mid-century modern in the hilly desert landscape

Soaring Above the Desert: Albert Frey’s Cree House Reborn

A masterful restoration brought architect Albert Frey’s design back to its original mid-century glory. A massive chimney made of native stone anchors the home to its sloping site while a distinctive lightweight deck, clad in striking yellow fiberglass, offers contrast and connects the interior living space with the surrounding landscape.

For years, curious travelers driving on State Route 111 through Southern California’s Coachella Valley marveled at the dramatic profile of a hillside home, its massive stone chimney and deck perched high above the desert floor. This was all that most people ever saw of Albert Frey’s 1955 Cree House, as it remained closed to the public for most of its existence.

In 2019, after a more than yearlong restoration of the architect-designed home, visitors finally got to tour this midcentury gem at Palm Springs Modernism Week. Read on to see more of “The Forgotten Frey” and learn about its inception, innovative design and renovation.

Tours of the renovated architect-designed home are offered during Palm Springs Modernism Week

(Top photo by Lance Gerber)

vintage mid-century modern in the hilly desert landscape
Seen from below, the original house is a startling contrast to its rocky site. Archival photo by Julius Shulman, J. Paul Getty Trust
sketch up cross section drawing
Frey was ahead of his time in environmental sensitivity. This cross-section of the deck and house shows how only the uphill portion of the home touches the ground.
rear of albert frey cree house in the desert
Frey covered the soffits and fascias with corrugated aluminum, painted white to contrast with the rocky landscape. Photo by Lance Gerber