Stein Design

Adorning the Casbah

'Palm Springs Life'

April 2015 Featurette

Adorning the Casbah

An exclusive interview with the homeowner and interior designer of Bighorn Golf Club’s most exotic residence casts a warm glow on the design decisions that make it so alluring.

Lisa Marie Hart April 1, 2015 Home & Design Leave a Comment

Affectionately known as Casbah Cove, this utterly enchanting 16,800-square-foot estate captures the irresistible essence of a modern Moroccan riad. With each of its breathtaking living quarters built around a lush center courtyard, it exists in a private world of its own making. Resplendent with arabesque architecture, it also teems with comfortable amenities and luxurious touches to fulfill the owner’s vision of a sultry desert retreat. Built over the course of four years by Moroccan craftsmen and an innovative design team, the home features a central arcade landscaped with queen palms and a white onyx water fountain; sculpted windows and doorways; eight sculpted fireplaces; and a hammam spa retreat — all conceptualized by the homeowner herself.

Given the choice to spend one night in any Southern California five-star resort or a night in this exotic Bighorn Golf Club residence, most who have seen photos or had the rare opportunity to step through its sliding brass-on-steel entry doors would find the choice an easy one.

Who wouldn’t want to take a long, lazy steam bath followed by a massage on a spa bed, retract the gleaming glass ceiling while reading a book among towering palms in the atrium, dine on a sumptuous feast in the tented dining room, float under the starry skies in the black granite infinity pool, then retire to bed to enjoy a fruit platter and sweet glass of nectar between custom sheets before drifting into dreams?

For such a grand estate, however, the intentions behind its details are surprisingly thoughtful. As revealed in a conversation with the homeowner, who served as the home’s interior designer, there is depth to its magnificent beauty and personal meaning behind its captivating design.

“It was important to me that I have the perfect blend of centuries-old Marrakech artistry with the sophistication of contemporary ease and convenience,” she says. Though she has traveled the world, Marrakech particularly captured her heart. After studying the architecture and design of riads there, she hired craftsmen and artisans to add authenticity to this home in the desert, from carved wood to hand-laid tile and stone. Throughout the home, old and new become one indistinguishable palette of seductive elegance and luxurious tranquility.

Creating cohesion throughout, the walls are done in tadelakt plaster and bright bursts of well-placed blue. “I was inspired by the homes in Morocco, where natural light poured into the open, white, spa-like spaces bringing in these incredible shades of blue,” she recalls, adding that she strove to re-create this harmony in her own home.

As for the plaster, tadelakt is a traditional technique common in Moroccan homes and palaces. Once applied by hand and compressed, it is polished with small stones and treated with an olive wax or black soap, resulting in a shiny appearance that begs to be touched.

The kitchen veers from the traditional into a modern work of art. “I sought out the La Cornue professional oven from France,” she says of her starting point. “It was something I had always wanted. Then I contacted woodcrafter Stephen Webster to design a sculptural centerpiece out of a large piece of mahogany. Even the drawers are sculpted curves. Adding the honed Carrara stone countertop contrasted beautifully with the rich wood.”

Artistically hidden away are the other appliances and an espresso machine. “To face the refrigerator and appliances, I borrowed a design that I found in a Moroccan design book and had it designed to match my aesthetic,” the homeowner says. She curated the kitchen as meticulously as every other room, down to the black marble countertop, gleaming German silver sink, and just a bit of open shelving to display a tagine and other eye-catching kitchen wares.

In one of her favorite areas of the home, the designer focused on looking up. “The reception room’s ceiling design was motivated by a home in Morocco that Alberto Pinto designed. I fell in love with the incredible detail in the dark wood, then I added the eight-point star skylights to invite in the sun and lighten the room so guests would be able to experience the ceiling’s design both day and night,” she says. “Then I found the hand-nailed chandeliers on my travels and loved how the light danced around the space, so I commissioned an artist to make several more used throughout the home.”

In the master bedroom, she gave a feminine curve to the plaster of the headboard wall, then backlit it “to showcase the hours of handiwork these master craftsmen spent,” she explains. “I used textural, organic fabrics in the bedding and seating area to reflect the clean crispness that I prefer paired with Siberian oak floors. The chandelier was a treasure I found in a local store here that I had to have.”

Posh conveniences include radiant heated floors, a temperature-controlled wine cellar, an indoor-outdoor movie theater, and an elevator equipped with a television and music controls and walls lined in shimmering mother-of-pearl. “But my favorite addition is the 30-foot-by-40-foot glass ceiling that retracts, opening up the central arcade to the beautiful desert sky,” she says. “It was quite a feat to construct, but worth every moment to enjoy it every day.”

5 Design Secrets of Casbah Cove

1) “I wanted something special for entertaining,” the homeowner explains, “so I put LED lights in the roofline so when I have friends over they can feel the excitement of a real celebration.”

2) In the tented dining room, where a romantic, draped ceiling billows above, guests enjoy the feeling of dining in a modern Moroccan tent — akin to one of the decorative shelters customarily reserved for royalty. Its placement is symbolic: These traditional tents — typically handmade by a large team of artisans — were festive gathering places to welcome kings and sultans as they arrived in the kingdom.

3) “For the window seats, I found some vintage doors in a Moroccan flea market, had them shipped home, and made them into these artistic swings that I use for my coat closet when the weather turns cold,” says the designer. “I love finding unique items and transforming them into something really special.”

4) Why limit seamless indoor-outdoor living to the great room and bedrooms? The breezy office/library opens to the inner courtyard on one side and out to the square, black granite infinity spa and pool that look out to a majestic view of the Santa Rosa mountain range on the other.

5) Colorful rooms, such as guest suites and the powder room, are balanced with soothing, monochromatic environments, such as the dining room, master suite, and bath. Textures, natural materials, and fascinating shapes are layered instead of pattern and color.