The Cool House: Palm Springs
Showing posts with label Palm Springs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palm Springs. Show all posts

Monday, February 27, 2012

Modern Love

We were in Palm Springs last week for Palm Springs Modernism Week, and particularly thrilled to attend the world premiere screening of Modern Tide: Mid-century Architecture on Long Island.

From the Frank Lloyd Wright Rebhuhn House in Great Neck Estates designed in the late thirties, via the whimsical beach houses along the south shore designed by Andrew Geller in the 50s and 60s to the Herbert Beckhard House built by the architect for his family in Glen Cove in 1964, Long Island is dotted with modernist treasures. This film showcases the unique architecture across the island, a testament to beach cottages that still stand fifty years later despite hurricanes and rising property values, and a remembrance of others that have succumbed to the developer's wrecking ball or been remodeled out of all recognition. Academics, historians and family members reveal fascinating details about the architects' vision, the influence of artists from Fernand L├ęger to Jackson Pollack and the effect the proximity to New York City had on their work.

Of course if you love architecture, especially modern architecture you will want to go see this movie but if you have any interest in Long Island, in its unique geography, urban planning and building codes, you should make a point of seeking out Jake Gorst's documentary. It raises important questions about how design and architecture fit into our surroundings and the lives we choose to live.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Modern Tide: The Movie

Just two short months ago historian and film maker Jake Gorst was here taking shots for his documentary on mid-century modern architecture on Long Island. Now the movie is finished and Modern Tide:Midcentury Architecture on Long Island will have its world premiere at Palm Springs Modernism Week 2012. From the clip above and the stills I've seen the movie will be powerful, an homage to the great architects who worked on Long Island, amongst others Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Frey, Horace Gifford and Andrew Geller, celebrating structures still standing and mourning those that have been lost. And with the beautiful Long Island scenery as its backdrop how can it be anything other than a must-see ticket?
We will be in Palm Springs for the premiere, soaking up some desert sun and touring a few modernist homes including the Twin Palms Estate E. Stewart Williams designed for Frank Sinatra, the Albert Frey designed Raymond Loewy house and the Wexler and Harrison El Rancho Vista Estates. More later...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Racquet Club Estate Tour 2010

Palm Springs: Racquet club Estates Tour, part of Modernism Week 2010. Seven mid-century modern homes, five Palmer & Krisel designed Alexander homes - some with butterfly roofs, another with a flat roof; a Donald Wexler Steel House and a Meiselman post and beam. They have been restored, some keeping as faithful to the original as possible, others updated and expanded but all retaining the desert's mid-century tenets of clear lines, walls of glass, clerestory windows, airy rooflines and indoor/outdoor living.

The surrounding landscape is always part of the home - here mountains form a dramatic backdrop to the pool

Each of the homes is unique in its own fashion - here the breezeway wasn't part of the original Meiselman house but was added along with a master bath and guest suite during a year-long renovation. While other homeowners had updated with an eye to budget this home had it all- Bulthaup kitchen, LED color-changing lighting and infinite jacuzzi tub.

We signed up for the tour not only to get a closer look at Krisel's and Wexler's designs but to see if there were any renovations we could use in our own house. We brought back a couple. One was the ingenious hole cut through the frameless shower doors that enables you to turn the water on without hopping in and out of freezing spray. The other? To clear The Cool House of all clutter and tabletop "fluff"! We also confirmed how well-suited ikea is to mid-century kitchens and bathrooms - especially when paired with quartz counters. Catch the local news video of the tour here and spot The Guy chatting with designer Anne Breux about, what else, beds...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bathroom inspiration

From the Albert Fry House II, Palm Springs

Elephants & Palms

Friday, February 12, 2010


As nothing much is happening on the reno front - a 23" x 17" tile short of a finished floor snafu followed by snow days, sick tiler, and a wrong cabinet door setback - I'm tucking my head under my wing, embracing oblivion and swapping


for this

and this*

for Palm Springs Modernism Week

Last year we stayed here for a conference; pretty pink flamingos, great sushi and Starbucks vouchers offered in exchange for hard sell to buy a timeshare - classy! Apparently these people had splashier time...

