By Melissa Curtin
Photo by Millicent-Harvey
Indigenous people once came to Palm Springs as a refuge, long before the stars of Hollywood flocked to the sun-drenched destination for movie making, pool parties, and boozy nights. Just like the pandemic of 2020, people historically left the confines of big city living for wide-open spaces where many, whose lives had been disrupted by war, found themselves on permanent vacation. Bungalows and smaller-sized secondary homes (compared to many of their Los Angeles abodes) sprouted up since American show business icons were required to be within two hours of the studios.
Today the desert landscape continues to evolve as visitors flock from all over the world for golf and tennis, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Gay Pride, Desert X, music festivals like Coachella and Stagecoach, and soon, wave pool resorts for surfers.
But there’s another huge draw to the Greater Palm Springs area and that is Modernism Week, which spans 11 days this February 2022. The popular annual festival will feature hundreds of events including the Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale and tours of iconic homes in more than 25 neighborhoods. Now in its 15th year, Modernism is another way the desert is revisiting the past – through the celebration of midcentury modern design, architecture, art, fashion, and retro culture.
Since buying our own 70s Palm Springs home during the pandemic a few doors down from the Frank Sinatra estate in Movie Colony East, we have become obsessed with the Modernist movement. Take a drive through neighborhoods like the Movie Colony, Deepwell, Vista Las Palmas, or Indian Canyons, and it’s easy to garner a taste of these architectural desert beauties because Palm Springs holds the largest concentration of midcentury modern homes in America. Making midcentury ‘modern’ can be felt in the pronounced pops of color on each door as you cruise around – preferably on a bike.
Although Modernism Week is officially in February, each October a fall preview occurs allowing media and the public to experience home and garden tours, informative speakers, walking and bike tours, architectural double-decker bus tours, a classic car show, fashion and hotel openings, and nightly parties.
With more than 350 events, Modernism Week 2022 will highlight midcentury modern architecture, art, interior design, landscape design, and vintage culture. All events are open to the public. Book tickets for this February 17 – 27, 2022 on Modernismweek.com. Starting October 25, preview the website of events in advance.
Tickets go on sale November 1, 2021. Some events sell out quickly due to limited capacity such as Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate or the Annenberg Estate Home at Sunnylands. A portion of ticket proceeds benefit Modernism Week (a non-profit organization) and other local preservation, neighborhood, and community groups.
Modernism 2021 – 2022 Highlights
Modernism Week Double Decker Architectural Bus Tour
Cruise Palm Springs with a “higher” perspective to admire neighborhoods stuffed with mid-century modern homes to learn about the evolution of this architectural style plus the history of many buildings in town. Stop in the Palm Springs Visitor Center, a former gas station with a long overhang and learn about old and new stars that lived or stayed in the desert-like Elvis, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Admire A-frame homes, geometric landscape designs, the famous colorful doors, and boutique hotel marvels such as the Del Marcos, Korakia, and Ingleside Inn.
Self-guided Modernism tours
Built into the landscape and built to accentuate the landscape, it is impossible not to be inspired by these midcentury modern homes. Want to take your own private tour on foot or in the comfort of your own car? The website www.moderntourspalmsprings.com allows you to pick the self-guided tour of your choice.
Frey House II Home Tour
Architect Albert Frey’s modernist hillside beauty was built into the desert landscape with an inside-outside rock in 1963-1964. The small cliffside space with glass windows, steel, cinderblock, and fiberglass was created to withstand the elements while the pool provides a bird’s eye view of the desert floor offering 360-degree views of the San Jacinto and Chocolate Mountains and the valley floor stretching as far at the Salton Sea.
Frey sat at the lengthy drafting table with his pencil sharpener (still present today) and most likely was inspired by the light and shadows that basked the land. The understated design perfectly captures the adage that less is more. The home was gifted to the Palm Springs Art Museum by Frey’s estate. Frey’s Aluminaire House built in 1931 will leave New York Institute of Technology for a permanent home on the grounds of the Palm Springs Art Museum.
