A Preview of Palm Springs Modernism Week 2020

Modernism Week returns to Palm Springs Thursday, February 13th through Sunday, February 23rd. It’s no coincidence the annual event, which attracts thousands from around the world, is occurring on Valentine’s Day weekend this year. Modernism Week is an absolute love letter to the desert city of Palm Springs. It’s the city’s signature celebration of all things mid-century modern: architecture, food and wine, style and design, vintage Hollywood, culture, and so much more. There will be home tours of Palm Spring’s most architecturally significant houses, talks with experts, designers, and architects, film screenings, live music, drag bingo, cooking demonstrations and special atomic age-themed dinners and other culinary events, dancing, and, if the weather forecast holds, plenty of sun.

While Modernism Week is always an extraordinarily popular event for Palm Springs, there are still plenty of shows that still have tickets available. Yes, Charles Phoenix’s Super Duper Double Decker Bus Tour sold out months ago, we’ve highlighted some of our most anticipated events below and there are still dozens of others available to choose from. We’ll be staying at the recently remodeled and just opened Les Cactus boutique hotel in the city’s Warm Sands neighborhood, but a cursory glance online shows there are still dozens of rooms and rentals available, or, with events scheduled throughout the day and into the evening, Modernism Week also makes the perfect day trip from Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego.

Let us know what you plan on attending and we hope we will see you in Palm Springs! Some of the highlights for us include:

Photo Credit: The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands.

Sunnylands Historic House Tour
In groups of seven, visitors on the Historic House Tour are taken on electric shuttles from Sunnylands Center & Gardens to the former winter home of Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg.  A midcentury masterpiece with Mayan influences, the 25,000-square-foot residence was completed in 1966.  Famed architect A. Quincy Jones designed the home, which interior designers William Haines and Ted Graber decorated in the Hollywood Regency style.  Guides on the 90-minute tour also inform guests about the rare paintings, sculptures and other works of art on display in the home, as well as the world-famous 20th-century entertainers and politicians who visited the estate.  It is recommended that visitors see the 20-minute movie, “A Place Called Sunnylands,” prior to going on the tour.  The movie is shown free to the public every hour and half hour at Sunnylands Center & Gardens.  Art exhibitions, walking tours, and other activities at the Center also are free. Sunnylands is now a high-level retreat center where global leaders and prominent experts meet to find solutions to real-world problems, promote peace, and better serve the public good.  For more information, go to www.sunnylands.org.

Photo Credits: Edith Head, Designer – Original Costume for Ginger Rogers, 1944, Lady In The Dark, Edith Head, Designer – Original Costume for Bette Davis, 1950, All About Eve, Jean Louis, Designer – Original Costume for Ginger Rogers, 1936, Follow The Fleet w/Fred Astaire, Bob Mackie, Designer – Original Costume for Pennies From Heaven, Edith Head, Designer – Original Costume for Bette Davis, 1950, All About Eve, Nolan Miller, Designer for Diahann Carroll.

Hollywood Revisited
Palm Springs loves Hollywood glamour!  By popular demand Hollywood Revisited returns for the 3rd year with a new show, more costumes to see, along with some of the biggest hits from previous years, and special guest Richard Chamberlain. From the 1930s to the 1960s, Hollywood demanded spectacular costumes from the biggest designers and fashion icons to bring to life the glitz and the glamour moviegoers expected. Academy Award Costume Design winners Edith Head, Adrian, Jean Louis, Charles le Maire, and Helen Rose were just a few legendary designers that became household names. Their dazzling creations were just as important as the plot of the movie itself. Greg Schreiner, nationally known collector of classic movie costumes has assembled a stunning collection of nearly 500 original designer masterpieces. Costumes worn by Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Mae West and Judy Garland are just a few from his vast collection that dazzles the audience. Greg shows his most spectacular original costumes in the musical theater extravaganza, Hollywood Revisited.  The great Hollywood films of the 1940s to the 60s are featured, a Hollywood era wonderfully linked to Palm Springs. Acclaimed professional vocalists sing and dance to movie-related music while wearing the original costumes. Schreiner, a concert pianist, provides the musical accompaniment and entertaining anecdotes about the designer, the movie and the scene, while on screen, the costumes and the stars wearing them are shown as originally seen by moviegoers.
$55, $75

