Get your checkbooks ready kids, because it’s official. One of the world’s most famous houses will soon be sold. Yes puppies, the Richard Neutra designed Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs, CA will be offered for sale through Christie’s Realty International in conjunction with Christie’s much anticipated and hyped Post-War & Contemporary Art Sale on May 13, 2008. The property is expected to fetch a butt clenching $15-25,000,000.
This is of course not news to modernist aficionados who have been whispering about the impending dee–vorce of current owners Brent and Beth Harris for some time and wondering with sharp and wagging tongues what was to become of the famous house they spent years and millions restoring under the masterful hands of architecture stars Marmol & Radziner.
Sprawling across several parcels on West Vista Chino in the windy northern reaches of of Palm Springs, the pinwheel shaped house sits on the better side of Palm Canyon Drive and measures either 3,162 square feet or 4,827 square feet depending on where you do your research. Property records indicate that the Harris couple purchased the house in August of 1993 for $982,500 (some reports say they paid $1,500,000) after it had been mutilated and traumatized by wretched renovations and flowered wallpaper by a series of homeowners who included campy crooner Barry Manilow.
Now children, just as an aside, Your Mama has loved Ms. Manilow all the way back to when we were a wee lad listening to 8-track tapes at our Aunt Jennie’s house in Ventura, CA. But we just gotta ask, when did Barry Manilow start to look like such a woman with his too smooth and too tan skin and that spiky mess of a hair don’t which we are quite certain is a damn wig? Sorry Bare, but it’s just not good. Seriously hun, listen to Your Mama here and get yourself a new stylist who believes in aging gracefully.
Anyhoo, records on file with the county show the house has 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, but honestly kids, Your Mama doesn’t know if that’s accurate because most reports say there are 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, which probably includes the staff quarters in the wing behind the carport. What is accurate is that the house is built around a central core that houses the main living space. The secondary rooms pinwheel around the center and long walls of glass create a dee-lishus tension between the rugged desert landscape and the simple but very refined structure and ridiculously civilized and dee-luxe interior spaces.
In addition to the main house, which features an exquisite covered loggia on the second floor designed to both shield from the blistering sun and to harness the desert breezes, the property includes a swimming pool, tennis court (not original to Kaufmann’s plans), and a rebuilt pool house with gym and bath also by the folks at Marmol & Radziner and which also function as a viewing pavilion for the main house and a portal to the tennis court.
So just who would be ready, willing and able to write a check for $15,000,000 or more for a weekend house in Palm Springs? Now puppies, Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter happen to lurv us some Palm Springs, where the greys and the gays mingle in harmony on the 49,000 golf courses that dot the Coachella Valley. We have spent many a lovely night at The Parker and intend to visit regularly, but there is simply no way in hell anyone could get Your Mama to fork over that kind of money for a house in a little town in the middle of nowhere where the dead go to die. Not even for a world class Neutra.
So Your Mama asked a few of our better connected sources who they thought might be interested in this very pricey winter weekend home and we tossed in a few of our own uneducated guesses too. Keep in mind children, that Your Mama don’t know shit. We are just speculating. If you don’t know what that means, getcher Websters out and look it up.
Although none of our sources think a celebrity will plunk down the big bucks for the Kaufmann House, there may indeed be a few deep pocketed Hollywood types that might be interested such as Ellen Degeneres or Courtney Cox. How about Mister Jolie? He’s got a thing for name brand architecture. Perhaps the kooky and overly endowed Vincent Gallo (if he could scrape the cash together)? And maybe, Kenny Kissentell ventures, Ms. Manilow would be interested in purchasing the old Neutra gurl once again.
More likely it’ll be a fabulously rich architectural benefactor with a penchant for modern art who will see the purchase as a responsibility to maintain an architectural piece of art. Our short list would include MTV President Brian Graden, billionaire David Geffen, real estate tycoon Eli Broad, or maybe even the Frank McCourts who recently forked over more than $30,000,000 for the ocean front Lautner designed house in Malee-boo they purchased from Courtney Cox and David Arquette.
Your Mama also thinks there might be a few big name art institutions such as LACMA, or mabye even MOCA, that might have the interest and cash reserves necessary to purchase and maintain the property as part of their permanent collection.
One more possibility might be that a group of investors will pool their pennies to purchase and use it’s landmark status and historical significance to turn the whole place into a limited entry museum space not unlike what was done with Phillips Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, CT.
And let’s not forget all the filthy rich foreign magnates and potentates whose currency is currently in much better shape than the American dollar and who might see the Kaufmann House as a wise and savvy real estate investment they can flip for a $5,000,000+ profit when (and if) the dollar stabilizes.
Only time will tell who and for how much, but be assured that every major newspaper and every real estate gossip across the country will be yapping their jaws and typing their fingers to the nubbins to be the first to tell the world.
Sources: David Glomb and Tim Street-Porter (photos)