A self-taught designer turned a dated Palm Springs home into something that looks straight out of Santorini, Greece — take a look inside

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography / Courtesy Valentino + Valentino Real Estate
  • A Palm Springs home that looks like it belongs in Santorini, Greece, has sold for $US2.65 million after three months on the market.
  • Known as The Santorini House, it is one of just four homes designed by avant-garde architect William Nicholson, according to the home’s previous owner Dan Valentino.
  • Valentino purchased the house in 2017 and spent 18 months transforming it from a 1970s time capsule into a Mediterranean-themed events space.
  • Take a look inside The Santorini House, which comes with bright blue windows and a sparkling pool that would look right at home on the Aegean Sea.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


A California home once considered so avant-garde that no one wanted to buy it, according to previous owner Dan Valentino, just sold for $US2.65 million after less than three months on the market.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Known as The Santorini House, it looks out over Palm Springs from a hilltop about two hours east of Los Angeles.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Built by architect William Nicholson in 1977, the home consists of interconnected, balloon-like domes plus a three-story observation tower. The property recently underwent a dramatic transformation.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Valentino, a self-taught designer and managing broker at Valentino + Valentino Real Estate, told Business Insider that Nicholson designed four domed houses in California before switching careers.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Today, just two remain: The Santorini House and The Flintstone House in Hillsborough, California, whose current owner modelled it after the famous cartoon of the same name.

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesAerial view of the Flintstone’s House on April 11, 2019 in Hillsborough, California.

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


In 2017, the then-owner of Nicholson’s Palm Springs home approached Valentino to see if he would be interested in buying it.

Courtesy Dan Valentino

Valentino, who has met Nicholson on several occasions, told Business Insider that the house took almost two years to sell after it was first built.

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Intrigued, Valentino paid the home a visit.

Courtesy Dan Valentino

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Though architecturally interesting from the outside, Valentino found it to be “hideous” on the inside.

Courtesy Dan Valentino

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Walking through the house, he found brown shag rugs and walls lined with mirrors.

Courtesy Dan Valentino

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Bathroom mirrors glowed with 1970s disco colours …

Courtesy Dan Valentino

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


… and appliances were outdated.

Courtesy Dan Valentino

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Valentino’s longtime contractor accompanied him on the tour and told him that the home was destined to be demolished.

Courtesy Dan Valentino

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


But Valentino saw potential. Shortly after, an idea came to him as he was falling asleep one night.

Courtesy Dan Valentino

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Valentino remembered a trip that he had taken with his partner and family to Santorini, Greece, and woke up the next morning determined to transform the home into the white-and-blue Grecian paradise.

Courtesy Dan Valentino

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


He got to work in May 2017, and eighteen months later, had turned the four bedroom, three-bathroom home into the stuff of Instagram dreams.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Now, in place of a rock garden is a freeform Aegean-blue pool and hot tub …

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


… and windows that were once circular have been replaced with three-paned windows painted deep blue.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


In place of the brown shag rug are white stone floors punctuated by blue-and-white rugs.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


A brand new skylight allows light to flood in to the home …

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


… and the kitchen now boasts updated, stainless steel appliances.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Valentino also modified the arched entryways, using wood from a 100-year-old barn in Pennsylvania to transform them into more rectangular openings.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


The most challenging part of the renovation was designing for the curved shape of the home. “Everything had to be custom-made,” Valentino told Business Insider.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Post renovation, Valentino rented the space out “almost daily” for photo shoots and events at a rate of $US5,000 per day.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Valentino listed the home for sale in May after the pandemic put events on pause.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Just two months later, a buyer from Santa Monica offered Valentino all-cash and closed on the home in two weeks.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


“You could kind of tell when he got out of the car that he just really connected with the house, which was important to me,” Valentino told Business Insider.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


“It couldn’t have gone to a nicer man,” he said of the unnamed buyer.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


“He calls it his retreat from the world,” Valentino added. “It was almost like the house was waiting for the buyer — you know, for the right person.”

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Valentino called the sale “bittersweet.” On the upside, the Palm Springs real estate market is booming, he said.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


Droves of urbanites, especially residents of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York, are looking to buy homes in smaller towns to self-isolate and work from home in comfort, he told Business Insider.

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate


“It’s been insane, honestly,” Valentino said. “In the 40 years I’ve been in this business, even in the heyday of the early 2000s, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Kelly Peak / Peak Photography

Source: Valentino + Valentino Real Estate

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.