In Palm Springs, California, where Desert Modern architecture was born and nurtured, the must-have is a trophy house designed by one of the movement’s masters. Within that magic circle is William F. Cody, who trained in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California and the offices of Cliff May. In 1946 he moved to Palm Springs, where he designed hotels, country clubs, and homes much admired for their clean lines and walls of glass facing onto desert landscaping. Recently, Peter Blake, who runs the namesake art gallery in Laguna Beach, leased the house Cody built for himself and temporarily converted it into a pop-up gallery dubbed Blakehaus (until 2 April) featuring works by some of the artists he represents, including Lita Albuquerque, Gisela Colón and Philip K. Smith III.
“They’re Light and Space artists,” says Blake, standing in the living room, “and this is sort of a light and space house.” The room is framed in glass and flows easily into the house’s kitchen, dining area and study, with the bedrooms off at the edges. There are also sweeping views of the property, with its tastefully arranged groupings of rocks and cacti in different sizes and shapes. “Every single room has stairs that walk up or down into it, all of the rooms open up into courtyards,” he says. “Cody has merged nature and architecture.”
The gallerist has selected collectible furniture and accessories to complement the art and architecture.In the living room, for instance, four Afra and Tobia Scarpa leather lounge and side chairs are gathered around a circular Pierre Chapo coffee table. On the nearby wall there’s a large sculpture by Smith, Portal 6 (2016), which resembles a human iris. In the background is Colón’s 8ft-tall Parabolic Monolith (Polaris) (2023), which gives off an iridescent glow. Chairs are a particular highlight of the pop-up, including a curvaceous Jean-Pierre Laporte Girolle in white and a vintage theatre chair by Carlo Molino.
In leasing the house from the current owners—an architect couple who live in another house in Palm Springs—Blake took out all their furniture and moved in his inventory. The transition was done quickly so that the pop-up would be ready in time for both Modernism Week (16-26 February) and to the opening of the latest Desert X biennial (4 March-7 May).
Blake estimates that it cost him $40,000 to bring the project to fruition, including moving, installation and rental, but he seems remarkably relaxed about the pay-off. “I never got into this thinking that we were going to make money,” he says, though he has sold pieces and had around 400 visitors one recent Saturday. “To me it was an opportunity to live, breathe, and eat Cody for two months. It’s just been an amazing experience living here.”
- Blakehaus, until 2 April, Peter Blake Gallery pop-up in Palm Springs, California