We’re all about a good love story between a boutique hotel owner and their cuter-than-anything hotel. We recently caught up with Jaime Kowal of The Amado Palm Springs about her labor of love, a little five-unit villa in Palm Springs that packs more punch than a Rum Collins.
Built in 1955, The Amado has so much character that you wouldn’t be surprised to run into Don Draper sunning by the pool. Though the architect is unknown and unlisted in City Hall documentation, architecture fans think the estate could have been designed by William Francis Cody or Albert Frey (both architects famous for developing “desert modernism” in mid-century Palm Springs). The cubish structure is essentially built around a courtyard that’s filled with citrus trees and a swimming pool/hangout space. For the bulk of the home’s documented history, it has served as a small apartment complex with long-term rentals.
As fate would have it, while Jaime was vacationing with friends in Palm Springs in 2013, she discovered the small property was up for sale and decided to swoop in to create her dream vacation spot. A professional photographer and artist in her own right, Jaime hoped to create a destination for friends and other creatives to relax and enjoy the desert. She quickly moved from Canada to Palm Springs and embarked on a year-long restoration of the property (during which she actually lived on-site) with the goal to return the units to their original glory and add a clean, modern edge to the aesthetic experience.
With a trained eye for architecture and design, Jaime is the first to say that getting involved with The Amado was love at first sight. She quickly saw the potential for turning the villa into individual hotel units and was able to swiftly turn over the property into guest units. Design wise, she followed her instincts and stayed true to what she would want to experience as a guest.
TVR: What is the concept behind The Amado?
JK: The word, “amado,” means beloved in Spanish. The property is fortuitously located on Amado Road and this energy informed the intention behind creating a retreat space that provides an inspiring backdrop for best friends and much loved family members to come together and share their special moments in a beautiful and peaceful atmosphere.
TVR: How did you find this gorgeous little abode?
JK: I love the quote by Seneca “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. I had been researching this idea of creating a five-unit retreat I could rent on Airbnb for a couple of years, and had looked into a number of different locations both in Canada and the US. I was on vacation in Palm Springs when I found the listing for The Amado, and I recognized immediately it was the perfect fit for what I was looking to do. So, I put an offer in the next day and extended my stay in Palm Springs indefinitely.
TVR: Who is the team behind The Amado?
JK: It takes a small village to run The Amado! I am the owner and creative director for the property and manage the marketing, press and production inquiries. Our general manager Chris Cline handles our reservations and operations. We have a dedicated cleaning, landscape and pool crew, one of whom is at the property daily.
TVR: While you were turning The Amado into a hotel, did you have any interesting collaborations with designers or artists?
JK: I worked with renowned artist, Cristopher Cichocki, who helped to curate the space with a number of his mixed media pieces, which add a beautiful texture and interest to the rooms. I worked with Carrie Olshan from Barrington Blue in Los Angeles to commission custom Kilim cushions featuring a natural desert palette you would find in Joshua Tree. My good friend, Linda Taalman, who designed the iT House in Joshua Tree, visited The Amado on a number of occasions during the design process and offered really useful, subtle and refined observations and suggestions about the use of the space and how to create a complete experience from the second you pull up to the property to the moment you leave.
TVR: What do you think makes The Amado ideal for gatherings?
JK: The Amado is a very flexible space due to its design and layout. Every suite is fully contained with its own kitchen, living room, dining room, king size bedroom and bathroom. The common area has lots of space for people to come together. I have seen the property used in a multitude of ways including intimate family reunions, creative photography workshops, celebratory bachelorette parties, a wedding reception complete with a taco truck from LA, and as a location for a number of videographers and photographers shooting editorial and commercial work.
TVR: What was your design vision?
JK: I love minimal spaces that inspire creativity and a sense of escape. I like to add layers of warmth through natural materials, textures, color and art. I always try to honor the original architecture of a space, and am particularly enamored with the clean lines of mid-century design.
TVR: Why did you make the design choices you did?