James Logan Abernathy Home Tour
Architect William Cody designed this home for James Logan Abernathy in 1962 when Abernathy was 72. Abernathy was a wealthy Palm Springs socialite and the son of a furniture manufacturer pioneer from Kansas City. In 2012 the home was restored by New York-based architect Michael Haverland. Now a Class 1 Historic Site, you don’t want to miss this one for major design inspiration.
Cody designed many properties in and around Palm Springs, ranging from hotels and country clubs to sports complexes and residential developments. By 1946 Cody was building and redesigning properties throughout California and Arizona. After the Abernathy House, he went on to design the Palm Springs Library in 1972 but suffered a debilitating stroke midway through the project. He died in 1978 at the age of 62.
Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate tour and events
Many events will occur at this former homestead of Mr. Blue Eyes as visitors can witness the allure and grace of E. Stewart Williams design, his first residential project. Williams had to convince Sinatra not to build a brick Georgian mansion in the desert but use long horizontal lines and nontraditional building materials. Due to Sinatra’s demands, the house was completed in a few months just in time for New Year’s. After his marriage crumbled here with Nancy, evidence can be seen today of his love tryst fight with Ava Gardner as a crack in the basin is left behind from when he threw a champagne bottle at Gardner.
Design Project Tour: Limon
Designed by H3K with inspiration from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, cheerful colors in six rooms surround a pool where 14 people can rent the whole place while still having their own room, bathroom, and patio. A swanky chef’s kitchen also makes this the perfect place for a small gathering, party, wedding, or private event.
Sunburst Palms Home Tour
Built-in 1956 and designed by architect Lawrence Lapham, the home in the Deepwell neighborhood has now been restored to its sunny cheerful glory by the H3K owners. Many key features have been preserved like the built-in terrazzo floating kidney-shaped coffee table fire pit in the living room and the original yellow cabinet St. Charles kitchen – which apparently would cost $30,000 in the early 1970s to install.
Seventies Sackley Home Tour
Built-in 1975 in Indian Canyons this remodeled home boasts an interior with bright jewel-toned hue combinations with a seamless mix of modern furnishings and vintage pieces.
Redesigned and reimagined by the owners who also own Grace Home Furnishings (located in Brentwood/LA and Palm Springs), the original custom glazed floor tiles along with bathroom tiles and vanities have been preserved. The original double-sided see-through fireplace with stacked stone was one of our favorite features that separated the living room from the media room.
Modernism Yard Sale in the parking lot at H3K Design
Find your vintage treasure. From old school ashtrays, furniture, clothes and décor, pick up a unique find from the past or a replica inspired by a former time.
What’s New in 2022
Below is a sampling of some of the new events.
Keynote Presentation: Jeanne Gang, FAIA, ‘Making Architecture’ (2/19, $45/$65) Modernism Week’s 2022 keynote speaker will be Jeanne Gang, FAIA, the founding principal of Studio Gang, an international architecture and urban design practice based in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Paris. Founded in 1997, Gang’s firm has matured into a global powerhouse, with projects around the world including Chicago’s Aqua Tower, which earned Gang worldwide recognition. Her 101-story St. Regis tower in Chicago (2021) is the world’s tallest building designed by a woman. A book signing follows the presentation and an elegant reception with limited ticket availability will follow the signing in the sculpture garden of the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Golf Par-Tee and Tournament at Seven Lakes Golf & Country Club (2/26-27, $320 which includes a special Pairings Pre-party, and After Party.) For the first time, Modernism Week will feature a Golf Tournament during the second weekend of the festival. This fun-spirited 18-hole afternoon scramble will be held at Seven Lakes Golf and Country Club where participants will enjoy playing an executive course lined with architecturally significant homes designed by Richard Harrison set against the stunning backdrop of Mt. San Jacinto. After playing, players and guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres and a hosted martini bar at the chic William Cody-designed clubhouse. A special Pairings Pre-party will be held the afternoon prior to the Tournament on Saturday, February 26 from 3-5 p.m. at Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort in the Hugh Kaptur-designed clubhouse. Guest tickets may be purchased for the Pairings Pre-Party at $65 each or the Post-play Awards Party for $55.