Photo Credit: Courtesy O’Donnell House

Martinis on the Mountain
Join us for martinis, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and dancing on a mountainside terrace under the stars.   Gaze out across Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley beyond from the historic O’Donnell House and Gardens, located high above the Palm Springs Art Museum. 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 Thomas O’Donnell in 1925. 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.  An evening to remember. Catering by LuLu California Bistro.
Benefiting the Palm Springs Historical Society and Desert AIDS Project.

Photo Credits: Anton Grassi, Ezra Stoller, Jenny Acheson.

Walker Guest House Replica Tour
A stunning full-scale, furnished replica of architect Paul Rudolph’s iconic 1952 Walker Guest House is now in downtown Palm Springs. The house has been relocated and reconstructed by the Palm Springs Modern Committee and is on loan from the Sarasota Architectural Foundation in Florida. The Replica of a 1952 beach cottage, by renowned architect Paul Rudolph, is a shining example of the Sarasota School of Architecture movement (1941-1966). The guest house was originally designed by Rudolph for Dr. Walker and specifically for the subtropical climate of Sanibel Island, Florida. It is still used today by the family.

Rudolph said:
“With all the panels lowered the house is a snug cottage, but when the panels are raised it becomes a large screened pavilion. If you desire to retire from the world you have a cave, but when you feel good there is the joy of a large screened pavilion.”

The house, complete with original 1952 furnishings, offers a unique opportunity to enjoy a tour of this amazing beach house. All proceeds from this tour benefit The Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom) a non-profit organization dedicated to the appreciation and preservation of Desert Modern architecture and design. This is accomplished through education, advocacy for threatened buildings, promotion of heritage tourism, and the celebration of successes in preservation and adaptive reuse.

Photo Credits: Greg Thompson Productions

Sunny Thompson: Hollywood Blondes
Sunny Thompson, the star of the hit documentary film, Becoming Marilyn Monroe and the long running, award-winning, stage play Marilyn Forever Blonde returns to Palm Springs with her hit stage show, Hollywood Blondes, a tribute to Hollywood’s biggest stars. Sunny, who in 2019 was awarded a star (right next to Marilyn Monroe’s star!) on the Palm Springs “Walk of the Stars” will return with her tribute show to her favorite blondes – Mae West, Dolly Parton, Joan Rivers, Dinah Shore and Carol Channing, along with a special salute to everyone’s favorite blonde bombshell and Palm Springs favorite, Marilyn Monroe.

Sunny Thompson began her career touring in Broadway Revues, toured Europe as a featured singer, starred in the hit show Showgirls in Las Vegas and on HBO, and starred in sold out shows for a decade as Marilyn Monroe in the award-winning one-woman stage play with music, Marilyn Forever Blonde.  More recently, Sunny was featured in the award-winning documentary film, Becoming Marilyn Monroe, which screened to sold out audiences during Modernism Week 2019 and was the highest selling and rated documentary at the 2018 American Documentary Film Festival (AmDocs) in Palm Springs.
$55, $75

Photo Credits: Gillman Residence.

Modernism Week Showcase Home Tour: Gillman Residence
Architectural aficionados of Herbert Burns’ trademark work in several apartment hotels including the Hideaway (originally the Town & Desert), Holiday House, and the Orbit In won’t want to miss this year’s Modernism Week Showcase Home: The Gillman Residence. This 1948 home of Dr. and Mrs. Gillman, described by architectural historian and author Steven Keylon as one of Burns’ “more lavish homes,” has been restored for Modernism Week 2020 by the dynamic duo at Thomboy Properties. Inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier in the style of Late Moderne, a precursor to what would later be termed “Modernism”, the Gillman house was designed to take advantage of the natural beauty of the desert as well as the appealing climate, with a functional, spacious and light filled interior.

