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Thread: A desert home that soaks up the view

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    Default A desert home that soaks up the view

    On Location

    In the High Nevada Desert, Sleeping in Star-Surround





    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    The house that Fabrizio Rondolino and his wife, Simona Ercolani, built in Nevada looks out on an almost limitless landscape. The flat, arid desert that circles their property not far from Death Valley gives way to gentle mountains.

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    The 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom house is in such a remote spot that even the mystic who built a chapel down the road moved away because it was too lonely.






    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    Peter Strzebniok, the architect, selected the furniture, relying heavily on affordable pieces from Ikea and CB2. He also drove it out from San Francisco himself, to save his clients the cost of having it delivered.

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    Color was used sparingly, to reflect the desert surroundings. The dining room chairs from Design Within Reach ($245 each) are red to suggest the desert heat. The house has no air-conditioning; a ceiling fan hangs overhead.

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    Mr. Rondolino, an Italian journalist, has a corner office in the house.

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    Mr. Rondolino's mother, Lina, left, with Ms. Ercolani, second from right, and the couple's two daughters.

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    The master bedroom has a floor-to-ceiling glass corner and a skylight.

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    The green tiles in the utilitarian bathrooms echo the color of desert sagebrush.



    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    The 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom house is in such a remote spot that even the mystic who built a chapel down the road moved away because it was too lonely.


    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    The notion of a totally prefabricated home was considered but rejected — it would have been too expensive to transport. Instead, sections of the house were manufactured five hours away, in Reno, Nev., and brought to the site. The final cost was $290,000.

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    One of the couple's daughters, Francesca, at the kitchen window.

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    They have a spring-fed tub on the porch, but no pool, which Mr. Rondolino considers “too nice” and “civilized” for the desert.

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    The landscape was “a bit shocking” at first, says Mr. Rondolino, left, with Ms. Ercolani, a television producer. “Then it became the opposite; it makes you feel very safe and warm.”

    Joe Fletcher for The New York Times
    “When you stay here in the night, you can see the stars move,” Ms. Ercolani says.

    ..........


    Fabrizio Rondolino and Simona Ercolani's Nevada home looks out on an almost limitless landscape.
    By JOYCE WADLER

    Published: August 3, 2011

    SCOTTY’S JUNCTION, Nev.

    NEIGHBORS are few out here in the high desert of Nevada, where Fabrizio Rondolino, an Italian journalist, built his dream home. There was a fellow one lot over who, after reportedly hearing instructions from above, built a chapel. But possibly the voice subsequently hollered down, “Just kidding!” for while the chapel remains, the owner’s trailer is gone. There is also the Shady Lady Ranch, a bordello (legal in these parts) about seven miles down the road. Being an outgoing and friendly sort, Mr. Rondolino took his wife and two daughters, both under 21 at the time, to say hello, soon after they bought their land a few years ago.
    “I was locking the car, and my wife and two girls ring the bell,” Mr. Rondolino remembers. “And the guy opened the door, and they saw two girls and a lady.” The man seemed to think they were looking for a job, and he told them several times that no under-age girls were allowed in the house. Then Mr. Rondolino arrived and informed him they were the new neighbors. The man wasn’t very friendly, Mr. Rondolino recalls. He said, “Good luck,” and that was that.
    But bordellos and mystics are not the first thing an Easterner wants to know about after arriving on this stretch of land 150 miles north of Las Vegas, not far from Death Valley, on a scorching summer day. The first thing one wants to know is whether there are rattlesnakes. The answer, from Peter Strzebniok, the architect who built this house and is also visiting on this day: no, it is too hot. Rattlesnakes prefer the shade.
    The next question — the big one — is for the owner: Why would he build a house in the middle of the scorching nowhere?
    It is not an unexpected question. Mr. Rondolino, who arrived earlier the same day from his home in Rome, with his wife, Simona Ercolani; their daughters, Francesca, 23, and Bianca, 17; and his parents, Gianni and Lina Rondolino, cheerfully interrupts, as it is one he has heard countless times.
    “Why, why, why, why, why?” he asks, his face full of happiness, like a man who has been reunited with a true love after a long time apart. “It all started with ‘Zabriskie Point,’ ” he says, referring to the Antonioni film about 1960s counterculture. “Simona’s father worked on that movie — he was chief electrician back in 1969. ‘Zabriskie Point’ was kind of a mythical occasion for him. It is set in Death Valley; part of it was shot at Zabriskie Point.”
    “Anyway, we came here for the first time 17, 18 years ago, and we fell deeply in love with Death Valley, so we keep coming,” continues Mr. Rondolino, who is 51 and speaks English fluently. “And then we decided, why not build?”
    “My father has the Alzheimer’s for 13 years,” says Ms. Ercolani, who is 47 and speaks English less fluently than her husband. “When he died, the last words he remembered was ‘Zabriskie Point.’ Not me, not my daughters, not my mother. Only ‘Zabriskie Point.’ ”
    She adds: “When my father died, we take the airplane here to honor my father and just walk, and he” — meaning Mr. Rondolino — “says, ‘It’s a beautiful place, we can build something.’ And joking, I say, ‘Sure.’ ”
    Speaking of her husband, we have just noticed he has a small blue “S” tattooed on his hand in the tender tissue between thumb and forefinger. What’s that about?
    “We had a small troubled period,” Ms. Ercolani says. “So after we build the house, I marked my husband.”
    Does the desert attract those with interesting stories? Or is it just that in the desert one has time to listen to them?
    Nye County, where Mr. Rondolino and Ms. Ercolani built their house, is so wide open that driving along Highway 95 from Las Vegas one can easily find oneself doing 90 miles an hour. In Beatty, some 30 miles away, there are a number of intriguing characters: a cowboy re-enactor at the Sourdough Saloon who will tell you about his favorite hat and the days he really did cowboy (that’s a verb in these parts); the auto engineers and drivers testing prototype vehicles in Death Valley, which are often covered in plastic camouflage to hide their design from snooping photographers; the owners of the Shady Lady Ranch, who brought in a man for their female customers, after successfully challenging the Nevada law forbidding male prostitution (the man, who gave an interview to The New York Post in which he compared himself to Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi, is no longer there).

