A California home, Aidlin Darlin Design’s High Desert Retreat employs sustainable strategies to empower its residents to live with nature rather than against it.

February’s Interiors of the Month winner takes us to Palm Desert – a residence there by Aidlin Darling Design has been distinguished with the title for its considered build and embrace of the surroundings. High Desert Retreat was erected without disturbing a single Pinyon tree, a pine which grows in plentitude in the desert environment. For their work the San Francisco-based practice earned a total score of 7.94 in the House category, ranking highly in sustainability.

Overlooking the San Jacinto mountain range, the Palm Desert home is a single-storey structure punctuating the arid environs with strong structural lines rendered in concrete, wood and steel. A sustainability programme is incorporated into the 289-sq-m design with a full-roof photovoltaic solar system, on-site water storage, high-efficiency plumbing, climatic control and more. In the beginning of the design process, the Aidlin Darling team camped on site to ‘absorb the nuances of the microclimate, the vast diurnal temperature swings, the positioning of the trees and boulders, and the shifting light conditions across the mountain ranges’. They call the end-result ‘a simple framing device to observe the surrounding terrain’.

Editor, content producer and brand strategist Paul Makovsky loves the 'indoor-outdoor transitions' at High Desert Retreat, noting its 'great use of materials' and 'underpinning of sustainable thinking'. Photos: Joe Fletcher Photography

Juror Martin Mostböck, founder and creative director at AID – ArchitectureInteriorsDesign, comments that it’s ‘great architecture combined with great standards for sustainability’. While Sibling Architecture director Timothy Moore believes that there was greater potential for innovation through further integrating the landscape –  it ‘frames nature and therefore treats it as an “other”’ – he calls it a ‘stunning house that does not dominate its surroundings’. ‘[There’s] rigour and refinement here without sacrificing intimacy,’ says HOK principal and director of design interiors Bill Bouchey. ‘[It] takes what is familiar and “casts” it fresh.’

 Kate Shepherd, co-founder and strategic director at The Future Collective, calls WGNB’s work for XYTS ‘a beautiful and innovative way to create a customer journey that is filled with a sense of serendipity and discovery’. Photo: Yong Joon Choi

‘The separation of spaces and the use of the courtyard to unify the rooms works well and is a great success for the house,’ says  Tola Ojuolape, senior project designer at Selina, of Villa Fifty-Fifty. ‘I love how light and greenery permeate the building throughout.' Photo: Frans Parthesius

The Design Writer's Penny Craswell thinks the collective spaces at the Van Cleef & Arpels office comprise a 'beautiful, tasteful project' emanating 'sophisticated calm'. Photo: Clement Barzucchetti

Joining the winner are four honourable mentions, including a Seoul shop commended in two categories, an Eindhoven single-family home and communal areas within the Paris workspaces of a renowned jeweller. Designed by WGNB, XYTS is a bold retail environment that achieved the average score of 7.5 in the Best Use of Colour group and 7.42 in Multi-Brand Store. In third place is Villa Fifty-Fifty, a Dutch House (7.45) by Studioninedots that like the High Desert Retreat strikes a fine, atmospheric balance between indoors and outdoors. Van Cleef & Arpels’ open ‘living spaces’ at their Paris headquarters, the work of Constance Guisset Studio, ranked fifth with 7.31 for Small Office.