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The Fallows House 1973

Palm Springs, CA, Spring 2021

 

Neighbors called it the dark fortress, but after walking through the mysterious brown entry gate, rickety wood privacy wall, ornate etched glass "pancake house" double doors, the owners looked past layers of Santa Fe style decor and Western art… to see a home almost Miesean in simplicity, filled with light.  High ceilings, a spacious floor plan, stunning desert gardens, walls of glass and an Omnimax view of the mountains from the sunken bar sealed the deal.

 

The couple, musicians known as the Gand Band, had owned two other Midcentury homes in Vista Las Palmas: a Charles Dubois A-Frame “Swiss Miss” and the Hal Levitt-designed Morse House. Always up for a change and a challenge, the couple became the third owners of the 1973 Fallows House, planning to peel back the dated décor and layers of wallpaper (even on the ceiling) and uncover a desert gem of Late Modernism.

 

The home’s original blueprints, dated 1971, revealed that the architect was Tom Jakway. When the Gands reached out to him, he shared the surprising history of the house. In 1971, he was a Palm Springs High School summer intern age 17, getting an early start in his chosen field working for Stan Sackley, a designer of luxury spec homes. It was completed in 1973 for Dr. Alan Fallows and his wife Irene, who had purchased three lots, two in Indian Canyons and this one in Vista Las Palmas. Fallows built three Jakway-designed homes, and chose to live in this one. Jakway, who grew up loving architecture as the son of a local builder, went on to work in Don Wexler’s office, and eventually started his own firm, which he still operates today. 

The garden of varied and unusual desert plants was created by the second owners, Rose and Dr. Cone. Their landscape designer was brought back in by the Gands to restore and expand the existing garden so it can be seen from all windows in the house. A new outdoor dining patio is surrounded by lush desert plantings and textured gravels. The existing large raised planting beds were restored and refilled with plants to match the older areas.

 

The wood privacy wall (not original) was removed from the front of the house, the plantings were expanded, and a verdant entry court softens the modernist rectilinear forms of the facade. When the stucco exterior was painted a soft limestone white, the true beauty of the architecture was visible for the first time in decades. The original blueprints revealed that full height flat panel front double doors were originally specified. The ornate etched glass double doors were removed, saving the Forms and Surfaces handles, and replaced with full height custom flat panel, fluted wood doors painted a welcoming yellow, which is also a featured color throughout the house.

 

The Gands did all the design work and launched an extensive interior remodel with the goal to recreate the early 1970’s vibe. They kept the original travertine sunken bathtub, pecky cypress wood paneling, and ceiling soffits with up lighting.  The kitchen, bathrooms, and bar were all rebuilt back to 1970’s style. New fossil limestone floors were laid, and the interior and exterior were repainted a soft limestone color to better highlight the architecture. Finally, the ornate etched glass double doors were replaced with custom fluted wood doors painted a welcoming yellow, which is also a featured color throughout the house. The décor includes their extensive collection of vintage midcentury furniture, art, decorative objects, and musical instruments. 

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Photo by Tom Blachford

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