Bob Hope once said: “I’ve always been in the right place and time. Of course, I steered myself there.” The entertainment icon steered himself to the sun-drenched canyons of Palm Springs, where many of stars and starlets like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. sunbathed poolside and relaxed on the golf course while they waited for calls from the studios to return to set during the 1950s and 1960s. That glamorous scene has never really left the desert oasis of Coachella Valley. Even decades later, it is still known as the destination for laid-back cool and midcentury modern architecture. We know that because the area is about to welcome about 60,000 interior designers, architects and midcentury modernistas from all over the world for Palm Springs Modernism Week, the annual global celebration of all things mid-century and modern. The premier 11-day event kicks off today, and always provides us with a chance to keep watch on what’s new and noteworthy in one of the most stylish (and warmest!) places in the world. We asked Chris Mobley, board chairman of Palm Springs Modernism Week, to give us the inside scoop.
“New this year, Modernism Week is offering three events that include trips beyond the Coachella Valley,” says Mobley. There’s the sold-out Feb. 12 party at Albert Frey’s 1959-built North Shore Beach & Yacht Club at the Salton Sea, where A-listers will get an exclusive tour of the national landmark, plus a viewing of a curated collection of paintings, sculptures and photography while they sip bottomless wine and champagne. Or another fun event to take you back in time: the Retro Pinball Mania! at The Museum of Pinball, a nostalgic 1950s building in Banning on Feb. 15. And finally, there is a private docent-led tour of the historic Alta Loma home of California modernist Sam Maloof, where you’ll be able to view over 50 pieces of iconic handcrafted Maloof furniture — many of them original prototypes.
There are several not-to-be-missed events, according to Mobley. He’s particularly looking forward to the Modernism Week Opening Night Party – Hollywood in Palm Springs on Thursday Feb. 11 at CAMP. “This party will not only be the debut of our new headquarters location for 2016, it’s also the first big event of the festival and it sets the tone for the week,” he says. “It will be an evening of 1950’s Hollywood glamour with amazing décor, festive food and cocktails and non-stop dancing to the sounds of retro/jazz band NUTTY.” Fashion and design have always gone hand-in-hand in Palm Springs, and this year is no different. Susan Stein, fashion editor for Palm Springs Life Magazine and creative director of Fashion Week El Paseo will present a number of fabulous events, including the “Fashion and Architecture – Inside, Outside, and Side by Side” discussion on Wednesday Feb. 17, which will draw comparisons between the inspirations behind fashion and architecture, and “Off the Runway with Lisa Perry: A Conversation with the Designer,” where New York fashion designer Lisa Perry will present the evolution of her brand. “The talk will be a highly personal tour and retrospective of Lisa’s work with host and local collector, Shari Applebaum,” says Mobley.
However, the must-see event — Modernism Week Show House 2016: The Christopher Kennedy Compound. — is returning to the fairways of the Indian Cayons Golf Resort. This year’s tastemakers include Michael Berman, Michel Boyd, Julia Buckingham, Patrick Dragonette, HGTV’s Jamie Durie and Kelli Ellis, BRAVO’s Carson Kressley, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard and many others. “As an added bonus and value this year, The Christopher Kennedy Compound will have two homes on tour,” says Mobley. “The Freedman Residence, adjacent to the Modernism Week Show House, will also be included in the ticket price. Built in 1969, the home was completely renovated by Christopher Kennedy and ArtHouse Construction in 2015.” The home is a model of sustainability, adds Mobley, “with extensive solar panels, desert landscaping, LED lighting, and a vegetable garden.”
If these events and home tours haven’t satisfied your craving for all things midcentury, then it’s time to take your obsession to the next level: real estate. Take a drive to Rancho Mirage, and prepare to be swept away by visions of martini lunches and poolside parties in this midcentury gem in the exclusively gated Thunderbird Heights community. The 4-bedroom, 5.25-bath home is “a study in circles,” describes listing agent John Nelson of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Palm Springs. One look at the architectural masterpiece, and you’ll see what he means.
“Wood ceiling beams radiate outward from a central dining room through open and voluminous living spaces past the perimeter of the 90-foot diameter residence,” he says. “A visceral pulse is felt in this home which features a glass walled circumference offering 360-degree unobstructed views of 1.17 acres of park like grounds, expansive valley and mountains. A circular Pool Pavilion hovers mid-swimming pool accessed by a floating walkway.” It’s one sleek, cool indoor/outdoor paradise… and it can be yours for $4,150,000. “It’s been recently reduced,” adds Nelson.