    Then there is the story of Mr. Rondolino and Ms. Ercolani, aficionados of the American desert. On this summer afternoon, they are playing Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, and welcoming guests, as the temperature in their house, which has no air-conditioning, tops out at 94 degrees.






    Mr. Rondolino, whose father is a cinema professor, is a novelist and press agent as well as a journalist, and was once a spokesman for the former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema. Ms. Ercolani is a television producer.
    The couple, who have both been married before, have visited many deserts over the years: the Simpson in Australia, the Gobi in Mongolia, the Atacama in South America. But about 10 years ago, when they were going through a rough patch romantically, the desert played a major role in their lives. Mr. Rondolino had had an affair and moved out of the house, and there were, he says, a lot of tears on both sides. During this “crisis” in their marriage, they spent a few weeks in Death Valley.
    “We had a kind of emotional breakdown in a place ironically called Last Chance Mountain,” Mr. Rondolino says. “But luckily, this was not our last chance. We came back to Italy, and after a couple of months we were together again. And we decided to celebrate with a week at Furnace Creek Ranch.”
    In 2005, the couple bought 40 acres here, for $70,000. A year later, when they brought their daughters to see the land, Ms. Ercolani buried her wedding ring under some rocks on the property.
    Why? Ms. Ercolani explains in Italian, and one of her daughters translates: “She buried her wedding ring under the rocks because we are locked in this place, because they lost themselves here and found themselves here. It’s a symbol of their love. When she buried the ring, she buried the sad part.”
    Mr. Rondolino came across the work of Peter Strzebniok (pronounced Cheb-nee-ah), a young German architect living in San Francisco, whose firm, nottoscale, had created an affordable prefabricated house.
    Architect and client never met or even spoke on the phone during the planning, construction and furnishing of the desert home — all the planning was done by e-mail. (They met for the first time on the day the architect and his wife, Deborah Wong, traveled out to the house with this reporter.) Mr. Rondolino and Ms. Ercolani visited the site only once during construction, when the interiors were not yet finished.
    Now, sitting in one of the bedrooms, the couple acknowledge that this is unusual, but they say they had no fears. The architect was European, and they had a shared sensibility.
    The notion of a totally prefabricated home was considered but rejected — it would have been too expensive to transport. Instead, sections of the house were manufactured five hours away, in Reno, and brought to the site.
    The original estimate of $250,000 for the approximately 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, with an office and a spring-fed hot tub on the deck, proved to be too low. The final cost was $290,000. (Much of the reason had to do with problems with a series of contractors, one of whom spent time digging for gold instead of working.)
    Color is used sparingly here, as accents: green bathroom tiles that recall the surrounding sagebrush, touches of red from the bar stools to suggest the heat of the desert. Mr. Strzebniok furnished the house down to the salt shakers, relying heavily on Ikea in the bedrooms and on CB2 (the table) and Design Within Reach (the chairs) in the dining room. When he was quoted $6,000 for furniture delivery, he rented a U-Haul and made two trips himself, picking the furniture up in San Francisco. And before Mr. Rondolino and Ms. Ercolani visited the finished house for the first time last Christmas, Mr. Strzebniok stocked it with food, as well as with bottles of Campari and Pernod.
    “He is the perfect husband, the opposite of me,” Mr. Rondolino teases. “I’m not a practical man, but I appreciate practical men.”
    To the reporter from the East, there is one thing that seems to be missing. The tub set into the deck is deliciously cooling, but why didn’t they build a full-size pool?
    “You can’t have a pool in the middle of the desert,” Mr. Rondolino says.
    But Palm Springs is full of pools.
    “Palm Springs is for Hollywood stars,” he says. “There is air-conditioning also in the main street. I don’t like this kind of too-nice, civilized desert. To me, there is not enough desert.”
    They spent a week in the house over Christmas. Was it everything they hoped?
    “When you stay here in the night, you can see the stars move,” Ms. Ercolani says, referring to the experience of sleeping in a bedroom with a floor-to-ceiling glass corner and a skylight.
    Her husband adds: “I had the sensation of being on a spaceship. This winter, we had a really strong wind one night — the house was almost shaking. And there were millions, billions of stars from everywhere, you were completely surrounded by the stars down to the horizon, which in the cities or countryside you are not. Normally you see the stars above you, not around you. Yes, it was like a spaceship.”



