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Lee — who started Frasier alongside Peter Casey and the late David Angell, his colleagues in Grub Street Productions — is not involved; it’s being reimagined by star Kelsey Grammer’s Grammnet Productions, CBS Studios and scribes Chris Harris and Joe Cristalli.
“My writing partner Peter Casey and I are not generally fans of the reboot idea,” the nine-time Emmy winner says, “but if someone can come up with a great premise, a great script and a great staff of writers and actors, then we say, ‘Go for it!’ Hopefully for 11 years [like ours did]. We won’t be involved in the sausage-making, though.”
Instead, he’ll be focused on his continuing work on the restoration of the Plaza Theatre in downtown Palm Springs — he’s a board member of the group looking to raise $16 million to reopen the 1936 landmark — and preparing a revival of A Little Night Music at the Pasadena Playhouse as part of its spring-long celebration of the works of Stephen Sondheim.
Lee, who considers Palm Springs his primary residence, also has been in the midst of a home renovation, working with interior designer Joshua Smith to update an E. Stewart Williams property that he bought in 2011, after he sold the Donald Wexler-designed Dinah Shore house (now owned by Leonardo DiCaprio). “While it turned out to be too big for my needs,” says Lee of the Dinah Shore house, “I’d fallen in love with modernism and the Palm Springs ‘Big Five’ architects.” The group, which includes Williams, Wexler and Albert Frey, is considered responsible for the city’s distinctive look.
Although Williams made a splashy residential debut designing Twin Palms (the Frank Sinatra house), most of his work focused on public projects, including the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Mountain Station. The brutalist-style, 3,700-square-foot home Lee purchased was one of Williams’ last designs, built in 1985 for Williams’ son and daughter-in-law, Erik and Sidney Williams. “Its concrete floors, rough brick walls and endless glass — which somehow managed to be warm and inviting — sold me immediately,” affirms Lee, who kept the house in its original condition until 2021, when he decided to bring modern-day conveniences to the space.
An unassuming exterior opens to breathtaking mountain views from the back of the house. While the residence — with rough materials that echo the desert’s sands in color and texture — retains a contemporary feel, the kitchen and primary bath needed work.
“The tough part was to honor the original design intent while updating the basics,” admits Lee, who turned to Smith because he’d been impressed with his work on a home in the Indian Canyon area. “I knew immediately that Joshua was right for the job.”
Smith says his goal was “to complement the architecture as opposed to competing with it. We tried to consider what Williams, who welcomed innovation, would have used. We didn’t want anything that would steal the show from his work. We wanted it to be sophisticated but not showy.”
That meant choosing low-key yet high-end materials like the rift-cut oak used for the kitchen’s cabinetry. “You get a high quality of wood but with less pattern than you’d get with a plain cut,” says Smith, whose focus on clean lines included installing a vent hood integrated into the cabinetry.
In the primary bath, Smith gave the room a feeling of restrained luxury, installing a new vanity, recessed medicine cabinets with touch latches, concealed lighting, sleek fixtures, textured hardware and a modern freestanding tub with a free-form rim.
Notes Lee, “I think we answered the question of, ‘What would E. Stewart Williams have done if he had been doing this today?’ “
This story first appeared in the Oct. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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