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Palm Springs Bob Hope House: Perplexed disappointment to near masterpiece status

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Bob Hope never liked the home. Celebrated architect, John Lautner, was always disappointed with the Hope’s choice of decor and interiors. Lautner envisioned a residence that blended in with the surrounding rocky landscape. The interior design would be defined by the extraordinary play of desert light throughout the home and breathtaking views of the desert and the mountains. 

Bob and Dolores Hope had other ideas. They were Hollywood royalty and wanted a home to reflect that status. Eventually, they hired a Beverly Hills society decorator (who worked for the shah of Iran’s sister) to do the interiors. When the house was completed in 1980, Lautner walked away dismayed.

Now, Palm Springs’ most exclusive hillside neighborhood has been rumbling with the sound of power tools and construction trucks for well over a year, as more than a hundred craftsmen from across the Coachella Valley have worked to bring the city’s most famous house back to life.


Bob Hope house in Palm Springs, long an architectural footnote, approaches masterpiece status

Many observers have said the structure, with its sweeping, gravity-defying roof and 60-foot-wide oculus, looks like a spaceship parked on a rugged hill — and when Hope first saw Lautner’s architectural model, he quipped: “Well, at least when they come down from Mars they’ll know where to go.”

Until now. Thanks to the deep pockets of venture capitalist Ron Burkle, the house is being remade to reflect the architect’s original vision. Lautner protégé Helena Arahuete, who worked with him for 23 years, has stripped the interiors and rebuilt the inside with natural materials. Swan faucets, wallpaper and carpet are out. Quartzite flooring, African mahogany and Brazilian granite are in — as is the shape-shifting light that transforms the house during the course of the day.

With the project now in its final stages, the house is almost ready for its relaunch.

 

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It’s not easy renovating a giant round house with thousands of curves and few squares, but Burkle said, “I want the Hope house to continue to be something the Coachella Valley community is proud of.”

He also wants people to know that he has no patience with anyone who disrespects the Hopes — or the way they decorated their Palm Springs house.

They could have abandoned the project. They could have hired a more conservative architect. They didn’t.

 

“They were leaders in philanthropy and in the support of our troops all over the world,” Burkle said. They were a huge part of the Palm Springs community and its history.”

The Hopes envisioned the house as a space for entertaining and bringing people together, Burkle said, adding, “I expect to use the house in a similar way.”

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