Located in Little Tuscany, this 4700 square foot house sits on a generous 1/2 acre lot with a main house that encompasses 3 bedrooms and 3.5 baths and a 2 bedroom, 1 bath guest house. World class brands such as FergusonJennAirBrizoDunn-EdwardsCorian DesignRoom & BoardHunter DouglasFLOR and Bang & Olufsen supported the restoration of this architectural gem which pays homage to the incomparable Herbert Burns.

Photo Credits: J.R. Roberts.

Tour of the Newly Rediscovered Lawrence Welk Estate
Enjoy an exclusive tour of 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 benefit the Historic Plaza Theatre restoration project and Modernism Week.

Photo Credits: Poolside Gossip, Photo by Slim Aarons/Getty Images Gallery, Desert House Party, Photo by Slim Aarons/Getty Images Gallery.

50th Anniversary of “Poolside Gossip”
Please join us in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the iconic Slim Aarons photograph “Poolside Gossip” with one of the original subjects, Nelda Linsk. A longtime local resident and humanitarian, Nelda is the glamorous woman wearing yellow depicted in Slim Aaron’s iconic photograph. Enjoy cocktails, light bites and a special photo op with Nelda as she recreates the famous moment in front of a backdrop of her former home, the Kaufmann house. Linsk, who grew up in Texas, moved to Palm Springs from Philadelphia in 1965 with her late husband Joseph Linsk and purchased the iconic Richard Neutra designed Kaufmann House, which is featured in the Aarons photograph along with Nelda and her close friend Helen Dzo Dzo Kaptur. The iconic 1970 photograph, which graces sophisticated homes around the world, has become celebrated for immortalizing the good life in Palm Springs, garnering hundreds of thousands of media impressions for the destination.

Located in the vibrant Uptown Design District, Grace Home Furnishings was founded in 2000 by designers Michael Ostrow and Roger Stoker. Grace Home Furnishings provides a vibrant, inviting atmosphere where you can shop, place a custom order or get personalized decorating advice from their team of in-house designers. The Grace Home Gallery, opened in 2014, specializes in modern era photographers from the 1940s through the 1970s such as Slim Aarons and Bert Stern.

Photo Credits: Tim Sreet Porter

Lautner Lecture Series – The Restoration of Silvertop
Silvertop is an important touchstone in the evolution of architectural design in both Los Angeles and internationally. It was Lautner’s first major use of monolithic concrete as a sculptural as well as architectural component. Lautner began his design in 1956 and construction continued through 1964. The Organic Modern house features a huge, arching concrete roof over a wall of glass opening the interior to the views all around, enhanced by a cantilevered swimming pool that seems to flow directly into Silver Lake Reservoir far below.

The home was recently purchased in 2014 and the new owners commissioned Barbara Bestor of Bestor Architecture, to create a contemporary residence by reconstructing and modernizing the space-age engineering and by repairing late 1970’s construction additions. Join Barbara as she describes her comprehensive and complex 3 year restoration of one of John Lautner’s most masterful works. The lecture will include “before and after” photographs which will highlight the full magnitude of the property’s magnificent transformation.

Hosted by noted fine artist Danny Heller, the ticket price will include a tour of a Lautner Living Unit, The Lautner grounds, The Park and The Ranch House which comprise the compound, followed by a champagne toast. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the John Lautner Foundation, striving to preserve the Lautner archive; educate the public on the architecture of Lautner; and provide support for preservation, protection and maintenance of all Lautner structures.

Photo Credits: Brad Taylor, Shiny Shacks

2020 Modernism Week Vintage Trailer Show
Join Modernism Week for the Vintage Trailer Show – one of the most celebrated and exciting events of the second weekend. This year’s show promises to be bigger and better than ever! 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. Trailer owners and custom restoration craftsmen will be on hand Saturday, February 22 and Sunday, February 23 to meet the public and discuss their trailer’s unique history and travels. The show will also have a fun mix of retail vendors whose products complement the vintage trailer lifestyle and will have you ready to hit the open road! As an exciting bonus, attendees on Saturday, February 22 will have the opportunity to vote for the prestigious Peoples’ Choice Award and show their love to these one-of-a-kind treasures. Don’t miss this great Modernism Week tradition!
$25, Free (Ages 12 and younger)

Photo Credits: Welwood Murray Memorial Library. © 2018 Palm Springs Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.

