In a 1997 article in Harvard Design Magazine, architect Max Bond described Paul R. Williams’ residential designs as “affable, well-mannered, gracious and graceful, a mite different but not so different as to shock…a California style of self-assured, easy worldliness.” Who then but Williams would be the choice of the most popular entertainment couple of 1950s America—Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz—to create their weekend home in Palm Springs.
Comedian Lucille Ball appeared in scores of B movies throughout her career in Hollywood. It wasn’t until 1951 when she and her bandleader husband Desi appeared together in the television program I Love Lucy that her popularity reached real heights. The couple fell in love with the Palm Springs area and decided to use the desert oasis as a place to relax with friends away from the pressures of their television production schedule.
In 1954, Ball and Arnaz moved their family into the informal ranch home Williams designed for them. The house, on a lot Desi reputedly won in a poker game, was located near the 17th fairway of the Thunderbird Country Club and was the first residence completed in the club’s development. The 4,400 square foot house had six bedrooms, a swimming pool (images 4 and 5) and a lanai- type signature Williams’ space (images 6, 7, 8) that combined and expanded the use of interior and exterior areas. Williams’ use of glass walls (image 9) to separate the patio from the living and dining rooms allowed views from each of those rooms of the nearby desert and mountains. Stone and light colors gave the interior a contemporary style and the natural setting seems to both surround and define the structure.
While Paul R. Williams completed many high profile commercial and civic commissions during his career, the projects where he was most able to articulate a client’s lifestyle, needs, and aspirations were the homes he built in California’s open spaces. The Ball Arnaz home is an excellent example of his uncanny ability to transform a client’s dreams into substance.
In 2002 the Ball Arnaz house was extensively remodeled. The lot Desi won in the infamous poker game was sub-divided into smaller parcels and seven one-story houses were built near the residence Paul Williams built for the couple.