Cliff May (1908-1989) was a self-taught designer and builder
who gained national fame for his designs as the "father
of the California ranch house." May was born in San Diego,
his mother a member of the Estudillo and Pedrorena families,
and spent his initial childhood summers at his aunt's Rancho
Santa Margarita and the Las Flores Adobe.1
The Rancho Santa Margarita adobe is "U" shaped,
while Las Flores was built in the Monterrey style. It is believed
that this early exposure to rancho design shaped his ideas
about indoor/outdoor living. However it was his ability to
modernize the ranch house design for a post war America that
secured his success and resulted in his designs being copied
by architects, designers and builders across the nation in
The Hauser-Chambers Residence was one of the first homes
built by Cliff May following World War II, and is one of
two Cliff May designed private residences in Borrego Springs.
In the closing chapter of the book, Sunset Western Ranch
Houses published in 1946, it was shown in detailed drawings
and Cliff May descriptions as a projection of the post-war
ranch house. "In this house" the editors noted,
"Cliff May brings his ranch-house thinking up to date."
As described in the 1958 sequel, Western Ranch Houses by
Cliff May, "
this house departs from the others
(predecessors) that it gains special significance. Two changes
are particularly noteworthy. For one, glass is used more abundantly
than in pre-war houses. Secondly, the living room and corridor
which were attached to each other in previous houses, are
separated, thereby creating an additional patio". "One
of the most interesting innovations is a canvas sky-shade
that can be drawn across the patio as needed. During the day
this sunshade filters the sunlight and the porch offers shade.
At night, the canvas sails are illuminated by concealed lights
that impart a soft glow to the patio."
"There are several reasons for shifting the corredor
to the far end of the patio. When it is attached to the living
room it interferes with the view of the patio from the living
room itself. Separation of the two offers a choice of entertaining
areas - a formal living room adjacent to the dining room and
kitchen, and the informal corredor with its built in
barbecue. The corredor and the wings that extend beyond
it create an additional patio. The open porch offers a cool
outdoor retreat from the burning sun without the hothouse
effect of a glassed-in porch."
This home was built for Rupert Hauser, an Oregon Timber magnate
who used it as his winter residence. It was later purchased
by architect Robson Chambers, who knew May from the University
of California at Santa Barbara. Chambers is known for his
work in Palm Springs, partnering with architect Albert Frey
in the design of the Palm Springs City Hall, and the iconic
Tramway Gas Station. This was the first of May's designs to
use sliding glass doors. Due to severe deterioration and the
inability to find suitable replacements, the sliding glass
doors have been replaced with French doors that lead out to
the courtyard. The patio where the fountain is currently located
was originally designed with electrical radiant heating in
the concrete to further blur the lines between indoors and
out, and make the area usable on cool desert nights.
Daniel Residence - 1971
Harry and Julia Daniel retired to the Borrego Valley in 1970
following the sale of part ownership in a television station
and managing their farm in Tennessee. In moving to Borrego,
the Daniel's wanted a home that was in concert with the desert
and California. In a 2007 interview, Daniel says he liked
Cliff May's designs (having subscribed to Sunset Magazine)
and when it came time to design a home for the 10 acres they
had purchased, he wrote Sunset Magazine "on a whim seeing
if they had any idea where he could find Cliff May."
The magazine forwarded the letter to Cliff May's office in
Los Angeles, and May wrote back. This began the collaboration
between the Daniel's and May that would result in an on-going
friendship between both couples. On several occasions, prior
to starting the design, May would visit the Daniel's and the
property. The Daniels' in turn would visit the May's at their
The three bedroom, four bath home that May would design would
contain many distinctive Cliff May features; courtyard patio,
canvas sky-shade however the design was also heavily influenced
by the Daniel's requirements for refined elements and display
the artwork the couple had collected.
With their retirement to Borrego, the Daniels began a love
affair with the desert. They both became interested in paleontology.
Harry Daniel's was also instrumental in the founding of the
Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDNHA) and
was Chairman of the non-profit organization for 25 years.
ABDNHA under Harry Daniel's leadership, helped fund and staff
the Park's Visitor Center dedicated in 1979. He also is the
co-author of Anza Borrego Desert State Park with
Mark Jorgensen and Paul Johnson. Preceded in death by his
wife, Harry Daniel passed away in March of 2008 at the age
of 95 in the Cliff May home he so very much loved.