Heart of the City – Women Built this Town
Discover how a tiny agricultural settlement became a world-renowned getaway. See historic buildings from our past meld with the emerging future. Visit the two oldest structures in Palm Springs, the McCallum Adobe (1884) and the Cornelia White House (1893). Stroll through La Plaza, (1936) the first multi-use shopping center in the nation, then view the most recent upscale development – now the pulse of the city. See the Oasis Hotel tower designed in 1924 by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, the precursor to the midcentury movement to follow.

California Modern: Albert Frey’s The Cree House
Other than his own home, this is Albert Frey’s most intact residential work. It was commissioned by a prominent desert family at a time when little if anything had been built nearby. Since the early 1970s, it has been owned by a single family and thus, has quietly existed on its hilltop perch overlooking the desert floor, largely forgotten and rarely seen by the public. Throughout the past 24 months, the owner has meticulously preserved and restored the house to nearly its original 1955 condition. The Cree house is abundantly clad in identifying characteristics found in other Frey projects: strong, jutting balconies with corrugated fiberglass railings, asbestos exterior walls, industrial materials and thin roof overhangs. A fascinating study in siting, the building is elevated primarily on pilotis, leaving the mountain beneath virtually untouched. Wildly contrasting its environment in materials and forms, it also seems to blend into it. Its colors and shapes evoke the surrounding granite hills and desert foliage as much as contrast them.

Throughout the past 24 months, the homeowner has taken great care to preserve and restore the home’s interior and exterior to its original 1955 condition. The kitchen appliances and countertops, bathroom fixtures, tile work, and windows remain intact. Extensive research has been devoted to locating authentic replacements for a few items that were beyond repair, while others are still in progress. To create a faithfully curated design for ticketed tours during Modernism Week, February 13-23, 2020, Modern Hacienda will furnish the home with original designs by Charles & Ray Eames and George Nelson, all selected from the Herman Miller collection.

We have added a very special component to California Modern – we will be exploring the world of Eames. For decades, Charles and Ray led the midcentury modernist movement in America and have become a household name around the world. Working in cooperation with the Eames Office and Herman Miller, we have designed an exhibit that will take over the exhibit space at The Porsche Dealership at 3735 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA. Now you will be able to view this unique exhibit for the first time as part of Modernism Week.
The organizer of this event is Palm Springs Life.

Photo Credits: Makerville Studio

Mod With A TWIST – Living the Dream
Mod With A Twist is a series of five 10 minute presentations highlighting the fun, craziness and whimsy of the Midcentury. Topics may include design, fashion, architecture, food, fashion and TV culture. That’s right, TV and culture in the same sentence! We are proud to say that we have been one of the most popular events during the past 7 Modernism Weeks and often sell out. Attendees are guaranteed to chuckle, gasp, and learn something new while enjoying a complimentary glass of wine. Since there are two completely different programs – Living the Dream and Selling the Lifestyle – many people buy tickets for both and get the full TWIST effect. Please join us for another uproariously fun time at Modernism Week.

Living the Dream program (February 15, 17, 19, 21) includes:

Stephen Drucker – Futurama: Let’s Go To the World’s Fair
Greg Hough – Palm Springs Stories: Growing up with the Stars
Debra Hovel – Power Couples: Design Couples in the Midcentury
Laura Hein – Think Pink: The Midcentury’s Favorite Color
Bob Bogard – HiFi Living: Record Albums Were Guides for Gracious Living

Selling the Lifestyle program (February 14, 16, 18, 20, 22) includes: 

Richard Hovel – The REAL Mad Men
Alaina Bixon – If Architects Did Hair: 60s Soft Sculpture and Sharp Lines
Stephen Schafer – Remarkable Architecture: Absurd, Peculiar and Re-Muddled Midcentury
Juli Cavnar – Pointing to Change:  Tales of the Bullet Bra
Robert Webster – Cosplay: Dressing Midcentury

Photo credit: Michael Nickerson-Rossi, founder of International Dance Festival in Palm Springs and Nickerson-Rossi Dance.

