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Photographer Douglas Friedman Makes His Home on the Range in Marfa, Texas

After jetting around the globe to document the lifestyles of the rich and famous, photographer Douglas Friedman takes refuge on an otherworldly site in Marfa, Texas

By Mayer Rus | January 23, 2020 | Architecture

The high desert of far West Texas can be unforgiving terrain. Just ask Douglas Friedman, the globe-trotting photographer renowned for his copious talents and bonhomie, to say nothing of his signature moustache and tattoos. Nine years ago, Friedman fell under the siren spell of Marfa, the diminutive Lone Star city and art mecca (population roughly 2,000) once described affectionately by John Waters as “The Jonestown of Minimalism” for its connection to artist Donald Judd. “The desert really doesn’t want you there. You’re in a constant battle against wind, rain, dust, and, in the summer, blistering heat,” Friedman says, reflecting on the challenges of building his serene modernist compound. “For one thing, I didn’t design the house with screens, because I wanted it to feel as open as possible. But I quickly realized that you need screens if you don’t want a scorpion in your shoe, a rattlesnake under your bed, and a tarantula in the sink.”

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Home on The Range After seven years of sweat, blood, tequila and tears; it's finally here. @thefriedmanranch , shot exclusively for the February 2020 issue of @archdigest Photography: @douglasfriedman Text: @mayer.rus Styling: @michaelreynoldsnyc Photo Direction: @mshomey And to @amyastley , thank you for walking into my home 2 years ago (when I had cinderblocks for a coffee table, not one blade of grass in the garden, and folding chairs in the dining room) and saying that you wanted to publish before anything was finished or properly decorated. You saw something that wasn't there and believed in the possibility of what was to come. So, again, a huge thank you to you and my AD family for all the love, support and encouragement. . . . This image: An artwork by @wendyvlehman stands in front of this modernist glass and wood home, built by and under the watchful eye of @marfaradio , on the high dessert plaines of Marfa, Texas. The house is wrapped in @phantom_screens with landscaping by @westtexasroots and custom planters by @sirakstudio #thefacinator #architecture #design #interiordesign #interiors #art #furnitute #photography #architecturalphotography #interiordecorating #interiorphotography #marfa #thefriedmanranch #ranchlife

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Sounds charming. But Friedman is equally emphatic that the creepy-crawly desert critters are part of what makes the West Texas landscape so bewitching. “When you fall in love with Marfa, you fall in love with all of it,” he insists. “Having grown up in New York City, a nice Jewish boy, the idea of living out on the land was incredibly appealing. I have to take two flights and then drive three hours to get there, but the journey culminates at the end of a dirt road, with no visible neighbours and endless views of this incredibly beautiful, soulful terrain,” Friedman muses.

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New Work: @thefriedmanranch in @archdigest . . "I had this fantasy that I could live in this totally minimalist way, but I'm just not that person. I couldn't resist having a little fun" . . Photography: @douglasfriedman Text: @mayerrus Styling: @michaelretnolds Photo Direction: @michaelshome EIC: @amyastley . . . This image: Vintage seating, a @restoration.hardware sofa with pillows by @garzamarfa and a custom solid marble cocktail table designed by @douglasfriedman and @romanek.design.studio in the Living Room. The lamps are custom by @stevengambrel The rope side tables are by @nicolehollissf for @thisismcguire and the stools are by @lumberclubmarfa The artworks are by Jeff Elrod and @stevehash Custom hide rugs are from the new collection designed by Douglas Friedman for @kylebunting The house is wrapped in custom @sunbrella drapes by @theshadestore #architecture #design #interiordesign #interiors #art #furnitute #photography #architecturalphotography #interiordecorating #interiorphotography #marfa #thefriedmanranch #ranchlife #loveyourwindows

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When it came to designing a suitable house for his 10-acre parcel of heaven, the photographer adopted a sort of Occam’s-razor approach to architecture. “I was going for simplicity—something monastic but attractive, the easiest and most economical thing I could build,” he recalls. “The problem is that there’s nothing simple about building out here, especially when you have to put in power and septic systems and drill a well. Also, simplicity in architecture, with a modicum of grace, turns out to be quite difficult. My humble idea of desert living just kept ballooning.”

