PHOTOS BY LANCE GERBER
There are people in this valley who take more time to order a cut of steak and a well-paired glass of red than this homeowner took in planning his project. Only a slight exaggeration. The chain of events leading up to the completion of the rather sexy family home at The Madison Club went something like this: Owner meets builder. Owner hires builder. Builder suggests architect. Owner hires architect. Owner leaves.
The substantial trust that Fares Rustom placed in his team paid off in the same way that taking a seat at the chef’s table usually does. When you give the talent free rein, you get intense flavor, free-spirited originality, and something tasty you can really sink your teeth into. Enjoy.
Constructed by Nate Rucker and Dave Muth of Rucker Muth Luxury Homebuilders with architectural and interior design by Gordon Stein of Gordon Stein Design, the La Quinta estate is a feast to behold. It fascinates both owner and guests as a statement house where new ideas and new materials converge. Rucker, Muth, and Stein have a working history that spans a decade. Their powerful partnership in combination with an absent homeowner yielded a spectacular show home that exudes the same unwavering confidence Rustom had throughout the process.
“As a smart businessman, he stepped back and trusted his team,” Rucker says. “I’m just thankful that Gordon really got in his mind and understood him. Once Dave and I had been hired and started discussing architects, we thought, ‘This is going to be a Gordon Stein project.’ Fares wanted something unique, really out of the box, really stylish. He has a very outgoing, very cool personality. We thought his personality would mesh well with Gordon’s.” The group’s natural chemistry and fine-tuned collaboration created a solid foundation for the 7,015-square-foot five-bedroom home.
Unfazed by the limited interaction with their overseas client, the team built themselves a springboard for the home’s ambitious vision and jumped off. Six-month stretches between meetings only drove them to astound Rustom upon his return to the desert from Beirut. From sketches to reveal, they used an equal-parts recipe of what they knew about him and what they intuitively sensed.
“I noticed that Fares appreciates high-end retail design, evident in the clothing he wears and the autos he drives,” Stein says. “So I spent some time researching designs by Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Varvatos, and I was inspired by what I found. At that time, gold finishes were just re-emerging in light fixtures, hardware, and furniture. My project designer, Morraika Simmonds, and I felt the gold tones combined with our client’s favored color blue would be a stunning combination. The final result is an elegant style with subtle nods to high-end retail design.”
Rucker notes that all that style carried a caveat. “Our client wanted this house to be very comfortable,” he says. “He knew he would have buddies and company coming over, and he wanted them to feel like they could put their feet up on the coffee table. He wanted it to be very livable.”
But Rustom felt right at home before the team broke ground. With a comfort level resting on strong referrals from friends, he looked to builder and architect to guide him through the nuances of fashioning a distinctly fashionable home on his prepurchased lot. Stein designed the architecture, interiors, and landscape in addition to creating some custom artwork. Rucker and Muth joined forces with heavy involvement at all stages.
Before they could dive in, Stein needed to site the home on Rustom’s pie-shaped lot that narrows dramatically on the golf course side. “The lot was difficult,” Stein says. “There wasn’t room to put many of the typical rooms at the rear that you normally would. He also wanted a lot of house for the lot size, so we had to figure out a way to go up as well.”
Stein leaned into the challenging lot shape to enhance his unusual design. The two-story home focuses into a long courtyard. A jagged walkway provides a bridge over bubbling water and past fire features, shining black rocks, and tropical plant life in line with the client’s landscape preference. One patio basks in partial sun filtered through a pergola; another is fully shaded. Rooms are designed for interconnection, many with pocket doors that slide back allowing interior spaces to blend with the courtyard.
As a builder, Muth was struck by Stein’s ability to capture views from both floors on an atypical parcel of land. “Gordon worked within the confines of the lot and maximized them, both with the footprint and the home’s layout,” he says. “From the first floor you get the golf course. On the second, the bedrooms and two bathrooms where the showers have corner glass catch the mountain and ridgeline view and look down into that lush tropical courtyard. From the moment we started framing, you’re up there walking around thinking, ‘Wow. He nailed it.’”
The openness that defines the home adds a layer of self-illumination. “During the day, light comes down through the center of the house — the whole house, every room — so you almost don’t even need to turn the lights on,” Rucker remarks.
The client didn’t know how Stein would execute his wishes, but he left him with an overarching directive: “An indoor-outdoor space that feels seamless from the moment you enter the gate all the way to the pool in the backyard,” Rustom recalls. “I wanted it to be comfortable to sit or to use any and all parts of the house,” in an environment where every angle and every area claims a unique purpose. “In this house, nothing is just for looks.”