1. tree down!
2. floor tile, one piece short of perfection

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Krisel and more

My Krisel crush is well-known, and it's been happily fed recently, first by the sneak preview of Jake Gorst's upcoming documentary "William Krisel, Architect". I cannot wait to see the full version. A short time ago Krisel Keeper left a comment here. I followed the links and found her blog detailing the ongoing rehab of a Krisel ranch in Woodland Hills, California. Then there was the trip to Palm Springs, which is dotted with Krisel houses. It was like eating a box of chocolates all in one sitting, albeit really, really good Belgian chocolates while lounging in an Eames chair. I toured three Palm Springs neighborhoods, Las Palmas Estates tucked under the mountains, Racquet Club Estates and Twin Palms in search of the Alexander Construction Company homes designed by William Krisel of Palmer & Krisel. And as I don't have any Belgian chocs to give you, I'll share my real estate finds: three gorgeous examples recently on the market with links to more photos and to the realtors. Enjoy!

The earliest of the Krisel modernist tract homes, like this 1600 sq' 3 bed, 2 bath Alexander Sunflap in Twin Palms Estates, were built in the mid-fifties.

In Racquet Club Estates a 3 bedroom Alexander home built in 1959 is for sale at $399,000

Complete with mountain views a Krisel designed home in Las Palmas Estates, just a stroll from downtown Palm Springs.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alpine Desert

This is perhaps the most stunning of the fifteen so-called "Swiss Miss" houses on the Las Palmas Estates in Palm Springs. Designed by Charles Dubois, and built by Alexander Construction in 1959, these alpine chalet inspired homes are quite distinct from the standard Alexander-built tract houses, most of which were designed by William Krisel.

This one was completely renovated in 2005 and is currently for sale at $1,095,000. There is also an option to rent at $595 a night or $3,195 a week through Vacation Palm Springs .

More on the unique Swiss Miss homes at Jetsetmodern and Eichler Network

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Desert Realty

Driving around the Old Las Palmas neighborhood I was surprised at the number of For Sale signs, often four or more on one side of a block. I knew that California had been one of the areas most badly affected by the housing crisis but I hadn't realised how hard the state had been hit. Even in the more tony neighborhoods of Palm Springs, you could feel the pressure to sell - at any price. And the homes ranged in every condition from mint to almost abandoned; foreclosure signs placed despondently among the cactus and yuccas.
To be sure not all the homes had that aura of desperation, indeed a few retain that scent of celebrity and glamour:

Donald Wexler designed this house for Dinah Shore in 1963.

It's a glorious example of a Hollywood home in the desert that has been stunningly and sympathetically renovated. Listed at almost $6,000,000, double the price it sold for in 2003, it has been on the market since Spring.

A secret gem: One of Elvis' desert homes, owned by Liberace until 1971.

Already substantially reduced to $749,000 it's a 4 bed, 5 bath, 3000 sq' statue-bedecked MCM house full of flock and glitz

and the occasional piece of Liberace memorabilia.

Also on the market, for $1,295,000, is the former Tony Curtis/Janet Leigh home "Camp Curtis", a stunning 1960 Fey home that got smacked with a nasty granite kitchen in a recent remodel. Click here for more details/photos.
If you fancy experiencing the luxury lifestyle but don't want to relocate to the desert, you can always rent a vacation home for a night, week or longer. You could stay in Frank Sinatra's Twin Palms pad or hang out where Marilyn Monroe slept. On the other hand, given recent press, you might not want to spend time in this particular celebrity's Unusual Villa rental...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Desert Modern

So where was I? Oh, yes back in the desert...
I spent a couple of days doing the Modern Palm Springs Tour, a self-guided street-side peep around the exteriors of the best examples of mid-century modern architecture. I picked up a $5 map from the Visitors' Center, formerly the Albert Frey designed Tramway Gas Station - the first stop on the tour - and set off on a drive past residential and commercial buildings designed by Donald Wexler, William F. Cody, E. Stewart Williams and other designers who made the Coachella Valley the unique resort destination in the 50s and 60s.