A tour experience at The Gala House – Modern Home for Modern Dance
The Gala House – Modern Home for Modern Dance will be a fabulous and unforgettable tour and reception experience for guests during Modernism Week.  This first-time event was created by Michael Nickerson-Rossi, founder of International Dance Festival in Palm Springs and Nickerson-Rossi Dance to further explore the visual and dynamic relationship between dance and design.   Guests will be met with champagne and hors d’oeuvres as they enter the residence through the distinctive orange gates.  While touring the home, unexpected choreographed dance happenings will take place to entertain and intrigue you. Upon touring, the excitement will be redirected to a special outdoor performance area next door where guests will enjoy champagne and refreshments, tasty bites and a twilight dance production inspired by the curves and lines of the architecture of The Gala House.   This exciting 1973 Gala House is equal parts midcentury modern, Hollywood Regency, and Parker Hotel whimsy. Rich in provenance, The Gala House is owned by the Stergios family and was designed by Los Angeles architect Cary Bigman. The 4,825 sq. ft. interior, recently re-envisioned in 2018 by D’Re Anderson Stergios, retains the original architectural character and is enhanced by a clean, new modern decor.   The original owners are the philanthropic dynamic duo, Thelma and Jerry Stergios. Their most notable charitable work in Palm Springs was providing funding for the rebuilding of the iconic El Mirador Tower and Cardiac Rehabilitation Wing at Desert Regional Hospital after a tragic fire in 1989. Original photographs of The Gala House will be displayed for guests to review its historical past, while savoring the present.

Photo Credits: Mizell Senior Center

Bingo A-Go-Go
Do you like your martinis dry with a side of Bingo? Bingo-A-Go-Go! Faaabulous prizes, including a $500 gift certificate from Saks Fifth Avenue and a 2-night stay at the V Hotel.  Savory bites and sweet confections from Jake’s, open bar and, Bella da Ball, one of Palm Springs most divalicious Drag Queens, calling numbers. And, Modernistas, it’s taking place at The Bank, an E. Stewart Williams MCM showpiece that is now a premier event space.  Disco breaks between games, maybe a little mischief in the old bank vault and the possibility that you might be going home with more than you came with. Coachella Valley Savings & Loan, built in 1955, retains all of its original character, making it a true midcentury experience. Upon entering The Bank, you’re taken back in time with original black terrazzo floors, circular walk-in bank vault with stone facade, and free-form terrazzo staircase. The second level, the former banking floor, is a large open space with 20-foot ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking South Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. Another circular walk-in vault with stone facade also resides on the second floor.
Sponsored by The Bank and Tito’s Vodka to benefit the Mizell Center’s valley-wide Meals on Wheels program.

Photo Credits: Annalisa Capurro, Annalisa Capurro, Annalisa Capurro, Annalisa Capurro, Michael Therrien, Mark Davis.

Ms. Modernism’s Design Master Class – Material Madness
Tackling a renovation and don’t know where to start when selecting materials? Overwhelmed by the endless array of colors and finishes available? Curious to know how to work with trends while still creating a timeless design? Confused about the best material for the job? If you are facing any of these issues or would like to learn more about the approach professional designers take in selecting materials don’t miss this fun and informative master class hosted by interior designer and design educator Annalisa Capurro, aka Ms. Modernism, together with Mark Davis of Modern Home Design Showroom.

Together Annalisa and Mark will provide an educational and inspiring presentation, leading you through the professional design process for selecting materials, the pros and cons of various finishes and leaving you with many take aways that will lift your renovation to the next level.

These are just a small selection of events we are mostly looking forward to during Modernism Week in Palm Springs. If you are planning on attending any of these special events, let us know!

Find the full schedule of Modernism Week here.

Follow Modernism Week on Instagram and Facebook.

And enjoy your time in the desert!

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