With almost 30 years of experience in the environmental design industry, Troy Bankord is well regarded for his excellence in landscape and interior design, consultation, and project installations. His expertise has resulted in the development of some of the most unique and imaginative properties in not only Palm Springs, but Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Beach, Las Vegas, the Midwest, and across Southwest. Troy is known for his dramatic, organically-continuous indoor and outdoor living spaces. And is a hell of a lot of fun. He divides his time between Palm Springs and Phoenix.
Kate Buckley: Troy, you’re a well-regarded landscape & interior designer whose projects are showcased in major cities throughout the United States. What brought you to Palm Springs?
Troy Bankord: Gosh. What didn’t bring me to Palm Springs? The incredible mountains you can reach out and touch, the plethora of amazing mid-century architecture, the easy-breezy, nostalgic lifestyle… I got tired of the rat race of a larger city and welcomed a change. I’d been coming to Palm Springs for 25 years and never thought I’d be lucky enough to live here. I also live in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, so I’m no stranger to the heat—as a matter of fact, I love it!
KB: Is there a typical home or garden you design? And are there specific challenges to designing for Palm Springs that don’t exist in say, San Francisco, Phoenix or Los Angeles?
TB: In terms of challenges I face, locating tile, stone, fabrics, towels, linens and project materials gets a little tricky here in the Desert, as I’m used to my sources in LA and Phoenix. I love the warmth and soul that antique or vintage pieces add to a space, particularly when mixed with new, and we are blessed to have the best resale and consignment shops here in the Desert. From that aspect, I feel like a kid in a candy store when shopping for my clients. On another note, clients in the Phoenix area are more about embracing of trees for their shade and habitat for wildlife—the design is more organic and natural. Given the prevalence of our mountain views here in the Palm Springs area, it’s more about keeping those views maximized, while also creating outdoor microclimates and shade—a different kind of design challenge.
KB: Who are your favorite architects?
TB: It’s hard to just name a few as they all inspire me in one way or another. But as a designer who embraces the indoor-outdoor connection and organic materials, I’ve always been fond of Frank Lloyd Wright for his use of spatial connectivity and his love of Wisconsin limestone. Like Mr. Wright, I grew up in Wisconsin and Illinois, and found the shears of stacked limestone fascinating. Although I don’t believe I would ever want to live in one of his homes for any period or time, I can’t get over his keen eye for detail and sense of connectivity his projects have to their sites! Unbelievable!
I’m also fascinated with the peaceful coexistence of man and nature, and the juxtaposition of clean lines and walls of glass. And let’s face it, I’m Scandinavian, so form+function are vital. For these reasons, my favorite So Cal modernist architects are William F. Cody, Donald Wexler, Edward Killingsworth, and E. Stewart Williams. The use of glass, post and beam elements of Arizona’s most modernist architect, Alfred “Al” Newman Beadle, hit me at the core of my soul. The utter simplicity of his structures is astounding, as they simultaneously connect his clients to nature in the most organic, sophisticated manner possible. The first mid-century modern home I purchased while living in Phoenix was designed by Al Beadle. It changed the course of my career and brought my passion for mid-century architecture to the forefront. But having grown up in an 1865 Georgian style mansion built by an English sea captain, I have an affinity for Georgian and Regency Style architecture as well.
KB: You’ve said that you specialize in creating a perfect flow between indoor and outdoor spaces. How do you achieve this?
TB: I am intuitive designer and I don’t stop until it feels right. My design philosophy is grounded on the principal of the Circle. Energy, balance and connectivity encircle us from all directions —side to side, top to bottom (or floor to ceiling), as well as inside to outside. Every project is so different but indoor-outdoor connectivity can be achieved with the use of walls, ramadas, hardscape and roof structures that draw the home outward. Walls of glass, floor to ceiling windows and sliding doors opening up the spaces and bringing the outdoors in; common flooring, paint colors, fabrics, plantings, the use of texture… All act to connect the home with its surroundings.
