Not everyone has the stomach to buy a home that’s in foreclosure. After all, the process can be lengthy and complicated; and while you might be getting a bargain, there’s likely some serious work that needs to be done.
However, if that home was designed by storied architect A. Quincy Jones and sits in one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Palm Springs, a buyer can be forgiven for throwing caution to the wind.
Realtor Frank Bruno took the plunge in 2015, purchasing a home in Palm Springs’ Indian Canyons neighborhood in a development known as Country Club Estates.
“It had the ideal west-facing views I had been searching for, but it was in extremely poor condition,” he recalls. “Literally every system in the house had to be redone. It was neglected and screaming out, ‘Help me!’”
Located on a triangular wedge of land, the homes here have shared walls and line a common pool area. Designed by A. Quincy Jones in the mid-1960s, it’s the only residential property Jones handled in Palm Springs … aside from the famed Annenberg estate at Sunnylands.
Frank began a two-year renovation and restoration and elected to take on much of the project management and design work himself, even overseeing the construction.
A Community Vision
As his own home began to come together, he realized the collection of condos in his complex needed more than a coat of paint: They needed a vision for the next century. Consequently, Frank ran for, and won, a seat on the condominium’s board—with an eye toward guiding its future from drab to dramatic.
The first and largest tasks in Frank’s renovation were upgrades to the plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems. At the same time, and with the interior stripped nearly bare, Frank started to envision how the home would finally come together.
“One of the design features I knew I wanted out of the gate was for each room to have its own identity. In real estate, I see home after home that use the same tile and countertops in the kitchen and each of the bathrooms.” Frank shares. “To me, that’s boring and uninspiring. It’s more of a design challenge to be able to utilize different materials and aesthetics while, at the same time, cohesively bringing all of it together in a complementary manner.”
A. Quincy Jones Condo Renovation: A Natural Design Focus
Frank’s house forms a large U-shape anchored by a small central courtyard. Floor-to-ceiling windows span each side and inundate the home with light. Cinderblock walls form the outdoor atrium structure and extend into the house on two sides—into the bedroom and the living room, where it also forms a chunky fireplace, an element Frank fell in love with.
“The whole design came together around the cinderblock. I love it so much. I’ve never been able to hang any art over the fireplace, because I feel the cinderblock is, itself, a work of art.”
The cinderblocks also gave Frank his cues for other design elements in the home: The floors are 24×24-inch porcelain tiles, and cubist elements pop up all over the house.
A stunning, floating wood-faced dresser that anchors one side of the principal bedroom is actually a double-sinked vanity, which architect Jones set outside the bathroom and open to the bedroom.
“I saw something in that; that it could really be a beautiful design element, and I wanted the sink cabinet to feel like furniture—as if it were part of the bedroom,” Frank recalls.
A center door inside the cabinet pulls out and hides a towel rack, and sleek waterfall taps keep the look streamlined and clutter free.
Frank asked a carpenter to create what he calls a “brutalist” design (a style in art and especially architecture that uses exaggeration and distortion to create its effect) for the door fronts, so that its multitude of squares once again give a nod to the cinderblock.
Color is also at play everywhere in the home.
“By using white and gray as the base, I knew I could use color as an accent and change that down the road, therefore changing the look of the space. So, between the color and the wood accents, I feel that was the best way to bring warmth to the space and make sure it doesn’t come across as sterile.”
When it came to the kitchen, Frank knew he might need to diverge from A. Quincy Jones’s original plans to open the area up and make the house more livable for himself and his mini husky, Kaya.
“It was completely closed off, and there was a soffit that came down and housed all the ductwork. It’s the only structural change I made to the house, but I felt that because A. Quincy Jones had that open-concept idea for the bathroom sinks, today, he probably would have have opened up the kitchen to accommodate our modern living.”
Windows—Key MCM Features
Windows in mid-century-era homes are often a challenge for renovators. Older aluminum and single-paned glass in floor-to-ceiling windows can be inefficient. Nevertheless, their minimalist look and feel provide a certain authenticity that’s extremely difficult to replicate.
All the windows in Frank’s home are original, and he went to great lengths to restore and repair them to get them back in working order, because they’re essential to the look, character and feel of his house.
“What many people don’t realize is that newer, double-paned windows have a greenish tint and have highly reflective properties. When you have a home with a center atrium, and one of the main features is to be able to view other rooms through multiple sets of windows or see mountain views, I didn’t want to mess with anything that could interfere with the dynamics of that original feature.”
Introducing the Softer Side in an A. Quincy Jones Condo
Despite all the corners in the home, Frank has also found ways to soften the hard edges in the space.
Circular elements abound; they can be seen in the decorative metal decoration on the guest bathroom cabinets and as a bubbly art element at the entry—a feature that Frank designed.
Frank’s design goal was to find a common thread between the mid-century and modern eras and meld them together.
“It’s kind of my take on a wall divider that you’d see in mid-century construction. It’s constructed of circular metal pieces and colored glass. At night, there’s light behind it. It just projects these colored circles on the wall, and it becomes a different kind of art.”
Frank hopes Country Club Estates is also coming full circle. Following the renovation, his A. Quincy Jones condo was featured during Palm Springs’ Modernism Week 2018 (and will be again in 2022), and the complex is now one of the most sought-after areas in south Palm Springs.
“I think A. Quincy Jones would be proud.”
To see more A. Quincy Jones designed homes, check out this one, and another in Fullerton. And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!