Finding Inspiration in the Desert

by Carmen Schechinger


As designers at Elsy, we’ve developed a strong culture of continuous improvement. We’re always looking for ways to push ourselves to the next level – to learn more and seek out new ideas and inspiration. To that end, I recently had the honor of participating in the Knoll Upstart leadership program, which brings together design professionals once a month to explore various topics impacting the design industry.

The program culminated in an incredible trip to Palm Springs, California, for Modernism Week 2019. The event took place back in March, but it’s been such a busy spring and summer here at Elsy that I’m only now getting to sit down to reflect on my key takeaways.

Modernism Week celebrates and fosters appreciation of midcentury architecture and design, as well as contemporary thinking in these fields, by encouraging education, preservation and sustainable modern living as represented in the greater Palm Springs area. Every year, Modernism Week gets bigger and bigger, and after attending this year, I can we can see why.

Our Knoll Upstart crew enjoyed a packed weekend that included an evening bus tour of the city, a trip to the featured show house, which was the result of a collaboration between many designers, a first-ever tour of a restored 1955 desert mid-modern home, and we topped it all off with a fascinating keynote presentation.

My biggest takeaways from the trip were:

  1. It’s all about the details! I was wowed by every space we toured, but ultimately what I noticed the most – and what was most compelling to hear about – were the details. Great spaces truly are made in the details.
  2. The importance of a cohesive design concept or theme. Whether it came from the landscape architect, building architect, or interiors – when everyone was working to serve a common theme or the design goal, the results were exceptional.
  3. The power of a supportive, creative network. One of my most valuable takeaways from the program was having this group of like-minded designers who were not only inspiring, but incredibly supportive of one another. They were so easy to relate to, and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations, which helped me envision news ways to push the envelope of design. A huge thank you to Knoll for putting this group of incredible women together!

Here’s a quick peek at our Modernism Week adventures!

I absolutely love the way this bold graphic and green chair fill the room with energy.

This mid-mod home’s exterior is so stunning. Also, how amazing are those cacti!? And how does one decide what bold color to paint your front door in Palm Springs?!

The group also had the rare opportunity to step inside the “Forgotten Frey” home, which was just recently opened to the public for Modernism Week. This residence is one of the many mid-century marvels designed by legendary modernist architect Albert Frey and built during his decades in the desert. This modernist gem has been methodically preserved and maintained over the years, and I love how this uniquely designed home perfectly integrates into its surroundings. A detail that was first and foremost in Frey’s design concept: not interrupting the surrounding area, which at the time, was predominantly desert (not the nearby bustling city)

Stepping inside the “Forgotten Frey” home was truly an unforgettable experience. And these antique accents (not to mention the classic Knoll pieces) looked lovely in the home.

The keynote speaker, architect Moshe Safdie, truly takes “thinking outside of the box” to a whole new level. This famous building is featured in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” What famous buildings have you noticed in movies?

What a treat to hear the story behind Habitat 67 from architect Moshe Safdie himself! At a young age of 24, he was selected to build the permanent structure for the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal. If you look a closely, you’ll see concepts from this building featured in well-planned multi-family projects today

Check out my blog post where I had the opportunity to see his project with my own eyes in Montreal.

It was such a privilege to participate in this year’s Knoll Upstart program. I know the lessons and experiences I took from this program have already made me a stronger designer, and I can’t wait to bring some of this new insight to our Elsy projects!

And in even more exciting news, we are honored to participate in the group again and this year! Senior Project Manager Juliana Rini is participating in this year’s program! Stay tuned to hear more about her journey.

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