Palm Springs Weekdays


The discreet 9-room Hideaway, my Palm Springs home for three nights

GOOD MORNING from Palm Springs, California, where I am, instead of the woman taking yard waste to the dump or running to catch the Flatbush Avenue bus, a minor celebrity. It’s because of a book I wrote in the 1980s, Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s, that launched many collecting and merchandising careers and helped spawn a huge revival of interest in the design of the period that continues to this day.


Guest lounge at the Hideaway, looking very much as it did in the 1950s

Palm Springs was an epicenter of adventurous custom architecture in the post-WWII years, and the town’s stock of homes by architects like William Cody, Albert Frey, William Krisel, Donald Wexler, and E. Stewart Williams has become one of the area’s main draws. I’m here to write about it for Endless Vacation magazine.


My room at the Hideaway, known as Ray’s Retreat (Ray Eames, I presume)

I’m comfortably ensconced at the discreet and well-named Hideaway (there’s no sign; I was told to look for three tall skinny palm trees rising out of a thick hedge) — a low-slung 1947 mini-resort by architect Herbert W. Burns, whose rooms, arrayed around a pool, feature authentic mid-century decor and Palm Springs’ ever-present, stunning mountain backdrop.


Bill Manion, manager of the Hideaway at its sister property, Orbit In


A real California breakfast: broccoli rabe frittata and cheddar hash browns at Cheeky’s

Palm Springs is a cohesive collection of mid-20th century residential and commercial architecture, sprinkled with a few remaining examples of the earlier Spanish Colonial Revival style that pre-dated it. Yesterday I took a comprehensive 3-1/2-hour tour with architectural historian Robert Imber of Palm Springs Modern Tours, who stuffed our heads with information and images as we drove through neighborhoods like Las Palmas, The Mesa, Little Tuscany, and Indian Canyons. He filled us in on where real celebrities, including Sinatra, Elvis, Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Kate and Spencer, and on and on and on, owned homes or spent time, opening our eyes to unusual roof lines, innovative layouts, modern materials, and desert landscaping.


Tramway Gas Station (now Palm Springs Visitors Center), 1965, Albert Frey and Robson Chambers



Richard Neutra’s 1946 desert house for the Kaufmanns, also owners of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater


William Krisel’s 1962 House of Tomorrow designed for Palm Springs’ most influential developer, Robert Alexander; also known as Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s honeymoon cottage (they lived here for about a year as newlyweds)

I’m also checking out vintage modern shopping opportunities for the magazine at numerous stores whose inventory ranges from Good Design to unabashed kitsch.


Modern Way, where designer names abound




Above, Dazzles, where I relived my life in collecting, from rattan furniture to bottlecap figures to Lucite grapes (that’s Mike, the proprietor — the store has been here 14 years after 20 in L.A.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my morning swim…

Vegas, baby!


Old Vegas of the ’60s

EVERYONE KNOWS what Las Vegas, the city that never stops reinventing itself, looks like today: a “World” theme park, with a half-scale Eiffel Tower, fake Italian lake village, and illuminated pyramid of Luxor. My personal favorite is New York New York, a nostalgic vision of a lost city, complete with corner cigar stores and brick courtyards strung with naked light bulbs.

Architect Rafael Vignoly called Vegas “un-architecture, cartoon-like, a horror show.”

I happen to love the place — for a day or two. I’d never want to live in Vegas, even though, as the New York Times reported yesterday, housing bargains abound.


And there are some very cool mid-century houses there. The one above, from 1963, is known as the Caddyshack. It’s by Palmer and Krisel, the architects responsible for the coveted Alexander houses of Palm Springs.

Here’s another by Palmer and Krisel:white-pandk1

Groups like Atomic Age Alliance and Friends of Classic Las Vegas have been trying to prevent the demolition of postwar icons, with some success. The 1961 La Concha motel, below, a swooping concrete shell designed by Paul Revere Williams, a Hollywood-based architect, was sliced up last December and hauled, piece by piece, to the Neon Museum, an incredible repository of vintage signage, which will use it as a visitor center. lowreslaconcha1

A few savvy Vegas brokers specialize in mid-century modern housing. Check out Jack img-7508-thumbLeVine’s blog and website, Very Vintage Vegas. The man has done an exhaustive and fascinating survey of decorative concrete block patterns used as sun- and privacy screens.


The turquoise beaut at the bottom of this post is from Mark Minelli’s site, Sin City Modern.3075720803_52aa5e478f

Call Vegas architecture flamboyant, excessive, even ugly, if you like.

Just don’t call it boring.