Modernism Week Showcase Home Tour: Casa Tierra (2/18,19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27; 12-4 p.m. $65) Bobby Berk, interior designer, reality television personality, and author will open his latest project, an idyllic desert modern escape, for the first-time during Modernism Week. This hidden gem of an estate in Palm Desert offers the perfect oasis to get away from it all, and yet is just minutes away from Palm Springs. With more than 5,000 square feet of living space, this unique Spanish-style property has been transformed into a world-class destination, with modern touches and an emphasis on Bobby Berk’s unique design style throughout. The design scheme reflects the colors and textures of the desert landscape and seamlessly integrates with the outdoors and breathtaking hillside setting. Home Tour guests will be shuttled to the property from a nearby location due to private roads.
CAMP at the Hyatt Hotel in Downtown Palm Springs Modernism Week’s CAMP (“Community And Meeting Place”) will provide a central activity hub that is free and open to the public during Modernism Week from February 18 – 27 at the Hyatt Hotel on Palm Canyon in downtown Palm Springs. This new location for CAMP will include an information desk, box office, the Modernism Week merchandise store by Destination PSP, a theater, and activations by Modernism Week sponsors Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Brizo, Dunn-Edwards Paints, JennAir and Willis. CAMP will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free entry. Free parking is available in the nearby underground parking structure.
Celebrate Black History Month with “Stories Untold: Black Modernists in Southern California” (2/21, $15) Black designers, builders and developers helped shape Palm Springs and Southern California for more than a century. This year, Modernism Week will honor these trailblazers during a three-part symposium on their legacy. In Part One, “Black History of Palm Springs,” panel participants Tyrone Beason (reporter for the Los Angeles Times), and Jarvis Crawford and Dieter Crawford (leaders of Palm Springs Black History Committee) will share stories about historic Palm Springs landmarks. In Part Two, “Circle of Paul R. Williams,” Gail Kennard (daughter of Robert Kennard) will discuss the role Paul R. Williams played in inspiring other Black designers (including Kennard, James Garrott, Ralph Vaughn, and Arthur Silvers) to launch careers in Los Angeles. In Part Three, “Destination Crenshaw,” Drake Dillard of Perkins & Will will present a proposed 1.3-mile open-air art gallery and park that will run alongside the light rail line in Los Angeles’ Crenshaw District. Generous support for this event has been provided by Room & Board.
MAD Architects in the U.S. (2/20, $15) Founded in Beijing by Ma Yansong in 2004, MAD Architects is a global firm exploring a type of ‘dream architecture’ that opens up a dialogue with nature. It is committed to creating a vision for our future cities that is based on the spiritual and emotional needs of its inhabitants. Their new work in the U.S. is unlike any other – they want to be not only an architecture firm but a driver for human wellbeing and reconnection to nature.
Vera – The Art and Life of an Icon, with Susan Seid and Trina Turk (2/24, $18) Vera Neumann, the innovator of cross-licensing, was the most successful female entrepreneur of her time and created the first true lifestyle brand. Susan Seid has been involved with the Vera brand since 2003. Seid will discuss Vera’s impact on the design world and follow the presentation with a lively conversation with fashion designer Trina Turk. An elegant sunset cocktail reception for a limited number of guests at Trina Turk’s historic Palm Springs home will be held that same evening. The reception requires a separately purchased ticket.
A Very Cool Shag Experience with Josh Agle (2/20, $18) For the first time during Modernism Week there is a rare opportunity to get to know artist Josh Agle (Shag) better and hear how he developed his inimitable style recognized worldwide. A gift will be provided for all in attendance.
Mojave Modern, Sonoran Style with Alan Hess (2/26, $25) Architect and historian Alan Hess will tell the story of Mojave and Sonoran desert architecture and how America’s desert southwest has contributed to modern architectural trends and major innovations.
Fabulous Florida in the 50s (2/19, $45 and $65) Midcentury style/design expert Charles Phoenix will celebrate Florida in the 1950s and 60s in this engaging and entertaining talk.
Modernism Week Opening Night Party – Love, Modernism Style (2/17, $250) Guests will enjoy dancing and partying throughout the night at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort clubhouse, one of the most iconic midcentury modern clubhouses in Palm Springs designed in 1961 by Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison. Tickets include a full night of entertainment by Casino Royale and DJ Mod Girl and elegantly presented hors d’oeuvres and full-service dinner stations by Lulu California Bistro, hosted bars and signature cocktails, and other surprises. Generous support for the evening is provided by Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery.
