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Touring the Super-Stark, All-White Jennings House

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It's Palm Springs Modernism Week and we're touring a few of the beautiful buildings open to the public as part of the festivities. We've seen Frank Sinatra's old Twin Palms estate and Temple Isaiah; today it's the super minimalist Jennings House.

[Photos by Elizabeth Daniels]

Updated 2/21: Let's get this out of the way upfront--this house, a monument to minimalism, is not for everyone. Designed by San Francisco-based Jim Jennings for himself and his wife, the eight-foot-tall exterior walls form a refuge from the harsh climate of the desert landscape. It's utterly private--if you don't worry about an inconvenient sunburn on some of your more intimate areas, feel free to walk around au naturel. No one can see you.

Rather than creating a lush interior escape so common in Palm Springs, Jennings has gone in another direction, honoring the San Jacinto mountain vista above all. The 750-square-foot house uses off-the-shelf industrial materials, including steel beams, painted concrete blocks, and sliding glass doors that track into a wall recess, opening the walls of the house almost entirely to the 3,000-square-foot property.

The steel beams that support the roof also cleverly hide the air conditioning vents, while the guts of the house--the AC unit, pool equipment, and solar panels--lie outside of the house's enclosure. The roof sits above clerestories that give the illusion the house is floating above the exterior walls.

There is a small lap pool at one end of the western courtyard, and the living room and bedroom are separated by a kitchen and bathroom. Other than two simple white block benches, the courtyard remains starkly empty. Jennings sees it as a counterpoint to the mountains. "There is so much mass in the mountains," he says. "The empty courtyard becomes a spatial frame."

Jennings and his wife have furnished the house in a similarly stark aesthetic. White dominates, and most of the furniture was chosen for its ability to work both indoors and out. While the house was completed in 2009, this is the first year it's been open to tours for Modernism Week. The house (previously featured in Arch Digest) *was on the market from August 2011 to March 2012, listed at $725,000. --Marissa Gluck
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