Michael Moloney

Chillin' in the Desert

UPDATED 08/15/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/15/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

ONE DESIGNER'S HOME: MICHAEL MOLONEY

On ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, interior design guru Michael Moloney helps convert hovels to castles in seven days. When he returns to harsh reality, however, things happen more...slowly. "It's hard to get contractors to work in the desert," says Moloney, explaining why it took nearly four years to complete his dream house in Palm Springs, Calif. "So this house took as long [to remodel] as it would the average Joe."

On the bright side: He got way-above-average results. Moloney's elegant yet whimsical hideaway, which he calls "Twin Palms," is bathed in light, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and an abundance of white—from the modern Italian leather sofas and the concrete floors to a stunning Carrara-marble swimming pool. Fuchsia and lime-green accents offer a cool respite to the eye. The whimsy, meanwhile, can be found in such amenities as a wooden bowl filled with designer sunglasses and fuzzy alpaca pillows. The house also showcases Moloney's trademark "not exactly perfect" look, which blends flea-market finds (like the lime-green '70s print he bought for the dining room) with designer chic (a nearby reupholstered period settee from France). In the kitchen, elegant quartz countertops are paired with modern IKEA cabinets, and inside the refrigerator you'll find a bottle of sunblock being chilled.

The original house, built in 1958, was far from perfect. The exterior, for example, was painted chocolate brown, with turquoise trim. Still, says Moloney, "it had the good bones I was looking for: open space, lots of glass, great mountain views, and it was on a corner lot." Immediately after closing on the house in January 2001, he set to work stripping it down to its "bones" and installing all new drywall, electrical wiring and copper pipes. Moloney also knocked down a wall to convert an outside room into what's now the dining room and added an outdoor retaining wall to enhance privacy. He then told his gardener to strip the landscaping of all the "bushy, sticky trees," says Moloney. "His marching orders were: If it isn't a palm, rip it out."

In the small backyard Moloney managed to carve out his pride and joy: a rectangular pool (filled with saltwater because, he says, "it's softer on the eyes and hair and doesn't fade bathing suits as much as chlorine"). To offset the pool's imported Italian marble, he playfully placed an oversized Roman head sculpture next to the adjoining Jacuzzi. He also keeps multiple pairs of flip-flops "in every size," he says, for friends who drop by. "If you have a house in the desert," explains Moloney (who also has a home in L.A.), "it should be 'Just come over right now.'"

On this day, Carrie Quinn, a decorator friend who works at Moloney's Maison Luxe home furnishings store in Manhattan Beach, Calif, (one of two the onetime fashion model owns), is in the pool with Moloney's 75-year-old mother, Dee, basking in the 106° heat. "Do you have sunscreen on your shoulders?" Moloney asks her. Then, ever the thoughtful host, he dashes off to the fridge to retrieve a nice cold bottle.

Mike Lipton. Sandra Marquez in Palm Springs

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