Atomic Ranch

15 Years of Modernism Week

This annual Palm Springs event gives visitors a rare peek into iconic Midcentury Modern homes.

- By Bob Bogard Photograph­y Courtesy of Modernism Week

This annual Palm Springs event allows the general public a rare look into iconic and architectu­rally significan­t private residences.

One of the most beloved events offered during Modernism Week

is the opportunit­y to view significan­t residences that are rarely available to the general public. As Modernism Week enters its 15th year, we look back on some of the most amazing private residences that have been open during the event.

James Logan Abernathy Residence (1962, William Cody)

611 N Phillips Road, Palm Springs

BUILT IN 1962, The Abernathy Residence is one of the best examples of renowned midcentury architect William Cody’s work in the Coachella Valley. Its remarkable 4,800-square-foot singlestor­y floorplan joins the public and private spaces together under three pavilion-hipped roofs. Located in the Movie Colony neighborho­od of Palm Springs, it recently underwent a major renovation that preserved Cody’s look and design and showcased the original details of the house, while updating it with modern comfort and a sophistica­ted style. The redesign kept the floorplan mostly intact, but interiors were redefined and a new pool was added. The garden was also reconfigur­ed, resulting in a series of new welcoming outside spaces.

William Edris Residence (1954, E. Stewart Williams)

1030 W. Cielo Drive, Palm Springs

IN 1954, E. STEWART WILLIAMS designed the iconic Edris House for William and Marjorie Edris, and today it stands exactly as it did then. Positioned on a rocky ridge that overlooks Palm Springs, the home is approximat­ely 2,800 square feet and is situated on a half-acre parcel. Williams chose to build the pool first, and the home itself was built around large boulders on the site, which they chose to keep mostly in place. The home maintains the designer's original intentions: be a home first, and second incorporat­e organic materials, such as knotless Douglas fir, local stone and the indigenous landscape. Steel columns support the entire roof system separately from the walls in order to seamlessly slide the frameless windows into the ceiling. It recently underwent a one-year restoratio­n project in which Williams was on hand and approved the few changes that occurred during the refurbishm­ent. It holds a Class 1 historic designatio­n and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

Frank Sinatra Residence (1947, E. Stewart Williams)

1145 E. Via Colusa, Palm Springs

KNOWN AS “TWIN PALMS,” this low-slung, glass-walled home built for Frank Sinatra is typically not open to the public, except for tours during Fall Preview and Modernism Week. E. Stewart Williams famously talked Sinatra out of building a Georgian-style house and instead designed a futuristic Midcentury Modern redwood-clad masterpiec­e. The legendary residence is known for its canopy skylight entryway and piano-shaped swimming pool. The home has been completely restored with vintage designer furnishing­s and includes Sinatra’s original sound and recording system installed by Valentino Electronic­s in Hollywood. This was the first home designed by Stewart Williams and also the first home purchased by Frank Sinatra.

Albert Frey Residence II (1963, Albert Frey)

686 Palisades Drive, Palm Springs

THE FREY HOUSE II, the final residence of iconic Midcentury Modern architect Albert Frey sits atop a hill overlookin­g downtown Palm Springs. Frey spent five years hunting for the perfect site and a year measuring the movement of the sun using a 10-foot pole. At only 800 square feet, the house is small but very functional. The design included a flat corrugated-aluminum roof, overhangs to block the summer sun and sliding-glass doors that open the interior to the exterior. Its ample walls of glass showcase the astounding views. The swimming pool and small deck function as the roof of the carport. One of the most famous elements of the property is the incorporat­ion of a large boulder into the design, acknowledg­ing our connection with nature. The boulder protrudes into the house and acts as a divider between the bedroom and living room.

NOTE: Frey House II is open for tours every year during Modernism Week, but this is the only time the general public can tour this iconic heritage structure.

Steel Developmen­t Houses (1962, Wexler & Harrison)

North Palm Springs

ARCHITECTS DONALD WEXLER AND RICHARD HARRISON designed the innovative and affordable all-steel prefabrica­ted houses with the harsh desert elements of Palm Springs in mind. A tract of 38 all-steel homes was planned in 1961; however, only seven homes were ultimately built. Due to the rising cost of steel, the developmen­t was never finished, and the original seven homes were mostly forgotten. Thankfully, these groundbrea­king prefabrica­ted steel and glass homes were rediscover­ed in the 1990s. The majority of the homes have been carefully restored to their original appearance. No public tours of the interiors are available, but many of the homes have been featured on Modernism Week tours.

Mr. and Mrs. Maurice (Dinah Shore) Residence (1964, Donald Wexler)

432 West Hermosa Place, Palm Springs

THIS MIDCENTURY MODERN RANCH-STYLE ESTATE, designed by renowned architect Donald Wexler, was built in 1964 for actress and singer Dinah Shore in the Old Las Palmas neighborho­od of Palm Springs. Past Wexler’s signature dramatic steel post-and-beam walkway lies a bright interior encased in glass walls. The single-story 6-bedroom home includes a sunken living room with a fireplace, grand piano and cocktail bar; a formal dining room; a kitchen with a breakfast bar; and an office/media room. The master suite has a sitting room and a spa-like bath boasting two saunas. Set on 1.3 lush acres, the house has multiple terraces for dining and entertaini­ng, all easily accessible from the main living areas. A guesthouse overlookin­g a pool, a tennis court and a tennis pavilion complete this ultimate desert oasis.

Robert and Helene Alexander Residence AKA “The House of Tomorrow” (1960, Palmer & Krisel)

1350 Via Ladera, Palm Springs

KNOWN AS THE “HOUSE OF TOMORROW,” this modernist icon was built by prolific Palm Springs developer Robert Alexander for his family. This estate consists of three stories in four concentric circles, and there is not a square room in the home. In September 1966, Elvis Presley, seeking refuge from the bright lights and pressures of Hollywood, leased the estate for one year. On May 1, 1967 Elvis and Priscilla Presley began their honeymoon at this outstandin­g midcentury gem, and Lisa Marie was born exactly nine months later. The building is also called the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway.

Desert Hot Springs Hotel (1947, John Lautner)

67710 San Antonio St, Desert Hot Springs

JOHN LAUTNER, one of America's most legendary architects, designed this iconic desert hideaway in the 1940s as a prototype for a master planned community in the desert that was never built. The four-unit structure is an example of one of Lautner’s earliest works. Originally called Desert Hot Springs Motel, it has been reimagined today as Hotel Lautner, an award-winning, stunning modern-day oasis in the desert. During the restoratio­n, the designers paid homage to the four primary elements used in the original constructi­on of the property—concrete, steel, redwood and glass—and meticulous­ly restored and replaced damaged materials. Hotel Lautner is one of the few, if only, Lautner designs open for public experience today, and it is frequently open for public tours and other special events during Modernism Week.

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