The tour takes you past the Richard Neutra Kaufmann Desert House - newsflash they were doing some work on the air-conditioning system - via the Albert Frey designed Raymond Loewy House to the House of Tomorrow.
Although I've seen photographs of some of these homes, and in some cases written about them, it's always more interesting to see them in situ. You see how they fit into their environment, how they affect and are affected by the surrounding landscape.

The House of Tomorrow, for example sits on a cul-de-sac; other homes have been built around it and thickly planted trees and shrubs have grown to enclose it so that it now looks, at first glance, like any other suburban home. It's only when you look closer that you notice William Krisel's mid-century details: the huge projecting bay window, the angles, the cutaways in the roof.

The Raymond Loewy House is set back on the lot behind an elaborate fence structure, the more architecturally unique side of the house faces the mountains, hidden from passers-by.

While I had great fun driving round the neighborhoods of Palm Springs in the rented convertible (and getting a major case of neck burn from the desert sun) I was disappointed I couldn't get this trip to coincide with Palm Springs Modernism Week when I'd be able to view the interiors of some of the houses. So when I got back home I treated myself to Julius Shulman: Palm Springs, the late iconic photographer's tribute to the architecture of the city. If you can't get to Palm Springs I recommend you beg, borrow or buy a copy, you'll be instantly transported to the desert oasis where every building is a reminder of the shift in style that became known as mid-century modern design.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Well at least it's not snowing...

It's currently 42 F and raining, all the cats are huddled together and I'm having to consider seriously turning on the heating. It's not news, it's just Fall on Long Island and it wouldn't normally bother me except that it's 100 F and sunny in Palm Springs. Not fair! So to cheer myself up (and in lieu of some MCM house shots that I'm still processing) here are a few photos to remind me of the fabulous dry desert climate:




Sunday, October 11, 2009

Desert Air

What can you say about Palm Springs that hasn't been said before? Driving from Los Angeles on I -10 the desert air hits you full force as you drive through the San Gorgonio Pass that divides the San Bernadino and San Jacinto Mountains, the temperature climbs 10, 15 degrees in a matter of minutes and the wind almost knocks the steering while right out of your hands.

The scenery changes from coastal scrub and urban scrawl to barren mountains, home only to battalions of windmills. This is the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, located in one of the windiest places in California, it powers Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley.

Half an hour further on and you enter the outskirts of the city. You've passed the turbines, steel megaliths have been replaced by Desert Fan Palms; stony outcrops by resort developments - manicured lawns interspersed with native Barrel cactus and yuccas.

You spot your first iconic mid-century building, The Tramway Gas Station. This is where you pull over, lower the top on the bright red convertible hire car and the vacation begins...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sunny Valentine

Guess what else I'm missing this month? The Valentine's Day coinciding Modernism Week in Palm Springs. We tried to go last year, and the year before. We promised ourselves we'd make it this year. As usual we left it too late. (Oh shut up moaning woman, you have a great life!). Yes but this year the architect William Krisel will be getting his star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. Quatch. We will go one day. Until then there's always youtube

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vacation in a Krisel Home

After blogging about William Krisel recently I really want to go to Palm Springs and tour some of his houses. Then serendipity strikes. It seems not only could I go look, but I can actually stay in one. This completely restored 1957 Alexander House can be rented by the night, week or month from owner Chris Menrad.
It seems there are plenty of other mid-century modern vacation homes out there if you know where to look. Time Magazine has selected a few, including Frank Sinatra's desert home from the Rat Pack days. I hear the happy sound of cocktails being poured right now.