella Valley, the rugged, inhospitable Santa Rosa Mountains rise immediately from the back yard; bighorn sheep can often be seen wandering on the rocks above. The 6,357-square-foot house sits roughly in the middle of the property; entry is off the driveway and through a private courtyard.

    The client’s goals were to create an open and light filled home that maximized views of the Coachella Valley below and the Santa Rosa mountains to the south and west. They also wanted to create a fluid connection between the primary indoor rooms and the outdoor terraces both for entertaining and for casual outdoor living with their young children.

    The original design was closed-in and compartmentalized, and though the house was remodeled in the 1980s, it suffered from deferred maintenance. This new remodel eventually encompassed 90% of the existing house, including reconfiguring the entire floor plan and the exterior elevations. Portions of the existing foundation and roof structure were repurposed. New brick walls, delicate cruciform-shaped columns, and steel trellises were introduced, as well as large roof overhangs to limit exposure to the harsh sun. “Walls of floor-to-ceiling glass provide intimate views of the dramatic desert surroundings. The glass extends each room, blurring the line between interior and exterior—the experience is one of living in nature,” notes Silk.

    Among the most significant changes was opening the living room and kitchen to two, open-air terraces, and adding a generous pantry and combined mud/laundry room. Several bedrooms were also added to accommodate the growing family (for a total of five bedrooms). The master bedroom was re-envisioned to open out to a private garden featuring a statue of St. Francis. The master bathroom has its own private outdoor shower that is accessible from the main shower. The swimming pool, previously located in the courtyard, has been relocated and paired with a spa in the spacious rear yard at the base of the rising mountains.

    Architect: Stuart Silk Architects
    Interior Design: Maison Inc.
    Landscape: Anne Attinger
    Contractor: West Coast Builders
    Photography: David Papazian