The 7 Most Design-Savvy Small Hotels in Palm Springs and the Desert

67710 San Antonio Street
Some people dream of private islands with snowy sand and palm trees. Others fantasize about sleeping in a John Lautner house. For the latter, nothing beats this remote 1947 compound of luxury “living units” designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, the only Lautner residence open to public bookings. All concrete, redwood, glass, and steel, the four flats, which sleep two adults each, are distinctly designed with vintage furniture, organic cotton pillow-top mattresses, Heath Ceramics–tiled showers, and contemporary kitchens. Spend the day sunbathing from your private patio and cooling off in the saline plunge pool, and stargaze from the skylight above your bed at night. The micro-resort is self-catering, but that makes it all the more special—instead of eating in a restaurant, up to 12 people can dine under a communal redwood pergola; arrangements can be made for private chef dinners there, too. A hidden speakeasy-inspired bar for guests of the Ranch House (this additional accommodation, not a Lautner, sleeps four) only fuels the retro fantasy. Plan ahead: Weekends fill up months in advance.
1551 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, USA
The pool is the center of all action at this Design District hotel. Show up early for yoga alongside the 66-foot-long pool, and then settle into a private cabana for a day of lounging and swimming—with, perhaps, a round at the marble ping-pong table or bocce court thrown in. Opened in 2016, ARRIVE was the first ground-up hotel to be built in Palm Springs in a decade, rebooting the desert’s signature style with its butterfly roofs, clerestory windows, and 32 guest rooms decorated in urbane modern pieces (half the rooms also feature private patios and fireplaces). The vibe is casual and playful at all turns—guests check in at the bar, rather than a registration desk, where they’re promptly handed a cocktail. The hotel has two restaurants—Reservoir, which opens to the pool, and Draughtsman, a Southern California take on the gastropub—as well as in-room spa services. Don’t miss: The pool parties, which are as popular with locals as with guests. Sundays bring live bands and DJs spinning vinyl, and once a month movies play on a big screen starting at sundown.
1330 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264, USA
Tensions dissolve immediately when guests arrive at Sparrows Lodge. Take your welcome cocktail—sangria with wild blueberries—straight to the arbor, where the scent of citrus and the soothing fountain flow embody “out of office.” Like much of Palm Springs, this 20-room bolt-hole dates to the 1950s, when it was owned by MGM actor Don Castle and known as Castle’s Red Barn. Fully restored in 2013, the lodge is more rustic modern than midcentury, with russet red walls, exposed beams, and Swiss army blankets. It’s a decidedly unplugged place (rooms don’t have TVs or phones) with a casual atmosphere that’s akin to summer camp. Plan to spend quality time at the pool, tooling around town on one of the free Sole bikes, or in the Out of Africa–style massage tent. The Barn Kitchen’s family-style dinners on Chicken Wednesdays and Steak Saturdays are a can’t-miss. Strangers become fast friends over three-course feasts by chef Gabriel R. Woo (reserve at least a week in advance). Pro tip: Ask for a poolside room with a deep steel horse trough bathtub—and bring a good book.
200 West Arenas Road
It’s all about the playful details at Holiday House, from the love beads that guests receive on arrival to the custom fortune cookies they take home with them. But make no mistake—this 21-and-up property is an upscale, high-style destination. Built in 1951, the 28 rooms and communal spaces were originally designed by pioneering architect Herbert W. Burns, one of the major forces behind Palm Springs modernism. A 2017 update by lauded interior designer Mark D. Sikes reinvented the hotel, giving fresh life to its clean lines with curated artwork and a cobalt, white, and warm wood palette (even the bicycles match). Accommodations are organized as Good, Better, and Best—and the latter is well worth it for the soaking tub and outdoor shower. The pool scene is laid-back and refined—waiters serve rosé flights between guests’ dips in the water—while an honor-system pantry is stocked with such desert “essentials” as sparkling water, straw hats, and potted succulents. Pro tip: Make a reservation in advance for the al fresco Friday night fried chicken dinner, which draws a crowd for its locally sourced chicken, delivered fresh that day and served with comfort-food sides.
1050 East Palm Canyon Drive
When you’re staying at this historic property, it’s worth waking up early to watch the sun rise and turn the sky pink against the San Jacinto Mountains. Romance suffuses this upscale three-acre resort of low-slung bungalows, designed in 1952 and later refreshed by acclaimed designer Steve Hermann. The light-drenched Fireplace Junior Suite Bungalow—once Marilyn Monroe’s room of choice—is a favorite for couples, with its private outdoor shower and wood-burning copper fireplace, plus Frette robes and L’Horizon-branded eye masks. The property’s restaurant, SO•PA, is equally alluring, thanks to a linear fire pit and fountain outdoors and sparkling modern metallic chandeliers inside. While the menu of New American fare is inspired—try the honey mussels paired with an Infinity Paloma cocktail—the chef will also create, with advance notice and upon request, a personalized tasting menu riffing off the day’s best produce and in keeping with any dietary restrictions. Pro tip: The deep-tissue rubdown at the indoor-outdoor spa is unparalleled, but pampering doesn’t need an occasion here—hit the poolside sun beds early for complimentary back and foot massages.
50857 Burns Canyon Rd, Pioneertown, CA 92268, USA
The charm is simple—and highly photogenic—at this 1947 property, where old western actors like Roy Rogers used to get away between takes. When new owners bought the ranch in 2016, they began renovating bit by bit, outfitting the rooms with vintage-inspired Smeg refrigerators, turntables, Coleman lanterns, and Pendleton wool blankets. The accommodations vary wildly, ranging from four original knotty pine–paneled cabins to midcentury-modern rooms in the lodge to a glass-and–corrugated metal duplex called the Hatch House, which Lloyd Russell designed in 2008. There’s even an option to stay in a remodeled 1960s Airstream, which features a live-edge wood bar with copper inlays. True to its original intent, the 11-acre ranch is laid-back and without pretense, the kind of retreat where hikes in neighboring Joshua Tree National Park stand in for a spa day, and guests make their own meals in the antique kitchens and at the outdoor grills. The real magic happens at sunset on the observation deck, and is best enjoyed with a BYO cocktail.
4200 East Palm Canyon Drive
California’s original Holiday Inn has come a long way. After several iterations—former owners include singer Gene Autry and producer Merv Griffin—the property reopened as Parker Palm Springs in 2004. The hotel underwent a major refresh in 2017, with designer Jonathan Adler combining an electric color palette with irreverent, stylish details like an antique DRUGS pharmacy sign and a full wall of macramé owls. Couples love the rooms featuring private outdoor patios and hammocks that hang above their own sandpits. The 12 stand-alone villas work best for families. But the many shared spaces are what make this a Palm Springs playground for all ages: Wandering around the 13-acre grounds, you’ll encounter a life-sized chess set, a labyrinth of bougainvillea-lined garden paths, three pools (one is adults only), and hanging rattan chairs aplenty. The food ranges from breakfast all day at the upscale diner Norma’s to escargot and steak au poivre at the hushed French restaurant Mister Parker’s. Escape the activity on the ground at the Palm Springs Yacht Club spa, where every treatment is customized and you can easily spend an entire day.
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