JK: I wanted to honor the original lines, look and feel of the space. So, I took great care to strip it down to its original bones and rebuild it in the most minimal way I could, using the highest quality materials. For instance, I designed open concept kitchens using thick imported teak shelves instead of upper cabinets that would close the space in.
"I wanted the art in the space to inspire a desert adventure, so I used a combination of my own large photographic canvases, historic photographic images from the Condé Nast Archives featuring various creative interpretations of the desert, and featured the mixed media art of Cristopher Cichocki to add a layer of interest.
I wanted there to be a texture and natural hand throughout the property, so I used natural materials where I could such as linen curtains and 100% cotton Turkish towels poolside. I painted all the doors with a bright orange color that is both energizing and relaxing at the same time. I tried 32 different colors before deciding on this particular orange! That is the goal of The Amado - to energize and stimulate your senses and creativity while simultaneously instilling a sense of peace and retreat."
TVR: Tell us about the design process.
I love collaboration, so being able to work with some of my favorite artists, designers and friends in furnishing and decorating the space was really inspiring. It was an organic process and I was careful to pay attention to how I felt in each room and observed how every design decision changed the sense of space. I lived on-site while renovating so was able to pay close attention to detail and changed course if we needed to.
TVR: Did you incorporate anything that was already a part of the property?
JK: The architecture, design and original materials at the property are already so amazing, but had been lost via decades of half-hazard renovations and deferred maintenance. My goal was to strip away these distractions and restore the original beauty and elegance of the property. Some of the highlights include the original vintage fireplace in Suite 5, the tongue and groove ceilings, wood beams, and clerestory windows throughout. I stripped away the carpet and tile and polished the concrete, which revealed an amazing texture after all of these years. I updated the kitchens and bathrooms, but left the original tile in each - every suite has a different color. I took great care to restore the health of the citrus trees and mature landscaping on the property, while refreshing other aspects of the landscaping.
TVR: Did you outsource design elements from flea markets? Other countries? Any notable finds that have a fun story attached?
JK: One of my best friends, Michael Perry, has a furniture manufacturing company in Indonesia, Walk the Plank Collective. I’ve known Michael for over fifteen years and we’ve always wanted to collaborate on a project together. Working with reclaimed and responsibly sourced materials, his furniture is the perfect balance of a beautiful hand with contemporary lines and I knew right away this was the project we were waiting for. He custom designed and built most of the furniture at The Amado, including the gorgeous teak daybed and lounge chairs I have placed poolside. I received a 20-ft container shipped directly from Indonesia, which outfitted most of the furniture throughout the property. Everyone raves about the furniture, textiles and art. It’s wonderful to see people enjoying the space and design so much.
TVR: When designing, what type of customer did you have in mind? How did you want your design to make them feel?
JK: Ultimately, I wanted to create a space where I would want to stay with my friends and family. I have a diverse group of creative friends from all over the world - artists, writers, photographers, designers, stylists, activists, musicians, producers, models, actors, etc. They appreciate the design, process, and the look and feel of The Amado. I wanted my design to make them feel like they are on retreat from the real world, and every group interprets that a little differently. They come with their own decorations, food and drinks, and it is used in a very individual way each time, but it always feels like a great escape and people feel refreshed and rejuvenated after a stay at The Amado.
TVR: Did you make any design decisions with gatherings in mind?
JK: The Amado was originally built with five units to accommodate multiple residents. So, it’s designed to accommodate large gatherings of people. I knew when renovating the property that it would be used by groups for celebrations and retreats and I took care to ensure that there’s ample lounging and seating near the pool, a big comfortable daybed, and a huge community table for shared meals. One of the beautiful things about The Amado is that it is very intimate in scale, and I tried to create a lot of extroverted energy in the common areas around the pool and courtyard and juxtaposed that with an introverted and quiet energy within each suite so when a guest wants to retreat for a nap or quiet time their needs are met behind closed doors.