Thunderbird 8 House, Rancho Mirage Property, California luxury real estate, CA residence, US home photos

Thunderbird 8 House in Rancho Mirage, CA

June 13, 2024

Design: Jill Lewis Architecture

Location: Rancho Mirage, California, USA

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage California

Photos by Douglas Friedman

Thunderbird 8 House, USA

The clients for the Thunderbird 8 project had been splitting their time between Hawaii and Rancho Mirage, and had recently purchased this 1952 mid-century home in the beautiful Thunderbird Country Estates that had been in the Barry family almost since it’s construction. The house had amazing views, located near the 8th hole of the golf course, but needed some major updates before they moved in.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA USA

The Barry Estate, located in Thunderbird Estates, was built in 1952, and had remained in the Barry family until the clients purchased it from Robert Barry’s granddaughter in 2019. Robert Barry was a congressman from New York who organized the Eisenhower campaign for the west coast, and hosted not only Eisenhower but guests such as Betty and Gerald Ford. (The property’s guest room was jokingly dubbed “The Ford Room” throughout the project.) The Ford’s enjoyed these visits so much they decided to build their own home just down the fairway. Famous neighbors sharing the street included Hoagy Carmichael, Lucy and Desi Arnaz, Ginger Rogers and several architecturally signicant homes designed by William Cody, A. Quincy Jones, and Howard Lapham.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA USA

The first time I visited the property, I was immediately struck by the potential for a beautiful mountain view that was currently cut o by a low ceiling-height in the main living area. There was a large sliding door between the living area and the back garden which just cleared the top of my head. We quickly agreed that if they were going to invest in this property, we had to get the proportions right – so raising the roof of the main living area became the largest gesture in our scope of work. Over the years there were multiple renovations that had complicated the plan and compromised the function of several spaces, and the rear garden was nothing but a large expanse of sand with a quirky rhombus-shaped pool.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA

The house had been renovated and updated a few times, but in a slightly Hollywood Regency style that client and architect agreed wasn’t a good t for the 1952 bones. The clients, who are very private, wanted a full-time residence for themselves and their two Norwich Terriers (Mr. Pua and Hoagy Carmichael). Not ones who typically entertain large groups, their design brief focused on a modern, elegant and comfortable home with “masculine” finishes (an adjective that became a running joke throughout the project, since they hired a woman architect to pull it o ) that took best advantage of the gorgeous site and beautiful weather.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage California

Throughout the design process continually edited our palette, believing a pared-down collection of finishes would achieve the peaceful and elegant home they wanted that would stand the test of time.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage California Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA USA

In addition to the major structural gesture of removing and reframing the roof of the living space, we added a large sliding/stacking door for an e ffortless indoor-outdoor connection to the garden. The original entry location had been moved to the side of the house at some point, and this was returned to the original location, restoring the intended exterior entrance sequence from the street. To de ne the entry space, and respond to John’s request for a desk in the center of the action, we conceived of a large floating desk surface, suspended from a black metal screen to de ne the space and allow filtered light and views to pass between.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage California

The metal screen was repeated at a new breakfast terrace connected to the kitchen by french doors, also filtering the morning sun and creating privacy between the terrace and the adjacent guest bedroom. The former chopped-up side entry and tiny kitchen were combined to make a long, generous kitchen and built-in banquette with dark, serious tones and textures to contrast with the bright white stucco and abundant light from the massive wall of south-facing doors and the bright, lightness of the creamy-white living room furniture and original white lacquer piano that came with the house.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA USA

In the bedroom wing, the two small rooms facing the rear garden were combined to create a proper principal suite, with a dramatic and spacious dressing area rendered in moody, warm black fluted walls, and more large, new aluminum windows and doors to allow circulation, sunlight and breezes to pour into the house.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA

The landscape was completely re-imagined, with the original rhombus-shaped swimming pool serving as a departure-point for a geometric exercise that includes a generous green space for their pet Norwich Terriers, Mr. Pua and Hoagy Carmichael, all de ned by a poured-in-place concrete border, flanked by citrus trees and a long, poured-in-place concrete re pit. Wide concrete steps elegantly descend to a cactus garden with mature palm trees and a winding path to the back gate.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA

The biggest challenge of our project was nding ourselves under construction in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. The di culty in tracking what was and wasn’t allowed in terms of construction, as well as di culty in holding face-to-face meetings, and challenges with building materials suddenly becoming scarce all left us scrambling to remain exible and philosophical.

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage CA USA

Thunderbird 8 House in Rancho Mirage, California – Property Information

Architects: Jill Lewis Architecture –

Project size: 3017 ft2
Completion date: 2020
Building levels: 1

Thunderbird 8 House Rancho Mirage California

Photographer: Douglas Friedman

Thunderbird 8 House, Rancho Mirage, California images / information received 130624

Location: Rancho Mirage, California, United States of America

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