Preview Party for the Modernism Show & Sale (2/18, $110/$125) at the Modernism Show & Sale at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The party is the prime opportunity for participants to shop directly from dealers before the show opens to the public on Saturday. Ticket price includes cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, entertainment and daily re-entry to the show. The popular Show & Sale, which offers important 20th and 21st-century objects, furniture, art and textiles from more than 90 premier national and international decorative and fine arts dealers, and the related Modern Design Expo, which will feature 45+ exhibitors showcasing cutting edge modern home design and items inspired by midcentury modern design, runs Saturday through Monday. Hours for both shows are Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $30 and allows entry to both shows and return entry all weekend.
Two parties at the Twin Palms Estate, the famous former residence of Frank Sinatra in the heart of Palm Springs. Guests may participate in Saturday Night at the Sinatra Estate (2/19, $175) and enjoy an elegant cocktail party at the beautiful estate designed in 1947 by Desert Modernist architect E. Stewart Williams. The estate will also be the setting for a special engagement called A Party at Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate Celebrating Gene Kelly Through Dance (2/26, $200). This special twilight reception produced in partnership with Nickerson-Rossi Dance and Palm Springs International Dance Festival will pay tribute to the dance legacy of the legendary Gene Kelly, a dear friend of Frank Sinatra. The event will feature special guest Mrs. Gene Kelly.
Retro Martini Party (2/25, $250): This annual fundraiser for the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation will take place at the stunning Ware Estate designed by modernist architect Don Boss. The 8,060 square-foot estate is sited on a prominent one-and-a-half-acre lot in the Old Las Palmas neighborhood in Palm Springs and features spectacular mountain views and seven infinity-edge pools around the expansive property.
The Jet Set – Palm Springs Modern Committee Gala Benefit (2/19, $175) will allow attendees to experience the golden age of Jet Setter glamour at the Abernathy Residence, William Cody’s masterpiece Class 1 historic site designed in 1962 for millionaire socialite James Logan Abernathy. This beautiful modernist estate features a soaring pavilion-style home that takes full advantage of the outdoors and the beautiful desert evenings.
FIRST-TIME MODERNISM WEEK TOURS
The Mystique of Shadow Mountain: A Palm Desert Walking Tour (2/24 and 25; $55): Experience the golden age of midcentury architecture on a docent-led walk of Palm Desert’s Shadow Mountain area featuring homes by Frey, Krisel, and White, ending with refreshments at Shadow Mountain Resort.
Calypso Palms (2/25, $45) This classic 1960s midcentury boutique community is being offered as a Modernism Week tour for the very first time.
Where Rancho Mirage Began: A Self-Guided Tour of Eclectic Midcentury Homes in Magnesia Falls Cove (2/19, $75: This self-guided driving tour features an intriguing array of homes from the 1940s-1960s in the city’s original locale, Magnesia Falls Cove.
Behind Those Gateways and Getaways: Hidden Gems of Indian Wells (2/18, $250) This one-of-a-kind tour provides special access to six private country clubs in Indian Wells highlighting distinguished architectural clubhouses and picturesque residential properties.
The Hyatt Palm Springs, Modernism Week’s official host hotel for lodging and CAMP (community meeting place or central hub for Modernism), is offering special room rates starting at $249+ for a limited time only. Use Hyatt group code: G-10MO at hyatt.com.
Margaritaville, the former Riviera where the Rat Pack chose to hang out, has been revived as Margaritaville with a newly upgraded Key West island feel with 2 busy pools and midcentury Palm Springs aesthetic. Brand new room renovations include cheerful décor.
Palm Mountain Resort nestled at the base of the San Jacinto mountains offers affordable rates and is located right in town walking distance to the best restaurants and shops on Palm Canyon Drive. A serene pool may be the place you want to retreat between Modernism events.
For a more upscale boutique hotel experience, some of our favorites include the Del Marcos, Villa Royale, Korakia Pensione, The Colony Palms, Ingleside Inn, Sparrows Lodge, The Monkey Tree Hotel, and Talavera.