But most of all there are stones. The neighborhood is an art gallery of stonework, each wall or facade different, much of it looking like mortar-less drywall — though, of course, it's not. The stonework is among the best the desert has to offer. No one can name the masons who constructed these walls. "I would love to know! I think this is one of the real strengths of this neighborhood," Fletcher says. "Particularly the units with the blue-gray rock. Just love it."
Walking through the neighborhood in the evening — with golden light hitting the rocks, the moon-like landscape with its sculptural ocotillo, barrel cacti and tight-cropped cypress, and several varieties of palm — it's easy to see why Fletcher produced a neighborhood website that urged visitors to stop and stare. "Your short trip down Lakeside Drive will be nothing short of a trip around the world," he promises.
Inside the houses are just as lively. The plan is an H — an entry in the middle, bedrooms to one side, living areas to the other. You can step into the house and step right out again — immediately beyond the front door is a wall of glass that opens onto a backyard atrium, with glass on three sides and the golf course on the fourth.
"When I first saw the house," says Ernie Rapalee, who lives in an outrigger, "I said, this is so wild!"
Oddities abound. Why are there paired front doors? Why is the entry hall a step higher than the living and sleeping areas? Why do the interior doors reach from floor to ceiling? Why is the wall of sliding closets in the bedroom fully mirrored? Penny Tappeiner wonders about that one. "Who wants to look at themselves?" she asked.
Among the homes' indulgences are a walk-in sunken tub (called "Roman tubs" by the locals) with a glass doorway onto its own private garden for quick access to the swimming pool.
The stonework that decorates most houses is repeated inside, with a wall of stone protecting a free-floating gas fireplace. Many have been removed. Today, original interior stonework and fireplaces are prized. Fletcher and his partner, Cody Stoughton, say people have made offers on theirs.
Like all Palm Springs neighborhoods, Green Fairway Estates mixes year-rounders with part-timers — and even many of the year-rounders don't stay the entire summer. That makes it hard to build community, residents say — but not impossible. "There are not enough of us here to socialize," says Babs Rapalee, who's lived in the neighborhood with Ernie since 1998. "If you're here during the summer," neighbor Vince Houghteling adds, "it gets more neighborly for some reason."
But no one's complaining. Few people pull their drapes because lots are private, and some don't lock their doors when they're gone — although there was a recent rash of golf cart thefts. Bruce Tappeiner, a retired muffler shop owner, has become the neighborhood handyman and artisan, crafting many a neighbor's modern-style gate. "There are no kids in the neighborhood," Penny Tappeiner says, "nor do we want any."
"Palm Springs is mainly retired, or gay men," Stoughton says.
"I like it because we're friendly," Penny says, "but people are not nosy."
Fifteen to 20 years ago things were livelier, Bruce Tappeiner says. Folks called themselves 'the Lakeside Gang' and threw a lively annual party. At a recent get-together to show a visitor around the neighborhood, Tappeiner vowed to renew the tradition. "This is a little core group of the new Lakeside Gang right here, and we're going to expand."
The get-together turned into a neighborhood tour of several houses, everyone admiring each others' improvements. They also admired the variety in the original detailing and arrangements of space. "I'll be damned! All sorts of subtle differences," Tappeiner said. "All these houses are different!"
Green Fairway Estates makes up 5300 E. block of Lakeside Drive and 2400 S. block of Pebble Beach Drive. The neighborhood website, created by Martin Fletcher, is www.desertmodernism.com/greenfairway.html.
Photos: Barry Sturgill, Dave Weinstein