For fans of midcentury modern architecture, there is only one place to go in the U.S. – Palm Springs, CA. This desert hideaway, just 100 miles east of Los Angeles, came to prominence during Hollywood’s Golden Age, when stars such as Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant escaped here on weekends. The desert became their playground and their homes reflected their easy indoor-outdoor entertaining style with clean lines and plenty of glass. Furthermore, Palm Springs is in the midst of a renaissance, thanks to an influx of new hotels such as Ace Hotel, and music festivals, such as Coachella and Stagecoach. Modern design is everywhere in Palm Springs, which is home to the most stylish Kentucky Fried Chicken and gas stations we’ve ever seen. Mark your calendars for February, when Modernism Week kicks off, as well as the inaugural Desert X arts Festival. In the meantime, here’s our guide to the most stylish spots in town.
WHERE TO STAY | Avalon Hotel (415 South Belardo Road) was originally the Kelly Wearstler designed Viceroy, and her signature Hollywood Regency look is still at play. Guestrooms are serene and whitewashed with small pops of color, while the pool area is more dramatic, thanks to bright yellow sun loungers and giant inflatable swans in the water. Start your day at the in-house Chi Chi restaurant with a strong latte and avocado toast.
Sunnylands |Reservations are essential to tour the 200-acre Annenberg Estate at Sunnylands (37977 Bob Hope Drive). Sunnylands was once the home of former ambassador and media magnate Walter Annenberg and his wife Leonore. Today the estate is used as a retreat for world leaders. The 25,000-square-foot home was designed by architect A. Quincy Jones in classic midcentury style, and floor-to- ceiling windows frame views of the gardens and Mount San Jacinto. The guest rooms are completely color coordinated down to bowls of matching jelly beans.
Ones to Watch | Palm Springs is currently experiencing a hotel boom. New on the scene, include V Palm Springs (333 East Palm Canyon Drive) boasts guestrooms that cluster around a courtyard pool and that have a color palette inspired by muted desert colors. The hacienda-style Triada (640 North Indian Canyon Drive) was originally the Spanish Inn, where guests such as Elizabeth Taylor and Lana Turner holed up for the weekend. Guests of Arrive (1551 North Palm Canyon Drive) check into the hotel’s bar rather than a traditional front desk. The hotel’s classic midcentury-style butterfly roof combines with industrial elements such as rusted-steel cladding. New hotels from Kimpton, Andaz and Virgin are also slated to open.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK | There’s no shortage of delicious and stylish places to eat in town. You could spend all day eating at the Jonathan Adler-designed The Parker Palm Springs (4200 East Palm Canyon Drive). Kick off with a breakfast of comfort food at the colorful Norma’s and end your day at the dark, sexy Mister Parker’s where cocktails are made to order. The James Beard-award winning Workshop (800 North Palm Canyon Drive) is housed in a renovated movie theatre and whips up fresh, seasonal cuisine. King’s Highway at Ace Hotel (701 East Palm Canyon Drive) formerly a Denny’s, offers delicious date shakes and ricotta pancakes. The rainbow-colored Saguaro Palm Springs (1800 East Palm Canyon Drive) is home to El Jefe, where the menu of tacos and fresh fruit margaritas fines inspiration in Mexican street food. Frank Sinatra was a regular at Melvyn’s at the Ingleside Inn (200 West Ramon Road), which seems unchanged since the 1960s, thanks to its old-school décor and cravatwearing clientele. Drinks will be placed on a Frank Sinatra napkin.
WHERE TO SHOP | As you’d expect, Palm Springs is a shopper’s mecca. Start at the Uptown Design District. Trina Turk’s (891 North Palm Canyon Drive) boutique is just as colorful as her vibrant clothing. Pick up design-centric gifts such as a tissue box shaped like a midcentury modern home at Destination Palm Springs (170 North Palm Canyon). Pop by Michael Weems Collection (382/384 North Palm Canyon Drive) for coasters and trays printed with sketches of modern buildings. Just Modern (901 North Palm Canyon Drive) sells furniture as well as suitcase-friendly books.