KB: How do you feel about designing for the desert landscape? Do you alter your designs (both interior and exterior) to acknowledge this unique setting?
TB: I distinctively remember seeing an incredibly, sophisticated home filled with antiques in a magazine layout. It was stunning and I was hooked until I looked out the large picture window from the bath to an enclosed garden of cactus. I appreciate cacti and our desert flora very much, but in this instance there was a total disconnect between the home and garden. I felt it was such a missed opportunity when there are so many other great options at our fingertips. So, to answer your question, I alter a design for our desert landscape—but one inspires the other, and to design the interior without taking the exterior into account is never a good idea. When I approach a project, I always consider the interior and exterior spaces holistically. I want to have a clear vision for my clients—one that is all encompassing and connective.
KB: I like that you say that you see “obstacles and limitations as an opportunity for creativity and inspirational problem solving.” How does this philosophy figure into your design?
TB: As a designer, I consider myself to be quite creative and resourceful . Rather than being a one-trick pony, simply specializing in modern or mid-century design, as an example, I embrace any design genre and any design challenge. It keeps things fresh and exciting for me by allowing me to stretch my creative boundaries. I can’t think of anything more boring than designing every landscape with rows of agave or every kitchen and bath with mosaic glass tile. I think I’d go mad! Nothing I do is typical and rather than following trends, I start them. I prefer to utilize timeless materials, applied in different ways. For instance, when a client insists on leaving a tree (because of its shade) or a family heirloom in their modern interior, it’s not my job to sell them on getting rid of these items if they can be salvageable. As their designer, it’s my job to incorporate the heirloom effectively, embracing it, elevating it and taking it to a whole new level with just the right juxtaposition of objects and materials finishes.
KB: What do you enjoy most about working with your clients to create living environments?
TB: What don’t I like about working with my clients? I guess I would have to say that I love the consultation phase the most: My first meeting with my clients—seeing their spaces for the first time and letting our minds run free to see what we come up with. Getting them excited about their garden or living space, seeing the hope in their eyes that there are any number of great options available to inspire them and make them happy. I’ve even met with clients over the years who simply do not even know what they want in a space. Talk about a challenge! I’ve had to become very observant over the years, learning to take in as much as I can and put the puzzle pieces together as to WHO THEY ARE from our first meeting. The discovery process is so exciting. Seeing the project evolve from conception to inception is the most gratifying. Seeing how my spaces change the lives of my clients is what I live for—that thank you note, that hug, the tears running down their face when they first experience the end result. It’s such a spiritual process for me, creating the perfect “Place of Peace” for them through balance and harmony.
KB: What would you be doing if you weren’t designing?
TB: Are you kidding me with this? Bury me in a box right now! I realized years ago that I will never retire because I can’t just “turn off” my passion for design. I can’t drive down the street without analyzing, critiquing or being inspired. And truth be told, I’m developing very different lines of outdoor lighting, outdoor furniture, planting vessels, pool accessories, sexy neckwear, and a sophisticatedly organic line of candles and bath and body products.
KB: Troy Bankord, what do you love most about Palm Springs?
TB: I’ve always felt a connectedness here—a beautiful energy that truly IS Palm Springs. That fact that I can spread my arms and have space around me, and the mountains—so inspiring. All I know is the moment I exit the freeway from LA or Phoenix, my body relaxes as everything seems to roll off my shoulders. And it’s such a happy place, with so many on vacation, retired, or here enjoying their second homes. There is something for everyone and I love the open-mindedness of the community—everyone seems to sincerely love each other and want to get along here. The nostalgic air or vintage fashion, celebrities, architecture and automobiles…and so much more. And Hey! Who isn’t excited about Palm Springs being named one of the Top 10 Hippest (mid-sized) cities in the U.S? For here, in Palm Springs, the world is our oyster!