It’s impossible to bring up Midcentury Modern design without mentioning Palm Springs, California.
After World War II, the demand for homes spiked and in Palm Springs at that time, new homes were being built by architects specializing in Midcentury Modern. Movie stars and other celebrities fell in love with the Midcentury look and often had homes built with discreet fronts to protect their privacy, while the backs of the houses featured panels of windows and glass doors offering clear views of a poolside party areas.
Twin Palms, also known as the Frank Sinatra Estate, is a great example of this. The architect, E. Stewart Williams, along with his father and brother, was also responsible for other high-profile commercial, residential, and civic projects. Many other Midcentury Modern-style architects also found themselves in high demand for projects in a wide variety of sectors, which led to a cohesive design aesthetic across the entire city of Palm Springs.
Ashley and Sarah Kendrick made the trip to Palm Springs for Modernism week in 2019 – and it did not disappoint! It was their first big trip after the birth of their son and a chance for some much needed R&R. According to Ashley, “It was really spectacular – the incredible houses, the furniture, the hotels, the parties, really the whole city was eye-candy for anyone who appreciates the Midcentury aesthetic. The design was inspiring; there’s no question we picked up some inspiration for future renovation projects. The colors were really playful – pink was everywhere, there was no fear. And the tile patterns – we actually started laying tile differently since our trip.”
The Kendricks noted that one of the highlights of their trip was a visit to Frey House II. Constructed in 1963-64, this was the second home designed by renown architect Albert Frey. Literally built “into” a hillside, the home features a natural – and quite enormous – boulder that serves as a partition between living and sleeping spaces.
Sparrows Lodge was a favorite destination for gathering with others interested in Midcentury as was the iconic Ace Hotel and Swim Club with its period outdoor pool and its King’s Highway roadside diner – a former Denny’s, repurposed into a gathering spot that, according to the hotel, “celebrates the ineffable, bohemian spirit of the wide open West.”
Other highlights of Modernism Week were the many events and celebrations. A favorite was a retro outer space-themed party at the Palm Springs Air Museum. According to Ashley Kendrick, “Visually the party had an Austin Powers meets David Bowie Ziggy Stardust era vibe – amazing costumes, fun decor and delicious intergalatic-themed cocktails. It really was out of this world!”
Sites and Scenes from Palm Springs and the Kendrick’s Visit for Modernism Week below!
Fortunately, a fair amount of the homes from the era have been well-preserved and/or restored, and many have become tour group destinations during Palm Springs Modernism Week – an annual festival in February with over 350 events, including Signature Home Tours. The city also holds a special fall preview – typically held over a weekend in October. Can’t make it to Palm Springs? You can follow Modernism Week here on Instagram.