Palm Springs' new HI-CHEW fantasy house feels a lot like what might happen if you gave a 7-year-old a bunch of candy and then let them decorate one of the city's beloved midcentury modern homes.
The designers seem to have looked around our fair city and thought, "this is nice, but you know what would make it even nicer? If it were a lot more like Katy Perry's iconic 'California Gurls' music video." (If you've somehow forgotten, that's the one where she prances around with Snoop Dogg in a world of candy and weird fluffy pink clouds.)
There's no Snoop, sadly, but just about everything else is there: The bright colors, an overwhelming amount of sequins, cushions that look like clouds, plenty of California sun and some seriously flashy swimsuits (OK so those who come to the house actually have to bring those, but who would want to show up without one?).
Then, there is the candy, which can be found pretty much everywhere — and anywhere — you look. Except, of course, all this candy is HI-CHEW, the fruity, gum-like Japanese confection that is at the center of this latest marketing-stunt-come-to-life in the desert.
The "fantasy" house is really just a regular house in the Warm Sands neighborhood with its interior temporarily overhauled into a monument to sugar and candy colors. Why Palm Springs? As one of the brand's reps told us, it's because Palm Springs "feels like a fantasy location, and this is a fantasy house."
I suppose we should be flattered by that.
Unfortunately, the only people who will be able to stay in the house are the winner of an April sweepstakes put on by the HI-CHEW brand and a few guests. The winner, who hails from Ventura County, was scheduled to arrive at the house on Friday and spend the weekend there before leaving on Sunday. The whole thing will then get disassembled next week. (Jamie Caiazzo, one of the PR reps for HI-CHEW who was present at the house, did say there might be another HI-CHEW house someday, although there are no immediate plans.)
That means the closest most Coachella Valley residents will get to this HI-CHEW heaven is taking a gander at the decidedly understated exterior. Which, by the way, you'll recognize only from the colorful panels lining the garage in a frustrating tease of the bonanza of, uh, eye candy that lies out of reach inside.
So when The Desert Sun was offered a chance to be among the handful of lucky souls to visit the house before it was turned over to the sweepstakes winner, well, I and a photographer knew we couldn't very well say no. After all, we had a journalistic responsibility to our readers to fulfill, and fulfill it we did. Here's what we saw inside.
The Rainbow Sherbet Room: Each of the house's three rooms is themed around one of the three flavors that make up the new HI-CHEW fantasy mix the house was built to promote. But while we loved the wall of sequins in the Blue Raspberry room and the unique wall patterns and adjacent patio of the Blue Hawaii room, this whimsically colorful room was our favorite. Why? Three words: Mini ball pit.
A real candy bar: Any party house worth going to has a great bar. But this is the only bar I've ever seen stocked not with booze but pieces of candy arranged in nine colorful jars. The idea is to mix and match pieces to create your own fantasy mix. And we have to say, we like the idea of being able to actually mix and match from a bar without having to worry about getting sick.
The pillows: Wrapped HI-CHEW pieces have a puffy triangular shape that is a lot like a pillow. So you better believe the design team behind the house took full advantage of that resemblance by placing custom-created HI-CHEW pillows invitingly around the home.
Iridescent cookware: At first, I thought the kitchen was the one ho-hum room in the otherwise richly detailed house. Then I noticed the iridescent pans sitting on the stove, which were a perfect complement to the fantasy vibe. I was even more impressed when I opened the kitchen cupboards and drawers to find iridescent plates and silverware inside. Turns out, candy won't be the only thing guests in the fantasy house will have a fun time eating.
The yard: If I had to sum up my thoughts on this, I would say: "Come for the funky house and its gimmicks, stay for the awesome yard." Seriously, the space was massive and there were HI-CHEW branded amusements everywhere you looked. A giant Connect Four board, cornhole tables — you name, they'd thought of it. Then there was the pool, which was fed by a waterfall and filled with beach balls emblazoned with the HI-CHEW insignia. But my favorite part were the giant cactuses and distinctive statues made by the artist Dale Chihuly, which apparently were already at the house but helped to really cultivate a sort of trippy fantasy vibe.
In the clouds: As hard as it would be to choose a favorite design element, the large fluffy clouds hung from the living room ceiling would definitely be mine. There was also a cool cloud design painted on the wall in the kitchen, which was a nice match for the artsy light fixtures hanging above the kitchen table. Suffice to say, Katy Perry would've felt right at home here.
Quite a show: OK, so I'm not sure if this was part of the standard HI-CHEW house guest experience or just something they did for us media folks. But just as we were ending our visit, the marketing people told us to gather around the pool for a surprise. We'll admit, we were getting antsy to leave and not expecting much. But when two women emerged from the front of the house in what we can only describe as classically Palm Springs bathing suits and spent the next five minutes doing flips and tricks in the pool to "Fly Me To The Moon" and a medley of other vintage hits, I was shocked. And delighted.
As the performers — members of the Aqualillies synchronized swim group — emerged from the pool and unfurled giant towels displaying the HI-CHEW logo, we suddenly felt ourselves becoming aware of an overwhelming collective truth: We, in that moment, had reached peak Palm Springs. Because what could possibly be more Palm Springs than sweating in the sun beside the pool inside a life-size ode to a candy brand and realizing that you are actually really enjoying yourself and maybe even a little bit impressed by it all?
So with that, we say it's time to finally leave the memory of the Palm Springs Taco Bell hotel in 2019 where it belongs: in the past. Because there is a new, and worthy, addition to our town's lineage of delightfully over-the-top branding stunts (alas only for the weekend).
Paul Albani-Burgio covers breaking news and the City of Palm Springs. Follow him on Twitter at @albaniburgiop and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: HI-CHEW fantasy house in Palm Springs: Take a look inside