Midcentury Modern Houses in Palm Springs
Affluent snowbirds and weekenders flocked to Palm Springs to build custom homes. In the 1980s, Frank Sinatra sought out the city’s celebrated architect E. Stewart Williams for a glamorous getaway. The result was a stunning midcentury modern house designed by Williams. A W Magazine photo shoot was shot in the residence in July 2005. In fact, it is the only midcentury modern house in Palm Springs.
Brooke Hodge is an architectural historian, writer, and blogger. She has a passion for Palm Springs and works as Director of Architecture and Design at the Palm Springs Art Museum. She previously worked for the Hammer Museum and the Cooper Hewitt Museum. She enjoys California, juggling, modeling hats, and writing Mad Libs. Her blog, “Making L.A. Modern,” is a good read.
A Newark hairdresser has been buying midcentury modern houses in Palm Springs, Calif., for the past three years. Known for their white trimless plate-glass boxes, these modernist houses are a must-see. Weekley still looks for her next Palm Springs flip. However, she’s definitely in the market for another one. If you’re looking to purchase one of these coveted homes, here are some things to keep in mind.
Architects in Palm Springs came from all over the world during this time period. They reshaped the city’s appearance and architecture to suit its climate and lifestyle. Modernism inspired designers in Palm Springs to incorporate concepts from the International Style and Bauhaus movement. These architects also incorporated the desert environment into their designs. This style was perfect for Palm Springs’ climate. And because the weather in Palm Springs was relatively mild, many homes had huge windows and expansive glass walls. They were also designed to be open and airy. And their roofs featured dramatic forms, which complemented the architectural style.
The annual Modernism Week in Palm Springs is a celebration of the architectural movement. During its 11-day run, the city hosts Modernism Week, a conference devoted to this style. As part of the event, USModernist has also been attending Modernism Week for the last five years. He’s accompanied film makers from the House of Cardin and Frey Part 2 films, which have been filmed at the Palm Springs Modernism Week.
The Center for Architecture Sarasota is a midcentury Modernist nexus. It is also home to an exhibition dedicated to Larry Scarpa, the Modernist architect based in Los Angeles. The director of the Center for Architecture Sarasota has a diverse portfolio, ranging from art to business. Besides being a commercial theater producer, she is the founder of the Ultimate Pajama Party.
The Kaufmann House is another architectural masterpiece by Richard Neutra. Although private, it is open for tours. The owners are protective of their home, and even the caretaker looks like Santa Claus. Nonetheless, they ask visitors to respect their privacy. The Kaufmann House is a rare gem in Palm Springs, but you should make arrangements to meet the owners and tour the property in person. It’s worth the drive. It’s a beautiful, modern home.
The George Alexander Construction Company built more than 2,500 Palm Springs modern houses. This is where the modernist approach to housing first emerged. Another key architect who made an impact in Palm Springs was William Cody. The Ohio-born architect designed the Del Marcos Hotel, the Perlberg, and St. Theresa Catholic Church, as well as other residential and commercial projects throughout the city. In addition to his work in Palm Springs, Cody also designed several other homes and buildings throughout the country.
The design of the Little Tuscany house is also a modern classic. Architect Tom Kundig gained national fame with his 1998 House and Chicken Point Cabin, which won the AIA Design Award. His work has been the subject of over 450 feature articles and eleven national AIA design awards. He also writes two popular books about architecture: Tom Kundig Houses and Thomboy Properties. The Pod system allows him to divide up his home into different areas for privacy, entertainment, and relaxation.
Architects and design professionals who specialize in the preservation of modernist houses in Palm Springs often find it difficult to find a buyer for these homes. The majority of Realtors don’t like Modernist houses, which can take a long time to sell. And the people who do sell them are often eccentric, so finding a buyer for this type of house can be challenging. But, one architect in particular has won admiration from around the globe. He is the founder of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, winner of the modern houses AIA Bob Graham Award and the recipient of several honors.