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New Work: @thefriedmanranch in @archdigest . . . I may have taken some cues from Elizabeth Taylor's character in the movie Giant by making some decorating choices that were more appropriate for a fine home on the East Coast then the unforgiving and brutal landscape of the far West Texas desert. . This image: A luxurious and unexpected @degournay hand-painted wallpaper wraps the sunset facing guest room, where the @beautifulbedcompany lacquered spindle bed wears indigo @restoration.hardware linens and a @klaushaapaniemi_official throw. The task lamp is from @ikeausa and the bedside table and chair are from @designwithinreach The hide rug is a custom design for a new collection launching early this spring by Douglas Friedman for @kylebunting #thefacinator #architecture #design #interiordesign #interiors #art #furnitute #photography #architecturalphotography #interiordecorating #interiorphotography #marfa #thefriedmanranch #ranchlife #hilow . . . Photography: @douglasfriedman Text: @mayer.rus Styling: @michaelreynoldsnyc Photo Direction: @mshomey EIC: @amyastley

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After considering, and rejecting, a wide range of prefabricated options, Friedman settled on a modular system of glulam timbers, steel connectors, and structural insulated panels (SIPs in construction parlance), all shipped to Marfa and assembled on-site under the supervision of contractor Billy Marginot. A taut modernist box laid out on an exacting grid, the house features a two-foot clerestory that completely encircles the structure and makes the roof appear as if it were floating on a cushion of light when the home is illuminated at night. To maintain the integrity of the design, all the mechanical systems and wiring are channelled through the concrete foundation.

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New Work: @thefriedmanranch in @archdigest . . . "When it came to designing a suitable house for his ten acre parcel of heaven, the photographer adopted a sort of Occam's-razor approach to architecture. "I was going for simplicity - something monastic but attractive, the easiest and most economical thing I could build," he recalls. "The problem is that there's nothing simple about building out here, especially when you have to put in power lines and a septic system and drill a 500 ft deep well. Also, simplicity in architecture, with a modicum of grace, turns out to be quite difficult. My humble idea of desert living kept ballooning." - Mayer Russ . . . This image: The kitchen is anchored by a powder-coated-steel modular system from Danish design firm @vipp and completed with appliances by @gaggenauofficial and @liebherrusa The pendant lights were found on the property and originally lit the old rodeo arena where the house now sits. The art is a Vapor Drawing by Larry Bell and prints of The River Series by Ellsworth Kelly (available at @manomercantile ) The custom steel and leather bar stools are from @garzamarfa and the work console is from northern France and dates to 1940's (from @enebyhome in Nashville). The small metal table is from @arteriorshome and the ceramic vase is from artist @thomlussier And the peak of Cameo Linen drapery in the guest room is custom by @theshadestore #thefacinator #architecture #design #interiordesign #interiors #art #furnitute #photography #architecturalphotography #interiordecorating #interiorphotography #marfa #thefriedmanranch #loveyourwindows #ranchlife . . . Photography: @douglasfriedman Text: @mayer.rus Styling: @michaelreynoldsnyc Photo Direction: @mshomey EIC: @amyastley

A post shared by T H E F A C I N A T O R(@douglasfriedman) on Jan 16, 2020 at 11:02am PST

The pool, made from a shipping container, is another prefab element. “It arrived from Canada on a flatbed truck, and we just craned it into a hole we dug. I hooked up the services and was swimming the next day,” Friedman explains. Outdoor amenities at Rancho Friedman also include a shade structure with pop-up screens for alfresco entertaining and a second, Juddian shade structure by the pool.

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New Work: @thefriedmanranch in @archdigest . . . "I used the planters to create an indoor garden of specimen cactuses. It's so nice to walk into the house and have a moment to exhale before moving into the big living/dining room," Friedman says. "I also put a JUDD chair in the entry because, well, you kind of have to." . . . This image: In the entryway, a @noguchimuseum paper pendant light hangs over a monumental "Fragments" stone table by the contemporary Dutch designer @lexpott (from @thefutureperfect ) which is flanked by a series of seven massive concrete planters, detailed in bronze, by landscape designer @sirakstudio The art works are The Forward-Slant plywood chair 84 in black by Donald Judd (available at @juddfoundation ), The leather Tecuan Jaguar Masks are by Don Thomas Najera and fashion designer @carlafernandezmx (available at @ballroommarfa ) and the pile of rocks are from @communitiemarfa The room is wrapped in @theshadestore ripple fold drapery in @sunbrella from the Ventana Collection. thefacinator #architecture #design #interiordesign #interiors #art #furnitute #photography #architecturalphotography #interiordecorating #interiorphotography #marfa #thefriedmanranch #loveyourwindows #ranchlife . . Photography: @douglasfriedman Text: @mayer.rus Styling: @michaelreynoldsnyc Photo Direction: @mshomey EIC: @amyastley

A post shared by T H E F A C I N A T O R(@douglasfriedman) on Jan 17, 2020 at 5:15am PST

For the decorating portion of the process, the well-travelled photographer relied on a formidable roster of advisers and éminences grises. “I’m lucky to have worked with and befriended, some of the best designers in the world, so I naturally turned to them for guidance,” he confesses. That line-up includes Steven Gambrel, who made the chic table lamps in the living room; Nicole Hollis, represented by end tables from her recent collection for McGuire; Brigette Romanek, who helped design and fabricate the green and rose-coloured marble table that anchors the living room; and Ken Fulk, who gifted a brass bar cart inspired by a 1960s Italian model. Friedman himself made his own contribution to the medley in the form of multicoloured cowhide carpets from his new collection for Kyle Bunting.

