Inside a Palm Springs getaway that’s modern, hip -- and still kid-friendly

Rob Hoyt plays with his son, Lewis, and daughter, Ellie, in the pool at their midcentury home in Palm Springs, designed by William Krisel.
Rob Hoyt plays with his son, Lewis, and daughter, Ellie, in the pool at their midcentury home in Palm Springs, designed by William Krisel.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

When Emilie Davidson Hoyt and Rob Hoyt moved to a traditional home in Pasadena, they were torn. They missed the feeling of a modern house — like the one they lived in previously. But they also needed a space that was more kid-friendly.

They satisfied that craving in 2006 when they fell in love with a 1959 William Krisel-designed home in Palm Springs. They were attracted to the home’s angular roof, circular drive, modern sensibility and location in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood — a former celebrity enclave that once served as a weekend getaway for Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin and Elvis Presley, and an area that is the focus of a walking tour linked to the Palm Springs Modernism Fall Preview that starts Oct. 9.

“We knew we wanted something close by that we could get to without a lot of planning,” Rob Hoyt says. “We love coming out here; it’s a short drive, but it feels like you took a flight to get here.”


Most important? The weekend home is a study in casual Modernism — but it’s a family home first.

“If we don’t come for a few weeks, we’ll hear it from our kids,” says Emilie, who started Lather, a line of aromatherapy-based face, body and hair-care products in 1999.

The 2,100-square-foot house is open, modern and simple. The couple — who are parents to Ellie, 11, and Lewis, 8 — kept the home’s original four-bedroom, three-bathroom floor plan but renovated the electrical and plumbing systems, the kitchen and the bathrooms. They also added solar heating for the pool, textured tile to the massive stone fireplace in the living room and floor-to-ceiling windows to the rear of the house to open it up to the pool. The floors are covered with smooth porcelain Refin tiles; the decor is minimal.

Family touches include or, rather, exclude Wi-Fi — which encourages the kids to interact with each other and play games and puzzles, swim in the pool and ride bikes on the wide, empty streets located in the shadow of the San Jacinto Mountains. The couple likes to invite friends — as many as eight at a time — to come out for the weekend, and they keep a crib stored in the garage in case someone wants to bring a baby along.

Furniture throughout the home is simple, durable and comfortable. There’s a Viesso sectional and Donghia chair in the living room and leather Italian bar stools in the kitchen. Hints of blue tones add warmth to the interiors, including a large-scale painting by Venice-based artist Andy Moses and colorful geometric cabinets inspired by the works of Piet Mondrian in the hallway that conceal speakers, AV equipment and provide storage.


The kids’ room features simple twin beds paired with upholstered headboards and quilted throws and a single light sconce over each bed, giving the room the feeling of a luxury hotel room.

Striking powder blue lacquered Valcucine cabinets in the kitchen feel like an extension of the pool and offset the home’s white floors. Rob says he was adamant about having a blue kitchen, despite the initial reservations of Emilie and their interior designer, Mark Nichols. “For me, it represented this idea of cool water as an oasis in the middle of the desert,” he says.

Outdoors, underneath the roof’s canopy, the shaded patio offers space for meals and relaxing, courtesy of classic Richard Schultz outdoor furnishings and vintage pillows from the 1960s.

The end result? A modern update of a midcentury classic that serves as a desert retreat for a busy family.

“There’s something special about the desert,” Emilie says. “It’s not an easy place to thrive. Still, it’s inspiring. You have to adapt, be resilient. There’s a lot of symbolism for us here.”


Twitter: @lisaboone19


Vista Las Palmas walking tour info

What: Rat Pack Playground — Modernist Homes of Vista Las Palmas Historical Walking Tour (exteriors only)

Where: Palm Springs. Addresses released upon tour registration.

When: 9-11 a.m. Oct. 9-12

Admission: $35




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