Palm Springs Life

A Bright, Sunshiny Day
Palm Springs Life, May 2011

The elements of gracious desert living blossom at an exclusive fashion week kickoff luncheon at the Ship of the Desert House of Trina Turk and Jonathan Skow. Read more...


The Ship of the Desert

"The Ship Of The Desert" sails into restoration and preservation by the new owners of a husband and wife fashion team Trina Turk and Jonathan Skow of Los Angeles with James A. McBride, II, Architect and Construction Administrator.

The original property was under construction in 1936 during the Depression years on the Davidson Estate which enjoys a panoramic view of the desert valley. McBride considers this view to the desert in parallel to his Red Mountain Road view in Aspen of a converted barn into a residence by architect Fritz Benedict of Aspen; the design architect of Snow Mass where McBride was working in 1965 to 1968. The Barn on Red Mountain Road was owned by Jane Mayer of Chicago, the daughter-in-law of the owner of the Carson Perrie Scott Building of Chicago whom commissioned Louis Sullivan for the building design, protege of Frank Lloyd Wright.

This trail of architectural history of design elements and connection with the 1995 Camino Monte Estate leads to the original architects Erie Webster and Adrian Wilson from Los Angeles and their design concepts for this era. This design is an expression of the renowned influence of Frank Lloyd Wright's direction to integrate the residence into the surrounding landscape.

Another prominent design in the era is the Kauffman home designed by Richard Neutra in 1946-47, 10 years later. Both houses places itself in the Art Deco Era of Modernism, with bones of grace and style as good as today as the day of its origin.

Ironically, the design of this house was probably conceived in the same year of my birth. The Sunset Magazine article in October 1937 christened this house as "the Ship of the Desert" now this restoration of this house is currently scheduled for completion in October 1998, 61 years later and the design of this house still is a valid design into today's time.

The new owners of today are meticulous in preserving every aspect of the original design in particular the plumbing fixtures and hardware and the door hardware. Jonathan Skow, a stylist is personally restoring the hardware and has found replacement lavatories as necessary from a 1934 house in Los Angeles, utilizing American standard fixtures and hardware. Someone enclosed the second floor balcony with windows. Jonathan and Trina requested that this balcony be returned to an open air balcony. The owners and the architect studied the existing exterior design and developed a solution to harmonize with the existing design.

Arthur Coleman, Palm Springs Life Photographer and wife Cheryll purchased the house in January 1979 from Robert Ford in San Francisco, and resided there for 11 years adding their cecorative touches to the house. Now to the written history of the past October 1937 Sunset Magazine.

A home that includes the furniture... Millard Sheets, nationally known young western artist and decorator was in our office recently, chatting about western homes. When we showed him proofs of the pictures on this month's cover and on these pages he became enthusiastic.

"I've watched that house go up," he said, "and it's by all odds one of the most interesting new houses in the West."

The reason Mr. Sheets thinks this Palm Springs house is so interesting, and one of the reasons we had chosen it, is that it represents a great idea that can be applied in planning any house, large or small.

The idea is this: Plan your furniture and its arrangements at the same time you're planning the house itself.

"It's the simple, obvious idea.l" he said, "but how often ignored! People wouldn't think of planning a bathroom without providing enough space for the tub or a kitchen too small for the range and refrigerator.l

But when it comes to the other rooms in the house, they often forget, and then wake up to find, for instance, a living room in which the furniture won't fit in or lend itself to harmonious grouping."

The Palm Springs house shown here is an excellent example of how house and furnishings can be planned together. From the beginning, the architects, Erie Webster and Adrian Wilson of Los Angeles, and Miss Honor Easton of Los Angeles, the interior decorator, worked together, so that there was complete harmony between the scheme and color of the interior decoration and the plan and color of the house. Look at the drawings above, and you'll see that every piece of furniture -- whether built-in or moveable -- was provided for in the original plan. Look at the interiors pictured on the opposite page, and you'll see how successfully this coordinated planning worked out.

The same kind of careful planning was also carried out by these architects and Katherine Bashford and Fred Barlow, Jr., Los Angeles landscape architects. To provide full enjoyment of desert air and sunlight, every room opens directly onto either a terrace or a deck. And all the outdoor areas have been planned as extensions of the interior living spaces.

Palm Springs Life Article. May 1983

The monument at 1995 Camino Monte was christened "the Ship of the Desert" by Sunset magazine in 1937 because its living room extends from the property like the bow of a ship. Built in 1930 by Mrs. Davidson, a prominent lady from Washington, D.C., this 1.5 acre estate, built on the south side of Palm Springs. It rests high on a mesa above the city, partially built into the surrounding mountains and often unsurpassed views of desert vistas, mountains and twinkling lights from many of its balconies and decks. The interior of this 4,072 square foot home, has been restored yet still recaptures faithfully the feeling of the original Davidson household.

Aggressive and civic minded, Davidson channeled much of her energy into the building the Desert Inn Fashion Plaza downtown Palm Springs and as with her own home. Shortly after her home was completed, the ship had to be sold for inheritance tax purposes. A long time Palm Springs resident recalled that "when Ms. Davidson learned of her husband's love affair with another woman she ended her own life."

After the Davidson residency, the house passed through a succession of residents and owners. In the mid-40s Bernard and Marion Ford from San Francisco bought the estate for $39,000. They used it as a winter residence whenever they were not traveling abroad. Although it continued to be their home for 15 to 20 years, very few changes took place -- except for the addition of a swimming pool. Mrs. Ford

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