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New Work: @thefriedmanranch in @archdigest . . . "For the decorating portion of the process, the well-traveled photographer relied on a formidable roster of advisers and éminence grises. "I'm lucky to have worked with, and befriended, some of the best designers in the world, so I naturally turned to them for guidance," he confesses. That lineup includes @stevengambrel @nicolehollissf @kenfulk @romanek.design.studio @michellenussbaumer @martynbullard and @hannahcecilharden from @degournay Friedman made his own contribution to the medley in the form of multicolored cowhide carpets from his new collection with @kylebunting " - Mayer Russ . . . This image: A custom cowhide rug designed by Friedman for his "Atlas Collection" collaboration with @kylebunting provides the foundation for the dining room. A pair of extra large swing arm sconces (with vintage taxidermy street pigeons from @martinezbrotherstaxidermist in Austin, Tx) hang over the @restoration.hardware table with vintage garden chairs slip covered in long haired Icelandic sheepskins. Michoćan terra cotta candle sticks are from @ceylonetcie and the bar cart is a design by @kenfulk Finishing the room are @theshadestore ripple fold drapery in @sunbrella fabric. #thefacinator #architecture #design #interiordesign #interiors #art #furnitute #photography #architecturalphotography #interiordecorating #interiorphotography #marfa #loveyourwindows #thefriedmanranch #ranchlife . . Photography: @douglasfriedman Text: @mayer.rus Styling: @michaelreynoldsnyc Photo Direction: @mshomey EIC: @amyastley.

A post shared by T H E F A C I N A T O R(@douglasfriedman) on Jan 17, 2020 at 9:43am PST

In the entryway, a monumental stone table by the contemporary Dutch designer Lex Pott is flanked by a series of seven massive concrete planters, detailed in bronze, by landscape designer Adam Sirak. “I used the planters to create an indoor garden of specimen cactuses. It’s so nice to walk into the space and have a moment to exhale before moving into the big living/dining room,” Friedman says. “I also put a Judd chair in the entry because, well, you kind of have to.”

Notes of eccentricity emerge in the taxidermy pigeons that Friedman attached to the huge swing-arm lamps that light up the dining table as well as the decidedly unexpected de Gournay wallpapers that adorn the guest rooms. “I had this fantasy that I could live in a totally minimalist way, but I’m just not that person. I couldn’t resist having a little fun,” he says of the idiosyncratic jolts of colour and pattern.

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New Work: @thefriedmanranch in @archdigest . . . I may have taken some cues from Elizabeth Taylor's character in the movie Giant by making some decorating choices that were more appropriate for a fine home on the East Coast then the unforgiving and brutal landscape of the far West Texas desert. . . . This image: A luxurious and unexpected @degournay hand-painted wallpaper wraps the sunrise facing guest room and @restoration.hardware linens and a @klaushaapaniemi_official throw dress the @beautifulbedcompany spindle bed. The "Punk" lamp in Blush is from @bludot , the "Stephan" table is from Tangier based artist @nowontheocean and the "Salt" chair is from @designwithinreach The hide rug is a custom design for the new "Atlas" collection launching early this spring by Douglas Friedman for @kylebunting Finishing the room are @theshadestore ripple fold drapery in @sunbrella fabric #thefacinator Artwork is by @chinatifoundation artist in residence Rosie Keyser #architecture #design #interiordesign #interiors #art #furniture #photography #architecturalphotography #interiordecorating #interiorphotography #marfa #thefriedmanranch #ranchlife #loveyourwindows . . Photography: @douglasfriedman Text: @mayer.rus Styling: @michaelreynoldsnyc Photo Direction: @mshomey EIC: @amyastley

A post shared by T H E F A C I N A T O R(@douglasfriedman) on Jan 19, 2020 at 5:52am PST

Still, notwithstanding the fanciful British wallpapers, Friedman insists on his bona fides as a true Texas hombre. “This is my home now, and I have a Texas driver’s license to prove it,” he says with apparent pride. “When I’m working on the house or in the pool, looking at the mountains in the far-off distance, I feel genuinely connected to the land, tarantulas and all.”

 

This article originally appeared on Architectural Digest.

Photography by Douglas Friedman

Styled by Michael Reynolds

January 15, 2020