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Inside Modernism Week's Showpiece: the 1959 Siva House

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The way owner Liz Ostoich tells it, the decision to buy southern California's Siva House, a 1959 perch designed by modernist Hugh Kaptur, happened three feet past the threshold. Stepping into the living room, feeling the outdoor-focus of the interiors and peering out onto the rolls of crinkled hills, spatter of resort homes, and patches of golf course that define the reclaimed deserts of Palm Springs, Calif., Ostoich and her husband, Mark, knew: "this is it." Fast-forward a couple of years and the self-proclaimed "collectors at heart" have finally cobbled together a home popping with midcentury furnishings, high-grade pieces flung from Mexico City and Denmark and crafted by the likes of Sam Maloof and George Nakashima. The result? Well, more than enough to get the home spotlighted at Palm Springs' upcoming much-ballyhooed Modernism Week, which celebrates (by way of house tours and cocktails served near kidney-shaped pools) the region's rich history of midcentury design and architecture.

It was that history, in fact, that made preserving the feel of a late '50s house so essential, Ostoich says. The owners, longtime perfectionists when it comes to outfitting their homes in pitch-perfect and period-sensical furnishings—as their 1926 Mediterranean revival and '30s beach house, each fixed up in an undiluted collection of era-appropriate pieces, can attest—tapped into Palm Springs' midcentury antiquities scene, hand-picking one piece at a time. "We couldn't do anything other than '50s furniture and decor," Ostoich explains by phone. "[The house] was actually empty for a long time—we wanted it to be just right."

This meant picking out Nakashima barstools near the kitchen, a Hans Wegner daybed and coffee table in one of the living rooms, and end tables by Maloof (Ostoich's husband was one of Maloof's lawyers, so they knew "Sam," as they casually call the master furniture maker, personally). In another living area, there's a martini sign from a "1950s bar in Silver Lake" and a gondola sofa by Edward Wormley for Dunbar. Oh and that huge cabinet on the back wall? That's a custom Florence Knoll design, complete with a built-in refrigerator. "It might have been a hotel piece, but we're not sure." Of course, the duo are also fans of Mexican modernist Pepe Mendoza, who's credited with much of the home's lamps and hanging fixtures. The only piece not authentic midcentury is the floating bar, made from Lucite and a slab of wood by a local woodworker.

Of course, much of the midcentury richness of the Siva Residence—also known as the Russell House, as Pete Siva did not live there long compared to the man he sold the place to—is fossilized in the bones itself. Kaptur, a Detroit native who went to Palm Springs on vacation in 1956 and never left, has built more than 200 residences in the area (including a house each for actors Steve McQueen and William Holden), plus a heavy handful of Palm Springs landmarks, from resorts to fire stations.

This particular work was embedded into the hills above Palisades Road, offering up a 180-degree view from the glass-windowed walls and creating a tableau that "just makes you feel like singing," as Ostoich puts it. Kaptur's slightly more famous contemporary Albert Frey added the property's infinity pool (the first in Palm Springs) and designed the awnings. Otherwise, the backyard includes some 3,000 square feet of outdoor terrace, with a 30-foot waterfall and koi pond. "A lot of people say the art is the outside," Ostoich said. "But I feel like if you're going to have a midcentury house, it's got to have some color and some splash."

Siva House, below, is featured on the cover of the Modernism Week brochure and inside the February issue of Palm Springs Life magazine. It's also the ultra-chic location of "Cliffside Cocktails," a Curbed-sponsored Modernism Week party on Feb. 22. Interested in sipping that Old Fashioned with a side of stunning views? Stay tuned on Curbed tomorrow for a chance to win tickets, and find more event info right this way.

Photos by Tara Wujcik Photography

· All Midcentury Modern posts [Curbed National]
· All Palm Springs coverage [Curbed National]
· All Modernism Week coverage [Curbed LA]
· Modernism Week [official site]
· Cliffside Cocktails at a Captivating Kaptur [Modernism Week]