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Sorely Neglected Wallace Neff in Palm Springs Gearing Up For a Big Comeback

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The 10-bedroom villa’s lovely original details have been unseen for decades

Palm Springs is first and foremost thought of as a bastion of mid-century modern architecture, but the desert resort city once boasted a sizable stock of notable residences exemplifying architectural styles of earlier eras, including Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival, Streamline Moderne, and International. Sadly, relatively few of these significant properties have escaped the wrecking ball, which makes the news of the planned restoration of a 1933 California Spanish by master architect Wallace Neff especially exciting.

The home in question, located in the town’s Tennis Club neighborhood, was built for Arthur K. Bourne, the fabulously wealthy heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. One of three residences Neff designed for Bourne (the other two are in San Marino and Glendora), it was cited as a "model of a desert oasis" by renowned architecture critic John Chase. However, recent decades have seen the 9,500-square-foot hacienda falling victim to both insensitive alterations and total neglect, to the point where locals began referring to it as "Grey Gardens."

Happily, the Bourne estate is now primed to be born-again. This past March, the 1.26-acre property was acquired by preservation-minded development firm ReInhabit, which has spent the intervening months undoing years of damage and insensitive updates to the house, not to mention clearing out a whopping 90,000-plus pounds of debris. ReInhabit founder Rudy Dvorak—who was not allowed to tour the property prior to purchasing it—tells Curbed that the ten-bedroom home was filled with "thousands upon thousands of stuffed animals and china dolls." There was also approximately 7,500 square feet of green carpet to pull up. But in the good news department, hidden behind the creepy dolls, yucky carpet, and multiple layers of paint was a wealth of original details: original tile, original fixtures, original hardware, original doors, original hardwood floors.

This Saturday, ReInhabit gave local architecture buffs the chance to check out the long-off-the-market villa before the next phase of its restoration commences with a free open house tour. Those unable to visit the mansion in person can view a sampling of its interior and exterior spaces in the photo gallery below.