When it comes to design, Darren Brown likes a challenge. Brown began his career at New York’s MR Architecture and later directed interior design at Jonathan Adler, where he helped transform a historic but tired property into the posh and playful Parker Palm Springs in 2004. The property soon became a jet setter’s playground that virtually put the iconic California resort town back on the map.

Today, Brown works with clients who are drawn to his highly personalized and original spaces. He has created interiors for landmark properties by architecture legends E. Stewart Williams, William Cody, and John Lautner. Brown’s design and renovation of President Gerald and Betty Ford's Rancho Mirage estate, shown here, was featured in The New York Times "T" Magazine's Spring 2015 issue.

We chatted with Brown about the home's kitchen, which exemplifies the soft neutral colors he favors.


Q&A With Darren Brown

Why is the pale neutral palette one you keep returning to in your design?

There are so many style movements colliding all at once. So I never tire of soft taupe tones like blush and driftwood, colors that are nuanced and timeless.

How did you integrate the soft neutral theme into this kitchen?

The kitchen continues the soft driftwood theme that we have in other rooms of the house. Because it’s a weekend house in Palm Springs, I thought of it as sort of a beach house in the desert.

Tell us a bit about some of your favorite features.

The countertops are man-made material. I love this bronze mirror we used to create reflection and shimmer. The lighting introduced a little ethnicity in with the hyper-modern look. The floors are polished concrete. It is a weekend house, with people coming in and out and off the pool, so I didn’t want anything too precious. I chose Poggenpohl cabinetry in that soft taupe color and Miehle appliances.

How did you choose the faucets and fixtures?

I chose the Purist faucets because of their beautiful design, very simplistic. I don’t like a lot of knobs and other things going on. This one pulls out and the buttons are very discreet. The clients told me they do not like stainless steel sinks, that they wanted cast iron. And I thought that this Deerfield sink in Cashmere is such a gorgeous color, and it’s not a common color you’d see in a kitchen, which I love.

Where do you get your design inspiration?

I am inspired by many people--musicians, artists, craftspeople. For my design, I’m constantly revisiting the work of Michael Taylor, Scarpa, Sottsass, and the 1980s work of the great painter Ed Paschke.

Who is your dream client?

A client who understands the creative process, wants something truly special, and is open to experimentation.

Want to see more of this home? Explore the Ford Estate tour.

Tips for Using Pale Neutrals in a Desert Home


  1. A neutral color palette, like in this kitchen that’s open to the pool and patio, lets nature add her own hues via greenery and reflections of late-afternoon and evening light.
  2. A painting of Betty Ford that once graced the walls of the White House greets visitors in the entry hall. Keeping this area pale and neutral lets the art become the focal point.
  3. Pale hues used inside echo the natural colors of the home’s desert setting.
  4. Using a pale palette of sand hues from floor to ceiling makes a guest bathroom extra soothing.
  5. Wood adds warmth and depth to high ceilings, while tile floors keep it cool underfoot.

Love the pale neutral trend? See 3 ways to get inspired.