Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building
When you're an architect, you have the unique ability to make sure that your own house rocks as much as your clients' homes do. For Albert Frey, that meant building a home in the rocks—well, in the boulders, at least. His 800-square-foot Frey House II outside Palm Springs, CA, is a tiny house that utilizes the expansive desert views to make it feel much larger than it is. The second home the architect designed for himself, the Frey House II has become a landmark in the Palm Springs desert.
Swiss-born architect Frey designed a great number of homes in Palm Springs, but surely none hold a candle to this little glass beauty. The little home, built in 1964, is nestled into a boulder field on the hillside overlooking the city, and it has everything it needs—plus a giant boulder in the sleeping area. For a year prior to designing the home, Frey surveyed the land and studied the sun‘s movements, wanting desperately to incorporate every possible element of nature into his design. When it came down to it, building the house around a boulder was something Frey took on not as an obstacle, but as a design element to be incorporated into the home’s interior.
The boulder juts up through the largest space inside the house, which is an open floorplan encompassing the living room and bedroom. Frey used the boulder as a natural divider for the sleeping area, and was so tickled by the boulder as a design element that he installed a light switch right into the face of the boulder above the bed. It’s an audacious move, but why else have a boulder next to your bed if you’re not willing to fully embrace it?
Construction materials for the tiny home are fairly cheap: corrugated steel makes up the roof, and the rest of the structure is largely concrete block and steel sections. The industrial look achieved by employing such materials help the home engage in a really interesting conversation with its natural environs. Rather than disappearing into the desert hillside, as one might imagine a home with a boulder inside it would want to do, the Frey House is quite noticeable. It holds a tension in the space that is not enough to be off-putting, but enough to register: I am here.
No Palm Springs home, tiny or not, would be complete without a pool and the Frey House is no exception. In fact, visitors to the tiny house won’t overlook the pool, because the home’s entrance faces the water feature. From inside the house, floor-to-ceiling glass walls face out in nearly every direction, giving a false illusion about what is inside, and what is outside. With the windows open, perhaps there is no difference.