No trip to Palm Springs would be complete without an architecture tour. Author Michael Stern founded The Modern Tour, the official tour of the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center. Visitors will explore the iconic Twin Palms neighborhood, where every home has an identical floor plan and two palm trees in the front yard. Highlights include the 700-square-foot home of architect Albert Frey, a drive past Liberace’s home, and a stop at the Frederick Loewe estate.
The Palm Springs Art Museum (101 North Museum Drive) focuses on architecture, Native American art and photography. The permanent collection includes works by Dale Chihuly and Roy Lichtenstein. The nearby Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center (300 South Palm Canyon Drive) housed in a midcentury glass pavilion that was formerly a bank, devotes itself to design. Don’t miss the museum’s store which has a curated selection of handmade jewelry and ceramics.
SPOTLIGHT: MICHAEL WEEMS | Michael Weems epitomizes Palm Springs style and humor. After stints at Tiffany & Co. and Gucci, this artist and designer has called Palm Springs home for the last 10 years. His gallery is stocked with his one-of-a-kind creation, such as vintage cocktail trays and coasters printed with desert noir images. If you’re looking for a “Betty Ford Was Here” ornament for your Christmas tree, this is your place. His adjacent Autoerotica shop sells photos of vintage Americana imprinted on pieces of vintage cars. Johannes Restaurant (196 South Indian Canyon Drive). One of my all-time favorites. Great service, the wine list is amazing and the German fusion food is the best. Al Dente (491 North Palm Canyon Drive). My favorite Italian restaurant by far. Classic Italian food in the New York style of great Italian food. Great service and martinis! Peabody’s (134 South Palm Canyon Drive). Great for breakfast. All the locals eat here, and you will never have to wait in line for the best Eggs Benedict and Bloody Mary’s in town. Farm (6 La Plaza) Perfect for breakfast and lunch in the heart of Palm Springs. Beautiful little spot nestled in the back of historic buildings with the most amazing food and French press coffee. You will feel like you’re in the Virgin Islands.
SPOTLIGHT: LISA VOSSLER SMITH | If Palm Springs is all about modernism, then consider Lisa Vossler Smith to be its chief ambassador. Smith is the executive director of Modernism Week modernismweek.com, and she and her husband, Phillip K. Smith III, are the founding members of the Architecture and Design Council of Palm Springs Art Museum. Here, she shares some of her favorite Palm Springs spots, which are equally stylish and delicious Spencer’s Restaurant (701 West Baristo Road). With a pianist and plenty of Palm Springs A-listers, it doubles as the perfect spot for a Bloody Mary brunch or a late-night Old Fashioned. It’s housed in a 1950s A. Quincy Jones complex built into the mountain at the historic Palm Springs Tennis Club. Seymour’s in Mr. Lyon’ Steakhouse (233 East Palm Canyon Drive). The best hideout in town is the back room in this storied 1945 restaurant recently reopened by the masterful team from Cheeky’s restaurant. A speakeasy vibe with impeccable cuisine and cocktails. Try the Foie Gras Terrine and a French 75. Tyler’s Burgers (149 South Indian Canyon Drive). Right in the middle of the historic 1930s La Plaza is the local’s favorite al fresco burger stand. Go early for a cheeseburger and fries to avoid the crowd, and try their amazing egg salad on your second visit Kaiser Grille (205 South Palm Canyon Drive). Perfect for a Palm Springs power lunch, which means Caesar salad and an Arnold Palmer to me. Situated in an early E. Stewart Williams-designed building in the heart of downtown. Just Modern (901 North Palm Canyon Drive) Our favorite bright and fresh place to shop for midcentury inspired home furnishings, books, art and Jonathan Adler pottery. The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five (1345 North Palm Canyon Drive) an eclectic collection of 10 stores under one roof in a historic, midcentury building designed by E. Stewart Williams. Don’t miss Towne and Soukie Modern for furniture, vintage decor and accessories.
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