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For Pipes Canyon remodelers, a high desert holiday

December 10, 2011 |  6:00 am

Paul Goff Tony Angelotti exterior
Paul Goff and Tony Angelotti had never heard of Pipes Canyon, a butte-studded piece of high desert northwest of Joshua Tree National Park. But now, a dozen years after their introduction to the place, the Santa Monica residents have a part-time home and a life at the center of Pipes Canyon's small but vibrant social circle, hosting dinner parties for the artists and other ex-urbanites who have settled here.

cowboy lampThe house that Goff and Angelotti call the Olive Adobe is, in fact, a stucco building painted a rugged desert rose. Once an undistinguished desert shack, it has been refashioned into a pueblo-style residence, complete with a parapet around the roof deck and a Mediterranean garden filled with olive trees. Generous patio spaces easily accommodate two dozen guests for sit-down holiday dinners in front of a roaring outdoor fireplace. On cold desert nights, guests bundle up in Goff's collection of ponchos from South America and enjoy the liquid warmth of fine wines.

MORE PHOTOS: Rustic retreat by Joshua Tree

“I travel all over the world,” said frequent weekend guest Rhonda Rasmussen, a hotel interior designer with the firm WATG in Irvine, “but Paul and Tony's is the one place where I can really relax.”

The quiet, remote location and magnificent mountain sunsets certainly contribute to the Olive Adobe's charm. Yet perhaps the most enchanting aspect of the property is its Cinderella transformation from what had been a one-room, 500-square-foot structure built in 1947. In the 1960s, a two-bedroom addition nearly doubled the interior of the house, but Goff and Angelotti pushed the footprint even farther starting in 2008, turning screened porches into indoor rooms and adding connected outdoor spaces and a small wing with a laundry room and a bathroom.

Now that the finishing touches are done, the result is a stylishly Western home with interiors that incorporate Arts and Crafts furniture, Mexican saltillo tile floors and cowboy paintings.

The process began impulsively for Goff, a film and TV producer, and Angelotti, a stunt coordinator and vintage furnishings and antiques dealer. In early 1999, a local real estate agent brought them to a 7.5-acre site that had a well. The agent casually mentioned that the house had just been reduced to a price that Goff characterized as less than that of most new cars.

Paul Goff Tony Angelotti before1"Paul said, 'We'll take it,' " Angelotti recalled, laughing. "The Realtor said, 'Don't you want to take a look inside first?' " (That's Goff's "before" photo, at right.)

Friends and family couldn't believe what they had done. “Everybody, even my father, thought we had lost our minds,” Goff said. “Now my parents have their own place here down the road.”

Goff and Angelotti were not hasty remodelers. At first, they slept in sleeping bags on the concrete floor and tackled cosmetic issues. They patched ceilings and added stucco-like texture to the sheetrock walls.

“We had a vision. We saw the potential and did as much as we could ourselves to save money,” Angelotti said. "We worked on it nearly every weekend for a couple of years. We'd have a margarita or two and say to each other, ‘Let's take out that wall and move this one. Let's replace these windows with French doors.' "

Both accomplished cooks, the men lavished attention on the kitchen. A local cabinetmaker fashioned custom cupboards made of pine, and Goff chose granite that complemented the colors of the rocks visible through the windows.

As the interior began to take shape, they considered what kind of exterior would best complement the landscape. For Goff, who grew up in Colonial houses in Connecticut, and Angelotti,
who was raised in antiques-filled traditional homes in Florida, the answer was informed by their travels through the Mediterranean and to Mexico, where Angelotti worked on “The Mask of Zorro.” They
also took inspiration from someplace closer to home: Irene's Adobe, a rustic house that is part of the 29 Palms Inn.

“There is a lot of groundbreaking modern architecture out here, but we wanted our house to look old and authentic,” Goff said.

In 2006, a wildfire roared through Pipes Canyon. “When we got there,” Goff said, “the doormats were still smoldering and the glue in all the windows had melted.”

Paul Goff Tony Angelotti before2The stucco exterior was unharmed, though, and had prevented interior damage. They built a 5-foot-tall wall surrounding the house and landscaped the yard with drought- and cold-tolerant Mediterranean plants in addition to cactuses and succulents. They raised the dirt within this new courtyard about 30 inches, creating a large, flat entertaining space that surrounds the house with chaises, a daybed with colorful serape-style striped cushions and a porch swing. (That's Goff's photo taken during construction at right, showing the addition with parapet and raised pad around the house.)

For both partners, decorating is an organic process. “I am more into the architectural part of it; I know how to put a room together,” Goff said. “Tony has a nose for furniture and decorative objects. He has a natural knowledge of what is valuable.”

Angelotti frequents estate sales and local resale stores, including Route 62 Vintage Marketplace in Yucca Valley, where he rents a booth to sell clothing and furniture, and Estate Sale Co., a consignment store in Palm Springs where he found bar stools, a dining table and a Ralph Lauren sofa for the house. A fan of Greene & Greene design and Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, Angelotti freely mixes early 20th century furniture with more modern pieces.

“I have no problem with putting an Arts and Crafts table with a very contemporary chrome chair,” said Angelotti, who scours yard sales and galleries.

“As you are walking through estate sales and antique stores, things jump out at you. You think, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have the perfect spot for that chair and candlestick,' and it's like you can't live without it.”

And, it seems, Angelotti and Goff can't live without their compound in the high desert. Though both maintain strong ties to the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, they relish entertaining in a more down-home fashion at the high desert ranch, an antidote to city life.

“We live in a glass high-rise in Santa Monica,” Goff said. “We wanted a place where we could barbecue and just hang out.”

-- David Keeps

Paul Goff Tony Angelotti garden
The remodeled house, as seen through its vibrant garden.


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Current-day photos: Gina Ferrazzi / Los Angeles Times