Conversation with Eric and Jessica Bute of Besveca House
Sometimes, Eric and Jessica Bute imagine a magic-dusted time period in Palm Springs, when they might have been neighbors with Walt Disney, the Max Factor family or Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray.
They have all owned homes in the Indian Canyons neighborhood, situated on the Indian Canyons Golf Course, a favorite of Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason. For Eric and Jessica, who work in the entertainment business in Los Angeles, the year their home was built (1963) was a big consideration while gut-renovating it. And it’s why they kept the original stone floors, because as they say, “You never know who might have danced on them.”
But the home is also a stunning modern remake. The Butes began renovating in 2016, handling the design, architecture and even construction, themselves. In 2019, it was featured in Palm Springs Modernism Week – a showcase of midcentury modern design that draws thousands of visitors. Besveca House, named after the first initial of the couple’s “Brady Bunch” of seven children, has now been walked through by people from every continent. Those faithfully-preserved stone floors are being danced on again.
We spoke to Eric and Jessica Bute about their renovation, and how inspiration came from a Nike shoe display – and the Almost Famous character, Penny Lane.
And we’ve included some watercolors done by Patricia Van Essche of PvE Design, a recent guest of Besveca House, who was inspired by her stay.
THERE ARE LOTS OF CLOSE-BY GETAWAYS FOR ANGELENOS, LIKE JOSHUA TREE OR OJAI. HOW DID PALM SPRINGS BECOME YOURS?
Eric Bute: “Palm Springs has got a certain kind of mystique that’s dated in the history of the town from kind of a Hollywood perspective, which is really fun. Back in the day, the studios created a two-hour rule, and they said it in all the contracts: if we’re filming, you can’t be more than two hours away on the weekends. Palm Springs became kind of the perfect destination.”
Jessica Bute: “At the end of each film project we’d do a quick escape to Palm Springs, stay a few nights in a swanky boutique hotel, where we’d get some R&R and recharge. You need it after weeks of shooting and 16 hour days. Palm Springs was close by and we felt like we were a million miles away. One day sunbathing at the pool we were curious how much we spent in a year so we looked at our American Express bill and thought, ‘Let’s just buy a place.’ ”
TELL ME ABOUT FINDING BESVECA HOUSE.
JB: “I found it online, and we went to look at it. The house was very dated, and Eric didn’t see “it”. So I said, ‘Let’s go outside in the backyard. And I said, ‘Listen’. And there was no noise. All we heard was birds. And I said, ‘Look at our million-dollar view’. And he said, ‘This is why we come here.’ ”
EB: “We go to the desert to take in nature, relax and hear ourselves think. This house was a way for us to create a space for that. When we first saw it, all the beauty had been kind of taken away. It was very chunky and ‘Hey, welcome to the Eighties, man.’ There was a carpet with a giraffe pattern. Everything needed to be redone.”
WHAT WAS THE RENOVATION LIKE?
EB: “First we took everything down to the sticks. From that point, we could see what we needed to do from an engineering perspective. Then we just tackled it room by room. And we lived in the space while we were doing it, which was a lot like camping out. I mean, we bathed in the hot tub.”
DID INSPIRATION ARISE FROM ANY UNEXPECTED SOURCES?
EB: “Yeah. The fireplace and the wall in the entry are the two big things. They’re sourced from a company in Seattle that specializes in industrial spaces. Like if you’re Nike or Converse, and you need a cool wall to display your shoe. Nike is probably their biggest client. This material is very rarely, if at all, used in private residences and it’s not really designed to be in a certain sense. But in Palm Springs, it all of a sudden fits. There are so many block walls, patterns, shapes and so forth. This is a contemporary derivative of that. And it does kind of pay homage to the older designs you see around the city.”
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU RUN INTO?
EB: “We have lots of artwork and we tried putting it on the walls. But we noticed we were looking at the artwork instead of the architecture or out the windows, instead of watching the light. And the thing is, a lot of things in the house– the bathrooms, the fireplace, the entry wall – are all art pieces by themselves. So, looking at art, you’re missing all the magic of the house. We took it all down. What we found was, the more we would edit, the better it became. And it truly is that age-old saying: less was more, especially in this particular case.”
TELL ME ABOUT THE LIGHTING, WHICH SEEMS TO BE HIGHLY CONSIDERED.
JB: “Eric usually picks the lights and the color can’t be a bright white, it has to be a soft yellow. And there’s so much light in our house from just the sunshine. We chose lighting by Pablo Designs – his sconces are made of fabric, that way you can see the desert breeze when you look at the lights.”
EB: “Also, we like candlelight. A lot of times when people are remodeling a house, it’s like a spaceship inside. I cannot stand that and neither can she. So we don’t have a lot of lights because even if you turn every light in the house on, at nighttime, it’s still very romantic and kind of dark. We did that on purpose.”
ANY PERSONAL TOUCHES AROUND THE HOUSE?
JB: “We have a poster from the Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice, California, where Eric and I first met, a 1960 Viewmaster with 3D picture reels of the Rolling Stones, a Gramovox upright turntable with a vintage record collection to match, and a custom-made hammer that I gave Eric as a gift once the house was completed.”
EB: “I got a good story for you: Penny Lane. That’s my nickname for Jessica because she reminds me of the girl in that movie, ‘Almost Famous’. So out front, when you walk in, I built a little waterfall that’s full of pennies for her. I think there’s 250 pennies in there.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU TWO?
EB: “Since falling in love with Palm Springs, we began to wonder how the city had such green grass and great water. The city has always been rated with the best public water, like, in all of America. And so we thought, ‘How come nobody’s made vodka, which is 60% water, with this fantastic water?’ We decided to start a distilled spirits company, based here. We’re two months away from having product, but we plan to keep some on the bar cart in Besveca. We love a good martini.”
To book a stay at Besveca House, click here.
Images courtesy of Eric and Jessica Bute.