A custom sofa by ModShop mingles with a Maitland-Smith coffee table and Jaymar chairs from Chairish (both vintage). A Corrigan Studio chandelier and bar art by Susan Kiefer perfectly accentuate the space.
BELLS + WHISTLES INJECTS FANTASY AND GLAMOUR INTO A CLASSIC DONALD WEXLER ABODE.
The party-ready dining room is outfitted with a custom table and chairs by ModShop, fringe pendants from Manfredi Style and a colorful rug from FLOR.
Palm Springs and midcentury modernism go together like so many great pairings: Fred and Ginger, peanut butter and jelly—you get the idea. But when presented with the opportunity to rethink and refresh the interiors of a 1957 home by revered midcentury modern architect Donald Wexler, Barbara Rourke and Jason St John of Bells + Whistles took a less obvious path.
Bold colors are balanced by plenty of white space throughout.
The L.A.-based design duo was commissioned by Jillian and Tim Sassone, founders of fine jewelry brand Marrow Fine, to create a comfortable yet aesthetically astute home that embraced color and pattern for them and their two children. “Our initial thought was, ‘How do we do that Marrow style in their house,” says St John, who, along with Rourke and team, designed the brand’s boutiques in both San Diego and Newport Beach. “We were definitely pushed by the design of the stores when we started thinking about how we’d design their custom furniture pieces and the house in general.”
But another thing to consider—besides creating a chic, familyfriendly vacation home—was the Sassones’ request to make it also function as a special event and photography space. “Typically a residence has one function—it’s just for a family,” St John explains. “But this had to work, not as a commercial space, but one that could accommodate a 50-person party. We wanted there to be the ability to flow inside and out.”
Since Rourke and St John have worked with the Sassones before, trust was already in place. “I think the greatest thing about Tim and Jill is that they know what good taste is and they have great style, but they really give us full reign to do what we want,” Rourke explains. “They inject some ideas and inspiration, but mostly they let us run with it.” For this project, the plan was to create, in Rourke’s words, “a 20th century acid fantasy with organic sculpture and lush foliage.” St John elaborates: “Midcentury modern is always so pristine and perfect, and sort of a little time capsule,” he says. “The concept typically is to buy period pieces and leave them in a pristine condition where you can’t really touch the furniture. It can be very white glove. We wanted to shatter that wall and allow this place to be fun and playful and something for younger owners where they don’t actually define a midcentury masterpiece.”
A disco ball lights up the atrium from day to night.
“We wanted to go in and do something totally modern and interesting—a new take on midcentury modern.–JASON ST JOHN
Filled with a gorgeous selection of light and airy pieces, the primary bedroom houses a creamy textural rug from Lulu and Georgia, Crate & Barrel chairs and a Room & Board bed.
The home had recently been renovated, so Rourke and St John focused primarily on adding furniture, wallpaper and finishes. “Everything is a little riff on midcentury, but there’s also ’60s and ’70s vibes,” Rourke explains. “We wanted to kind of mess up the coiffed hair of the 1950s and mess with that idea of pristine ’50s style.” For example, the custom pink sofa by ModShop in the living room may look dainty but is built to last. “Jill said a couple of times, ‘My dad is a big guy, and we don’t want him sitting on a spindly couch,’” says Rourke.
A sunny bedroom shines with a yellow palm print wallpaper from Hovia.
Throughout, Rourke and St John used mostly new furniture and decor from ModShop, CB2, Anthropologie, Room & Board and more, and supplemented with vintage items from Chairish, along with ones found locally. “We got all the furniture in then found a lot of accessories in Palm Springs,” says Rourke, who names The Shops at 1345 as a source. “I think we had three cars full of accessories.”
The extensive outdoor area—with landscape design by Paul Ortega— includes a bocce court.
The entire home shines, but a few areas really stand out to the designers. Rourke mentions the primary bedroom—bathed in a mix of dreamy white shades and sumptuous textures—as a favorite. “I’ve always had a love affair with the Parker hotel,” she explains. “And this has that same vibe, but it’s done a fresh, newer way with a bit of boho glam and desert vintage thrown in.” She also calls out the living room. “It’s so fun with the disco ball just outside,” she says. “It’s huge.”
Alex Proba created the pool’s graphic mural, a design that sparked lots of attention and enthusiasm on social media.
Adorned with a mural by Alex Proba, the angular pool may be the home’s biggest design draw. “It was such a radical new concept and we never really had seen that before,” says St John, who mentions the David Hockney painted pool at The Hollywood Roosevelt as inspiration. “But this was definitely next level,” he adds of the project, which involved having custom colors mixed by a company that makes pool paint. Images of the pool have populated social media ever since, as have requests to recreate the design. But Bells + Whistles never designs the same thing twice. “It’s not in our nature when we’re blessed with a waterfall of ideas,” he says.
All in all, the project—which took place over the course of the pandemic—was a hit. “Working with creative clients is really fun because we get to bounce ideas off of each other, and in this case, it was a success story,” says St John. “When you have a client that’s giving you feedback and cool, creative energy, then it actually creates a really good synergy.”
Bells + Whistles allthebellsandwhistles.com
Alex Proba, Studio Proba studioproba.com
Primary bedroom nightstands and coffee table anthropologie.com
Dining room credenza, guest bedroom bed and nightstands cb2.com
Living room vintage Jaymar chairs and Maitland-Smith coffee table chairish.com
CRATE & BARREL
Primary bedroom chairs crateandbarrel.com
Dining room rug flor.com
LULU AND GEORGIA
Primary bedroom rug, dining room mirror luluandgeorgia.com
Dining room fringe pendants manfredistyle.com
Living room custom sofa, dining room table and chairs modshop.com
Pool loungers shopthenovogratz.com
THE PROJECT ASSASSIN
Living room custom bar theprojectassassin.com
ROOM & BOARD
Primary bedroom bed roomandboard.com
Primary bedroom wallpaper fschumacher.com
Corrigan Studio chandelier in living room wayfair.com
Photography by: Madeline Tolle