Rendering of exterior of desert house with multiple Marvin Windows
19 October 2018

An Indoor/Outdoor Prefab Blooms in the Palm Springs Desert

While architect Joel Turkel has built prefab homes all over North America and beyond, he hasn’t had the chance to live in one of his own designs. That will soon change.

The Axiom Desert House by Turkel Design is a 2,110-square-foot prefab currently under construction in Palm Springs, California. When completed, it will become home to the Turkel family. Designing their future family home was a way for Joel and Meelena Turkel—founders of Turkel Design—to dive deeply into the design, building and delivery process. Even though they’ve been creating homes for over a decade, there was still more to learn.

The L-shaped house wraps around a courtyard with a pool and patio, connecting the indoors to the outdoors.

“We’ve been compelled by the idea of the living lab—a place where we would be able to try different techniques, different materials, different methods, but also have the latitude to design a place that combines all of the best techniques and features that we’ve learned over years and years in the business,” says Joel Turkel.

Panels for the prefab house were manufactured out of laminated strand lumber (LSL)—an engineered wood product made from scrap wood. Designed for weather resistance, it’s stronger than traditional framing materials and less likely to warp or split.

With sustainability and energy efficiency in mind, Turkel designed the home out of engineered wood—its construction doesn’t use any old growth timber: “It’s all fast-growing trees or material that otherwise would have been waste wood.” Photovoltaic systems will completely power the home and sleek ceiling fans by The Modern Fan Co. will keep the home cool in the desert heat, reducing the need for air conditioning.

The location of Palm Springs itself, with its view of the San Jacinto mountain range, shaped the house. “We wanted a very strong connection to the outdoors. We viewed the outdoor living to be as important—if not more important—than the indoor living,” says Turkel.

Workers unload systems-built panels and carefully assemble the shell. The crew fastens panels to the concrete slab with seismic hold downs.

As such, nearly every room will have a view of the mountains and the L-shaped home wraps around a sunny courtyard with a pool. Marvin lift-and-slide doors open to allow rooms to connect to the patio. “We wanted no threshold between interior and exterior,” says Turkel. “And with a Marvin product, we can get that. We can have the patio at exactly the same level as the interior floor—and employ the same finish—so as you’re moving from interior to out, that connection is virtually seamless.”

Doors by Marvin will lift and slide into hidden pockets in the walls, allowing rooms of the house to open dramatically to the courtyard.

Inside, space-saving pieces from Resource Furniture allow rooms to serve multiple functions. A den, for example, can easily transform into a guest room with a folding bed. Appliances by Dacor blend seamlessly with the clean and spare design aesthetic. Working closely with these partners during the design phase helped Turkel Design achieve optimal and elegant design solutions for modern living. “We can really let the house function the way that it was designed to function,” says Turkel.

A worker installs Marvin doors. “We wanted to have the ability to open to the outside as much as possible, so using Marvin Contemporary Solutions was really essential,” says Turkel.

When we caught up with Turkel at the end of August, dry wall was just about to go in. The home will make its debut at Modernism Week in February 2019. Although Turkel has seen the assembly of hundreds of prefab homes, “however many times you’ve seen it, it’s incredibly fulfilling and exciting.” That the house will become his family’s home makes it even more meaningful.

“In Palm Springs, people know that design matters,” says Turkel. “They love it. They’re proud of the design heritage here. And we share those values.”

When he thinks of his six-year-old daughter’s next birthday, he says, “It’s going to be against the backdrop of that home, with that environment that we’ve created. And that’s the intangible that as a designer you can’t really put your finger on it until you’ve done it for yourself.”

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