The Desert Oasis Show House’s primary bedroom, designed by Chris Barrett.

From April 1-10, you can tour a Polynesian-themed home designed by architect John Walling at the upscale El Dorado Estates in Indian Wells.

The 4,350-square-foot Desert Oasis Show House is a product of Design Collaborative, which, according to its website, “brings top-of-field designers and architects together to transform iconic properties into unparalleled modern luxury living spaces.” In addition to house tours, there will be events including panel discussions, parties and more—with a percentage of the proceeds going to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, FIND Food Bank, and the Special Olympics South California

The home features greens, yellows and coral pinks matched with Polynesian-patterned textiles, plus owner Jeph White’s world-class collection of historic longboards. There are grass-cloth walls—and, displayed on the wall behind a bed, a slender, 16-foot wa’a (dugout canoe) from his extensive collection.

“It’s a completely different concept, because the owner of the house collects Polynesian artifacts, which is very specifically for him,” says interior designer Chris Barrett, one of the 10 designers participating in the Desert Oasis Show House; she designed the primary bedroom suite and the exterior furnishings.

Barrett is known for chic commercial and residential design, and has received national recognition from national publications including Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, Departures, Traditional Home and House Beautiful. Her list of celebrity clients includes Charlize Theron, Candice Bergen and John Stamos, and her designs for the Hotel Oceana, the Parents’ Resource Room in UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital, Maestro’s Green Club in Las Vegas, and Los Angeles restaurant Comme Ça helped her to win a Luxe award in 2019.

Barrett said the pandemic has been a surprising catalyst for her work; her project list is growing, in spite of, or maybe in response to, COVID-19. Homing, nesting and cocooning are on people’s minds, and many people want to re-imagine their space as they reinvent themselves, she said.

Another Show House participant, interior designer Jenika Kurtz, said Barrett has a gift: “She knows how to give people a home that reflects them and not her. She gives them exactly what they want, without them even knowing what they want.”

Chris Barrett. Credit: Karyn Millet

Barrett changed careers a while back, becoming an interior designer after being an actress. “I didn’t feel that acting was stable enough, and I had a son and daughter, so I decided to take a course at UCLA’s Interior Design Program,” she said. “I always liked interior design. My mother used to draw pictures of furniture and move them around a lot. It’s something I loved, and I was always artistic.”

Barrett said she tries to present a relaxed approach for clients. “You can go with any style, but it’s how you put things together,” she said. “The color palette is also important. I tend to use more shades of whites and creams with accents of various colors. You can use bolder colors for accents.”

Her advice on redesigning a room? “Don’t overdo. Get a clean space. Take everything out of the room, then get your basics first—sofa, chairs and coffee table.”

Barrett has been coming to the desert for years, and moved to Palm Desert from Los Angeles two years ago, during the lockdown.

“It’s the most magical place,” she said. “The pink desert light is unlike anything I’ve ever known, anywhere, especially the sunrises and sunsets. The lifestyle is also more relaxed and less congested than L.A.”

The lead designer of the Desert Oasis Show House is Michael Berman, of Michael Berman Limited. Over the course of 10 days, organizers expect the Show House to attract more than 5,000 visitors.

The Desert Oasis Show House’s events and tours will take place from Friday, April 1, through Sunday, April 10. Tour tickets start at $38. For a complete schedule of events, tickets and more information, visit designcollaborativeusa.com.

Cat Makino

Catherine Makino is a multimedia journalist who was based in Tokyo for 22 years. She wrote for media sources including Thomson Reuters, the San Francisco Chronicle, Inter Press Service, the Los Angeles...