Inside President Gerald Ford’s Distinguished Desert Getaway
The Ford’s post-White House desert getaway was a true reflection of their personalities—cozy, comfortable, efficient, and completely of the moment.
Once upon a time, exiting Presidents helicoptered off into the sunset bathed in a nostalgic glow of self-sacrifice and a well-deserved return to the private sector. Their dwellings in the US remain to be quite a mystery to the public.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan returned to their California ranch and ultimately a gracious but low-key 7,000 square foot home in Bel Air; George and Barbara Bush took refuge in a Houston condo along with their seaside family compound in Maine; and Bill and Hillary Clinton moved into a discreet Dutch colonial in New York, while Barack and Michele Obama bought a gracious Tudor-style manor house in Washington DC.
President Gerald and Betty Ford, accidental occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue following the resignation of Richard Nixon, were the definition of low-key Midwesterners who brought their Ann Arbor candor and charm to the American people. Their White House was all about a national healing, followed by an open and honest baring of their souls as they demonstrated that they were.
Located on the 13th fairway of the lush Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, the sprawling Southern California midcentury desert getaway was designed in 1977 for the Fords by Welton Becket & Associates.
For the interiors, they engaged Beverly Hills decorator Laura Mako, a favorite of Hollywood luminaries Mako fulfilled the Fords’ request for a home that, while embracing the desert modern aesthetic, was also comfortable, colorful and, most importantly, happy.
Fast forward 35 years to 2012, the Ford family estate put the house on the market a year after Betty’s death. At that same time, two Los Angeles entertainment executives had commenced a search for a weekend getaway. They were immediately drawn to the Ford desert getaway’s pure, clean lines and gracious layout. The end result is hardly a time capsule, but a wistful reminder of another era’s stylistic expressions and defining values, updated for today’s lifestyle while still reflecting the gentle, post-Presidential journey of Gerald and Betty Ford.