Highlights from Palm Springs Modernism Week 2020

As heavy rains sweep Los Angeles and Southern California and many of us are hunkering down at home because of the coronavirus, let’s take a look back on sunnier, more celebratory times. In February, the city of Palm Springs held its annual Modernism Week, now in its 15th year. Ten days of mid-century modern mania: house tours, architectural talks, ’50s cooking demonstrations, presentations, films, live music, art shows, and nightly parties. The Hollywood Home was lucky enough to snag quite a few tickets to some of the most popular special events. Take a look below for dozens of photos from Modernism Week, information about some of the area’s most famous residences, and insider information so you can start planning ahead for next year’s sure-to-sell-out annual love letter to all things modernism.

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Photos by Mark Helfrich unless otherwise noted.

Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum should be everyone’s very first stop on their Palm Springs getaway. The museum continually surprises with new acquisitions and frequently provides an elucidating look at mid-century art and artists from around the globe.

Odd Couple on a Bench by Duane Hanson, 1955.
Duane Hanson’s hyperrealist sculptures portray everyday people while scrutinizing class, race, and the aging body. The painstaking realism of Hanson’s Old Couple on a Bench conveys a sense of human presence, which is heightened by its placement in an art gallery where one might expect to encounter visitors resting on a bench. Hanson’s sculpture plays with cultural stereotypes of who is a “typical tourist.” In speaking about his sculptures in 1977, Hanson said, “The subject matter that I like best deals with the familiar lower- and middle-class American types of today. To me, the resignation, emptiness, and loneliness of their existence capture the true reality of life for these people…I want to achieve a certain tough realism which speaks of the fascinating idiosyncrasies of our times.”

La Serena Villas

Essentially next door to the Palm Springs Art Museum and originally built in 1933, La Serena Villas is a historic hotel that sits on over an acre of beautiful landscaped grounds in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, walking distance to the famous Palm Canyon Drive, where you will find the best restaurants, boutiques and galleries.

Courtesy of La Serena Villas.

Courtesy of La Serena Villas.

Courtesy of La Serena Villas.

The property was redeveloped as a luxury hotel in 2016 by award winning architect, May Sung, with all the modern amenities of a 5 star hotel. Each piece of furniture, all materials and finishes have been carefully hand picked by interior design group, Avenue Interior Design. The stunning San Jacinto Mountains are the backdrop for this luxury boutique hotel. The secluded private villas each have a private patio, complete with a romantic claw foot tub, fire-pit, and built in benches. The hotel has only 18 guest rooms, plus a spa, restaurant, bar, and a rooftop lounge all designed to create your ultimate Palm Springs getaway.

Our Villa was spectacularly decorated, lots of cool little personal touches. Our room had it’s own private spa and fire pit.

Les Cactus
Les Cactus is a brand new, just opened boutique hotel located in the Warm Sands neighborhood of the city. And we mean just opened. We were two of the hotel’s very first guests. Originally built in the 1930s, redesigned with mid-century modern aspects in the 1950s, and completely transformed over the past year into the Bohemian chic hotel it is today, the eighteen room property was a great distillation of the history of the city of Palm Springs itself, the transitions, changing time periods, and architectural styles.

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Like La Serena Villas, Les Cactus is a 21+ adults only property. Because of its small size, the hotel offers plenty of privacy. Daily breakfast included freshly baked and delicious croissants, Koffi coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice from the property’s dozens of citrus trees.

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Les Cactus also provides bicycles which were perfect for enjoying a self-guided tour of the neighborhood’s mid-century architecture.

© The Hollywood Home

The Lawrence Welk Residence
Built in 1952 as a spec house, the three-bedroom home is more than just cool: It was once owned by the beloved entertainer Lawrence Welk, who was drawn to the house, in part, for its proximity to the city’s many golf courses.

This stunning 1951 midcentury modern home in the star struck historic El Mirador neighborhood.  Meticulously restored during the past year, this is the first time this home has been on tour for Modernism Week since its completion.

The gorgeous estate is the former home of Lawrence Welk, the American big-band leader and TV personality from “The Lawrence Welk Show” who created ballroom “Champagne Music” and lived in the home until 1978.

The large 3-bedroom/3 bathroom home is nearly 2,800 square feet. Set in a beautiful park like setting among the former homes of Lucy and Dezi Arnaz, Eddie Cantor, Truman Capote and Keely Smith, this exquisite midcentury beauty embodies all of the simple luxury and Palm Springs magic of the early 1950’s.

Gorgeous gardens and spectacular mountain views must have captured the Welks as well as the Lennon Sisters who were frequent quests.  Now you have the opportunity to peek behind the gates of this rarely seen gem.

Ticket sales of the Lawrence Welk home tours benefitted the Historic Plaza Theatre restoration project and Modernism Week.

Walker Guest House
A stunning, full-scale, and furnished replica of architect Paul Rudolph’s iconic 1952 Walker Guest House was placed in “the pit” of the Palm Springs Art Museum, across the street from the brand new Kimpton Rowan Hotel.

The Walker Replica is a shining example of the Sarasota School of Architecture movement (1941-1966). The truly indoor/outdoor house was designed specifically for the subtropical climate of Sanibel Island, Florida.

The house is just 575 square feet. Each wall has two screens, covered by wooden flaps and a glass pane. The flaps, which provide security and shelter from sun (and the frequent Florida rain) are adjusted by a weight and pulley system similar to sails. Cleats inside the house are used to secure the ropes. For obvious reasons, the house is also known as the Cannon Ball House.

Ojo Del Desierto, or Eye of the Desert
Once the highest hillside home in the valley, the Ojo Del Desierto, or Eye of the Desert, was designed by architect William Charles Tanner and built for the fabulously wealthy oil magnate Thomas O’Donnell in 1925. The home is settled on the sheer mountainside and the expansive terrace of the O’Donnel House seemingly floats on the desert floor.

O’Donnell carefully perched the estate to allow the most spectacular view of the entire valley. Meticulously restored and listed in the National Register of Historic Sites, the O’Donnell House features original and rare art tile floors and bathroom tiles hand manufactured by Batchelder, Malibu, Taylor, S&S and Gladding McBean.

The wrought-iron gates and grilles were famous for their intricacy and craftsmanship. The house boasts redwood ceilings, antique furnishings, and gorgeous period appointments.

It is one of the oldest extant buildings in Palm Springs.

The house was incredibly modern for its time.

The home is not to be missed by any architecture buff.

The exquisite views from the terrace and gardens of the desert below and the mountainside are unparalleled.

Downtown Shopping
Of course, we had to make time for a little shopping downtown followed by brunch at the iconic mid-century hangout Sherman’s Deli.

Vintage Trailer Show
And, last but not least, one of the most popular events of Modernism Week is the Vintage Trailer Show. It’s one of the most celebrated and exciting events of the second weekend.

This thoughtfully curated collection of vintage trailers, campers, buses and motor homes is arguably one of the largest and most attended vintage trailer shows in the United States.

Year after year the Modernism Week Vintage Trailer Show continues to surprise and delight attendees with some of the most stunning, unique and rare vintage RV’s.

We hope to see you at Modernism Week next year!

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