We Love This Eclectic California Vacation Home
Vancouver designer Mitchell Freedland gets playful with his Palm Springs rancher, incorporating bold colours, quirky patterns and plenty of California cool.
Mid-century-modern design may be synonymous with Palm Springs, but when Vancouver designer Mitchell Freedland looked for that go-to butterfly-roof bungalow, he was outbid nine times. Instead, he found a nondescript Hollywood Regency rancher—one that’s all about location, location, location—and a chance to be less precious about design.
When the Canadian dollar was at par several years ago, he began a hunt for a second home and easy warm-weather getaway. What he finally bought was a 1962 tract house in a faux Beverly Hills Regency style with diminutive Tuscan columns. “It wasn’t what anybody wanted,” he says, “including me.” But its charms sold him: namely, the 11,000-square-foot property with a pool and views of the San Jacinto Mountains.
Despite the home’s great history, location, views and charm, it needed lightening, brightening and more airiness. Freedland gutted the interior and removed walls between the kitchen, living and dining rooms. “The challenge was trying to open it up,” he says, while instilling “a connectivity of materials that add a cohesiveness to the space.” So, the rose-coloured shag carpet was replaced with silver travertine flooring throughout. Oyster-white walls now juxtapose charcoal Caesarstone countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms. To match those new counters, the existing bathroom cabinetry was painted a similar hue of dark grey, set against more of the travertine. Everything is a contrast of white and greys with pops of sunny yellow. “It’s very consistent but playful,” says Freedland.
And “it definitely has a Palm Springs vibe to it,” he adds of the colour and material palette, similar to the Avalon Hotel Palm Springs (formerly the Viceroy) design by Kelly Wearstler. Vintage bergère chairs in a distressed finish are now reupholstered in black cowhide, and sleek sofas are also a slate shade. Black lampshades are lined in gold; mirrors give sparkle and the illusion of depth. There’s a touch of Hollywood glitz throughout, channelling the Beverly Hills Regency look with gilded elements, gold leaf, California shutters, Chinese screens and other Asian antiques—including a huge, granite 1930s art deco Buddha that took three people to lift up on its pedestal.
These riffs on tradition are intentional, playing off those faux Tuscan columns. “It is what it is,” says Freedland. “Rather than try to beat it or rip everything out and change the house, I just kept it. It’s a second house, meant to be fun and playful, not serious. It’s not a precious house.”
That levity let Freeland be freer with the decor. He delved into his inventory of pieces left over from various design projects and reinterpreted for this house. The result: an eclectic mix of furnishings and art from Asian to French vintage and from sources as diverse as local antique dealers to West Elm. Freedland’s inspiration for the use of Asian influenced design was a spread he once saw in Architectural Digest of couture fashion designer James Galanos’s lavish house in Palm Springs. “It was that fantasy chance to mix modern eclectic with Asian antiques,” he says.
It’s all a bit of a departure for the designer and a contrast from the modernist aesthetic of his home in Vancouver. “This house is more decorative than what people would expect of me,” says Freedland. “But I also want to be a decorator as much as a designer.” Part of the joy here was getting to channel another side of himself, adding things like a Christian Lacroix zebra carpet for its “kinetic kind of fun.” Because this is his decompression zone, as he says. “It makes me smile because it’s everything that my place in Vancouver isn’t.”