Pristine Desert-Steel Celebrity

Restored Wexler house—tract’s one of only seven ever built—hits Palm Springs market
Fridays On the Homefront
Architect Donald Wexler's 'folded-plate' Steel House No. 6, which has risen to Palm Springs celebrity status, is now on the market. Photos: Dan Chavkin
Fridays On the Homefront

An "almost obsessively" restored model of one of architect Donald Wexler's Steel Development houses—Steel House No. 6—has hit the market in Palm Springs, just a few weeks after the sale of Wexler's own self-designed home nearby.

Together Wexler, business partner Richard Harrison, and engineer Bernard Perlin created plans for a tract of steel homes, expected to total 38 in all, in the early 1960s for prolific Palm Springs developers George and Robert Alexander. But only seven were built.

All seven still stand, and together they have risen to local celebrity status. But Steel House No. 6 (1962) is one of only two of them that features a classic 'folded-plate' roof.

"It is pristine, meticulous," said agent Gary Johns of the Paul Kaplan Group, who listed the property on January 26 for $827,000. "You could almost say it's obsessive."

Retired advertising man Tom Carnase bought the house about a decade ago and spent the first few years on a restoration project so faithful that it was endorsed in stone by Wexler's signature. Johns said Carnase even hunted down several original-model bathroom sinks and lighting fixtures for the project so that "if it gets broken, he's got the replacements."

"It's that kind of attention that he went to to restore this house and protect its future restoration," the realtor said of the 1,411 square foot, two-bedroom, two-bath at 300 East Molino Road. Noting details like the original cooktop in the kitchen, he commented, "It is authentic, it is the original floor plan. It is as original as they come."

Asked what items might need repair or replacement on the house, Johns replied, "He [Carnase] is so devoted to this house that there is just nothing!"

Steel was a favored material for a time for Wexler's mentor, Richard Neutra, and other mid-century modernists. Joe Eichler built two steel homes in the mid-1950s, and eight houses in the landmark Case Study program have steel framing, siding, or both.

All seven of the Steel Development homes are on Molino Road or Sunnyview Drive in the Racquet Club West area of Palm Springs.