For 11 days and 10 nights every February, design buffs from around the globe flock to the Palm Springs desert—not to bask in the winter sun of this long-time Hollywood celebrity haven surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains, but to celebrate and foster their appreciation for mid-20th-century architecture and design. Now in its 14th year, the annual Modernism Week is packed with parties, events, lectures, and exclusive home tours, all aimed at continuing the preservation of and education about sustainable modern living in the desert. This charitable event attracts visitors in the hundreds of thousands and is one of the desert area’s top annual draws.
Once again Modernism Week’s CAMP (Community and Meeting Place) will act as a central hub from February 15 to 24. There, you’ll have a chance to mingle with authors and designers, as well as and regroup and relax at designer lounges, the café by popular brunch spot Cheeky’s, merchandise stores by Destination PSP and other sponsors, and the theater. Located at 230 Museum Way (near the Palm Springs Art Museum), CAMP is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and entrance is free.
Here is a guide to the events, restaurants, and hotels you shouldn’t miss at Palm Springs’s Modernism Week 2019, which kicks off with an opening night party called “Modern Love” on February 14 at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort.
Photo by Peter Tran, Icons Photography.
A Desert Eichler featured home.
What to See and Do
For behind-the-scenes peeks at historic and hard-to-view homes, your itinerary should include a walking tour with the prominent Palm Springs Historical Society. On the “Golden Era of Hollywood” tour, stroll through the old Las Palmas neighborhood where Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Elvis Presley, and Lucille Ball once lived. Additional guided tours include “The Inns, Architecture, and Glamour” and “The Rat Pack Playground.”
Arrange a visit to Sunnylands—also referred to as a “West Coast Camp David”—to tour the bromeliad-dotted grounds and art-filled home of the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Estate, built in 1966 by A. Quincy Jones. You can’t miss the architect’s signature element: a pink pyramid “statement” roof structure.
The Christopher Kennedy Compound Modernism Week Show House is back for a fifth year. A famed local designer, Kennedy will spearhead the complete refurbishment of a classic midcentury modern show house, La Vie en Rose, in Indian Canyon. The house was built in 1962; the updated furnishings includea tropical dark green Phillip Jeffries wallpaper in the master bedroom, sleek suspender sconces by Ferguson in the hallway, and items from Kennedy’s store on East Palm Canyon Drive.
Another featured home is the 1957 Green Gables by architect Palmer Krisel, which has been completely furnished by the owners of H3K Design—who also own the property—with art and accessories from the period. With exterior cinder blocks, an entryway dot-series painting of Jackie O. by Hank Hudson, terrazzo floors, and colorful hoop string chairs by the pool, it’s a restorative dream for design aficionados.
More than 85 dealers of furnishings, paintings, and accessories from the 1940s through the ’70s will be available for view and purchase at the Modernism Show and Sale in the convention center. With furniture from Danish Modern and art from Los Angeles antiques dealer Off the Wall, there are treasures for every home decor. Many dealers will be saving their best finds for this show, so keep an eye out for rare vintage costume jewelry or a circa-1950 neon motel sign of a “diving girl.”
And don’t forget the exteriors and curb appeal. The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley, a photography exhibition at University of California Riverside Palm Desert Center, celebrates the work of the artist. In this first-ever partnership with The Cultural Landscape Foundation, programing will launch with “A Walk in Nature: The Landscape and Architecture of Dan Kiley,” presented by author and educator Jane Amidon.
The 13,000 square-foot, glass-encased steel building that houses the year-old Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center was once a savings and loan building. Originally designed by Stewart Williams in 1961, the structure was rehabilitated by the architecture firm Marmol Radziner, which also restored the renowned Kaufmann House. The building recently received Class 1 Historic Site protective status and is a must-stop.
And be sure to check out the schedule for tours of the alfresco installations at Desert X, which start at the Ace Hotel and run from February 9 through April 21.
See the Modernism Week site for new events, updates, and any last-minute release of extra tickets, such as those for the sold-out keynote speech by internationally acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie on February 16 at the Annenberg Theatre.