Yet the house has looks in spades. An interplay of color and shine enlivens the interior, with a focus on moody blues and soft gold. From Italian lacquer and limestone flooring from Portugal to clothing compartmentalized in the closet by the type of occasion for which Rustom would wear it, the home walks the line between ultra-sophisticated and over the top. It balances a vogue aesthetic with quality, craftsmanship, timeless principles of design, and daring finishes that are beautifully executed.
The client’s Syrian background served as muse for a repeating pattern that begins on the gold, custom-laser-cut driveway gates and is echoed by metal screens for the entryway, a modern reference to screens found in Middle Eastern architecture. The theme travels inside through cutout overlays on the cabinetry and repeats in towering totems as custom pieces of art.
“Even though he had very limited involvement, we had an adventurous client who was willing to take a chance on new ideas,” Stein says. “In the house we have a lot of new R&D. Incorporating those new untested ideas can be a difficult challenge for any builder. Nate and Dave rose to the occasion with positive attitudes and excellent solutions. We built a lot of innovation into this home, resulting in some very cool things.”
Acoustical panels on the great room’s wall and ceiling add a sound buffer for a quiet home atmosphere while hiding speakers and cables. Each is custom-upholstered in Ralph Lauren fabric.
Each is custom-upholstered in Ralph Lauren fabric. The open-concept plan gets a modern feeling of motion through textural art and furnishings and bold patterns across throw pillows and in the dining chair upholstery. Soft but structured seas of blue velvet, gold that shines like a jackpot, and hints of Art Deco shapes in the bannister of the curving staircase add up to a residence that over-delivered on its promise of a bespoke home for both comfort and entertaining.
“Nate and I believe in the fine details, even if people don’t see them,” says Muth, adding that they’ve been hired for a project after a prospective client opened Rustom’s mechanical closet. The drywall was as pristine as it was in the house, with immaculate pipes and everything plumb, square, and tidy. “The totality of those finer construction details matter. In this house, we have porcelain tile, porcelain baseboard, and finished cabinetry in the garage, so when he pulls his car in it doesn’t feel like a garage, it feels like a car showroom.”
In the master bedroom, etched diamond shapes climb from floor to ceiling on the hide-rug wall finish. Dyed in shades of navy, cobalt, and teal depending on the light, the coarse but furry back wall acts as a second headboard, enveloped by custom furniture.
With all the masculine edge of a swinging bachelor pad, the home still provides a feminine enclave. When Rustom asked for an extraordinary sanctuary for his wife, the team answered with a white-on-white master bath to rival those in the world’s trending spa hotels. The builders credit their seasoned subcontractors for pushing the limits to perfect the interior spa. A specialized chemical filtration system ensures the interior hot tub never emits even a hint of chlorine.
“We love every part of the house, but my personal favorite is the master suite,” Rustom says. “We wanted the feel of a seven-star resort every time we entered it. We wanted to feel as if we were in a spa relaxing, not just a master bath. And we wanted to feel like we were shopping in our master closet by having things displayed like a high-end store. We like to have fun while we spend time at home, no matter which room we’re in.”
The sunken hot tub would be tempting even without the bottle of bubbly. Glass walls form a corner to catch views for the master bedroom.
To unveil this surprise home, Rucker opted for a surprise party. The Madison Club catered the event attended by Rustom’s close friends. “It was around 8 at night when he pulled up to his house. There were a dozen or so people and it was all lit up with the fireplaces running. We were a bit nervous and on edge because he hadn’t been involved very much, but he was just blown away. He loved 99.9 percent of everything put into the house. Gordon really understood him.”
Stein says that during these long, intensive ventures — seven months in the design stage and 14 months to build, in this case — clients become friends. “You’re part of the family,” he says. As you would with your own family, you want to give them your very best. “Frankly, I love working with these guys, because any of my clients are going to get a value well beyond what most builders are going to put out for them. Their work quality and impeccable detail is way up there at the very top.”
Rustom never had a doubt when he boarded the plane that his lot and his work-in-progress home were in good hands. “The house turned out exactly as we imagined thanks to Gordon, who listened with a creative mind and translated our dreams into this magnificent house, and Nate and Dave, who executed the plans in the highest level of quality and integrity, in almost what I call a surgical way. I mean, from cleanliness to precision and attention to detail, it’s amazing. It’s home.”