Long before Southern California\u2019s Coachella Valley became a wintertime magnet for suntanned retirees (and more recently, the home of its eponymous neo-bohemian music festival), the desert getaway was a swanky destination for Hollywood\u2019s elite. In the 1950s, stars like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe flocked to the area\u2019s glamour capital, Palm Springs, as well as nearby communities like Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage, where the San Jacinto Mountains form a stunning backdrop.For Paul Boschetto, a San Francisco business executive who started going there in the \u201970s, the area\u2019s midcentury mystique is exemplified by the Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage. \u201cIt has a star-studded past,\u201d he says. \u201cEveryone from Bing Crosby to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used to come here, along with all these executives from Detroit; that\u2019s how they got the name for the Ford Thunderbird.\u201dFounded in 1951, the club famously hosted the valley\u2019s first 18-hole golf course. Bob Hope liked the club so much that he built himself a hillside house overlooking the links. Soon, Lucy and Desi, Sinatra and Hoagy Carmichael joined him, commissioning weekend homes here in the modernist style that was all the rage. The luxurious gated enclave was given an official name: Thunderbird Heights.The breakfast room\u2019s Saarinen table and chairs are by Knoll, the painting is by Martin Sniper and the light fixture is by Artemide.The decades that followed were not always kind to the homes; some were overly renovated, others cried out for repairs. But for Boschetto, the allure never faded. \u201cI love history,\u201d Boschetto says, \u201cand this is such a storied place.\u201dLouie, a French bulldog, in front of a custom cocktail table by Joseph Jeup. The fireplace wall is original.In 2009, he decided the time was right to buy a house as a winter base for himself and his longtime girlfriend, Courtney Rudnick. They looked at a mid-mod classic with a brown exterior, front lawn and an interior that was \u201cvery period and a little kitschy,\u201d he says. \u201cIt was warm and well done, but not crisp and clean enough for me. I couldn\u2019t pull the trigger.\u201d Yet Boschetto could see the potential. The 4,900-square-foot main house, built in 1957 and stretching across a single level, had terrazzo floors and plate-glass windows with spectacular views of the surrounding desert landscape.In the living room there are vintage Barcelona chairs, back-to-back sofas by William Haines, an Arco lamp by Achille Castiglioni and a floor lamp by Dragonette. The wall is sheathed in Venetian plaster, the ceiling is cedar and the floors are poured-in place terrazzo.The 25,000-square-foot property also came with a pair of guest rooms (reachable via the patio), a separate guest cottage and a pool. Best of all was the location, which is tony enough that designer Michael S. Smith maintains a home here, where he has hosted President Obama on more than one occasion. In a guest room, the vintage bed is upholstered in a Groundworks fabric and dressed in Barbara Martin linens. The wallpaper is a Kelly Wearstler design, the drawings are by Frank Gehry, the chair is by Donghia and the walnut side table is from Design Within Reach.\u201cThe house kept haunting me,\u201d Boschetto says. \u201cArchitecturally, I could envision what it could be.\u201d At last he went for it, purchasing the home and all of its contents — furniture, art, even dishes and silverware — as is the custom in the Palm Springs environs. \u201cIt\u2019s why we have so many consignment shops,\u201d he jokes. The businessman quickly assembled his dream team — Laguna Beach, California\u2013based decorator Sheldon Harte, who had previously helped him with his homes in Newport Beach and Sonoma, and landscape designer Marcello Villano, known for his naturalistic approach.A pair of Robert Kuo lacquered drum stools and a painting by Charles Arnoldi in the hall. The plantings in the garden beyond include an olive tree, barrel cacti, dasylirion wheeleri and micracantha.For Harte, the design mandate was clear. \u201cPaul is a minimalist,\u201d he says. \u201cThe house had been futzed up, and he wanted to take it back to what it was originally.\u201d Villano transformed the exterior with a new zero-edge pool, a pavilion that provides much-needed shade, and a desertfriendly scheme of cacti, native plants and gravel. On the patio off the master bedroom, the outdoor showerhead is by Grohe and the artwork is by Paulden Evans.Harte preserved the home\u2019s vintage features, including the stone wall around the fireplace, but almost everything else inside was replaced. To create more openness, a wall was removed between the kitchen and living area. Carpeting was ripped out and replaced with terrazzo to match the original. A wall in the den is clad in panels of Edelman leather, the custom sofa is upholstered in a fabric by Classic Cloth with cording by Samuel & Sons and the selenite-and-nickel tables are by Ron Dier.\u201cThe whole house is terrazzo now,\u201d Boschetto notes, \u201cwhich gives a sense of continuity and feels cooling.\u201d Once everything was pared down, Harte began to judiciously embellish the interiors. The living room\u2019s zebra rug was banished, making way for a cream-colored scheme of Barcelona chairs and back-to-back sofas by William Haines, who designed the interiors at nearby Sunnylands, the Annenberg estate. Meanwhile, the master bedroom suite features a bath fitted with a stainless steel soaking tub and a cork-lined dressing room where Boschetto stores his baseball caps and array of pastel-hued Trina Turk blazers.The bed in the master bedroom came with the house and is dressed in Barbara Martin linens with a blanket and shams by Herm\u00e8s. The painting is by Daryl Edwards and the wood screen and marble bedside tables are estate-sale finds.Boschetto says the house turned out exactly as he\u2019d imagined it. \u201cI\u2019m at my happiest when I spend time here,\u201d he says. \u201cMy friends ask, \u2018Why live in the desert?\u2019 But to me, it\u2019s a magical place. If Frank Sinatra chose to live here, I guess I can, too.\u201dThe chaise longues are by Paul Ferrante and the exterior is painted in Benjamin Moore\u2019s Simply White. The landscape design is by Marcello Villano.This story was originally published in the March 2017 issue of Siweb.