Where to Eat and Drink
Pink Cabana at the Sands
A former 1950s apartment building, the Sands Hotel and Spa in Indian Wells was redesigned as a sultry Moroccan hideaway by Martyn Lawrence Bullard, designer to the stars. Its fresh, hip Pink Cabana restaurant is adorned with custom tropical wallpaper and old black-and-white Hollywood photographs. Graze on a mezze plate for lunch or feast on lamb tagine and harissa chicken for dinner.
El Jefe at the Saguaro
For a good late breakfast that leads straight into a happy hour replete with fresh-fruit margaritas, check out the fun food and drink offerings from the valley’s most colorful hotel, the Saguaro. In the evening, El Jefe’s array of Mexican staples includes nachos and street corn. During the festival, the hotel will host several free events, including an opening night after-party, screenings, and workshops.
Mr. Lyons Steakhouse
With its old-school, meat-centric menu, Mr. Lyons Steakhouse is a top spot for a juicy filet, prime New York cut, or wagyu rib eye. You can also find seafood options, including oysters and lobster mac-n-cheese. While the dining room is dark and glamorous, the lounge offers a more casual experience—and a stiff martini. But the real star is the speakeasy-style bar, Seymour’s, hidden behind the eatery; be sure to enjoy a nightcap.
Where to Stay
Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs
Situated in the heart of Palm Springs, the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs is the perfect place to rest your head after a long day of activities. Its 153 spacious rooms and suites offer restorative relief from the desert sun. And this year, one of the major new additions to the Modernism Week lineup is located right behind the hotel property: the replica of the Paul Rudolph–designed Walker Guest House, a Florida bungalow created in 1952, has never before been seen on the West Coast.
The hotel is also home to two of the hottest new restaurants in town. Catch a killer view from the rooftop while dining on French-inspired Mediterranean fare at 4 Saints, an upscale restaurant and bar on the hotel’s seventh floor. Or visit the breezy all-day restaurant and café Juniper Table, where you can enjoy seasonal lunches by day and cutting-edge cocktails by night.
In the north end of the city, the hip, modern 35-room ARRIVE is a bit out of the fray and a good spot for the low-key visitor who doesn’t mind being hands-on with a DIY check-in and -out process. Upon arrival in the bar area, get a canned cocktail and your keys, then make your way past the central pool area and fire pits to your studio guest room. The private patios feature mini-fire pits, which can be lit by texting the virtual front desk. If you’re feeling restless, grab a bike out front and cruise uptown. Another perk of this quiet spot is the mix of onsite dining options: Los Angeles favorite Wexler’s Deli, which smokes its own pastrami and lox; the Ice Cream & Shop[pe], which serves 16 flavors; Cartel Coffee Lab; and the Draughtsman bar, which offers the three Bs: barbecue, beer, and bourbon.
The 150-room luxury HOTEL PASEO is located on Palm Desert’s El Paseo, known as “The Rodeo Drive of the Desert.” This centrally located spot is great for those particularly interested in spending their time visiting Sunnylands or on a Desert X tour of the outdoor installations. The hotel also houses its own rotating art gallery with inspiring local works peppered throughout the hallways and public areas. On your way into the AC3 Restaurant + Bar (by the owners of local favorites Copley’s and TRIO), keep an eye out for painter Tom Swimm’s work, Welcome to Southern California. Book a stay in the custom 1950s Airstream by the backyard lawn and relax from the hectic event schedule with a spa treatment, bocce ball, or a complimentary tai chi class.
The newest 38-room boutique hotel on the scene is the California ranch-style, pet-friendly Villa Royale. Built in 1947, the property boasts three pools with mountain views, fireplaces, Marshal amps, and an impressive art collection with over 50 oil paintings, including portraits of Dennis Hopper and Debbie Harry by Juan Casas. In the entryway, guests are greeted with a spray-painted mural, “Welcome to Your Paradise,” by a Los Angeles tattoo artist Sagent Staygold. The cozy Del Rey bar and Mediterranean tapas restaurant features more artworks amid midcentury modern furnishings.
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