    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/04/ga...d=2&ref=garden
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    Elite Member Sylkyn's Avatar
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    It's a nice trailer in the desert --- with a view. Not much else. Hate it.

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    Elite Member VenusInFauxFurs's Avatar
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    I love it. The living room feels a little decor by Target, but I really dig this.
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    Elite Member angelais's Avatar
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    No fucking way I would live in the desert in Nevada, no matter what kind of house it is.
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    Elite Member Bellatheball's Avatar
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    The idea that you can't see anything but sand for miles is fucking depressing.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    i think the scenery is gorgeous but i like deserts.
    the house itself is beautiful too, though their décor needs a little work.
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    I can feel the heat from here. This whole idea seems whacky to me. I don't even want to visit. Hate it.
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    Elite Member ariesallover's Avatar
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    I love it, but what is it like for the tv producer to commute when she can't do distance work? I wonder how far the nearest hospital is.
    "I ransacked his drawers when he left me by myself at his place for the first time. That's how we did it in the good old days. Tells me all I need to know about him. He pretends he didn't notice. That's how good relationships start." - Chilly Willy

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    Gold Member Snoopy's Avatar
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    No AC?!? Damn!

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    Elite Member Kathie_Moffett's Avatar
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    I love the desert, and I find this house--and its owners--rather intriguing. I love it that they don't want A/C and they don't want to make the desert "too civilized." There's a kind of charming purist nuttiness about them that I respect.

    That said, I could never, ever live there fulltime and certainly not all summer. Probably not in the summer at all!

    But in the winter, it would be a very interesting place to spend some time. I find those landscapes so very restful, in an almost spiritual way. And in a climate that hostile, it's oddly fascinating to look out at such vastness and know that it IS only a view, almost dreamlike, because you can't really go out and explore it at all, practically speaking.

    My only real criticisms of the place are that it's too small, and almost obsessively plain and under-decorated. Also, especially with no A/C, I'd want to have at least one inner room with no skylights, someplace I could shut out the blazing sun and rest my eyes.

    The size is particularly problematic; with such a remote homestead, I'd want to have guests, and there'd have to be someplace to put them. Also, not having a garage is insane if you plan on being there in summer.
    Did you know that every time a parent gives in to their kid's whines and buys them candy at the checkout lane, a kitten gets diabetes?-Dlisted
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Have fun living on the moon
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    Elite Member MsDark's Avatar
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    I can't imagine what it costs to keep cool.
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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrsDark View Post
    I can't imagine what it costs to keep cool.
    That costs nothing.
    On this summer afternoon, they are playing Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, and welcoming guests, as the temperature in their house, which has no air-conditioning, tops out at 94 degrees.

    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Elite Member chartreuse's Avatar
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    yeah, i am totally digging this...minus that yucky (and DATED!) black-white-red color scheme & the ugly flowered throw pillow (i HATE floral prints & stuff accented with flowers, especially daisies). and unless there's some major natural cooling thing going on somehow, i'm installing A/C.

    the house itself & the desert setting, though? KILLER. i have mad love for that desert. love that little tub on the the porch...it looks like it's one of those weltevree dutchtubs, which i've been drooling over for awhile.

    eta: oh nm, the tub is wooden. it's not the one i was thinking of.
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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    They should start up again the nuclear testing that was done in the Nevada desert...and this place should be ground zero for the first test.

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