By Katie Carrier

 

Palm Springs boasts a treasure trove of small hotels with big style that are ideal for guests seeking the perfect Instagram moment. Holiday House Palm Springs is one of the more recent additions to these local offerings, featuring an eye-catching blue and white design motif with pops of red.

Holiday House was originally designed in the 1950s by Herbert Berns, with strong midcentury lines and architectural details that were emblematic of the period. The hotel, located in downtown Palm Springs, was redesigned and relaunched in 2017 after an extensive makeover by renowned interior designer Mark D. Sikes, who is known for his signature blue and white color palette.

Each of the property’s 28 rooms feature unique combinations of patterned wallpaper, textiles and furnishings, as well as an impressive art collection that includes works by John Baldessari, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney and Alex Katz. The lawn adjacent to the hotel’s pool features a large Donald Sultan sculpture called “Red Poppies” that is one of the popular Instagram-friendly features on the property.

The blue and white striped furniture on the patio is another great spot for a snap for the ‘gram, surrounded by lush banana leaves and mature fruit trees. The hotel also offers fun amenities on site that are just begging for a social media shoutout, including a huge pool, blue and white polka dot bicycles that are available for guests to use and an original shuffleboard court.

The hotel lobby is also full of Instagram gold, including the “library,” which is covered in a striking blue pattern on every surface, an oversized David Hockney Sumo book, and the bar, which has a catchy neon art piece that makes a frequent appearance on social media.

The hotel’s cocktails are also super Instagrammable, featuring fun garnishes and swizzle sticks that make for the perfect poolside drink-in-hand pose!

Holiday House features one of the more unique dining experiences in the desert, with a family-style fried chicken dinner held each Friday night that is open to both hotel guests and the general public. Attendees dine al fresco at a beautifully-decorated long table, enjoying the delicious culinary creations of Chef Gabe Woo. Cantina Tuesdays are another great time to visit Holiday House, with gourmet Mexican fare and margaritas served a la carte in the patio dining area.

If you’re an Instagram fan, you will definitely want to experience Holiday House Palm Springs soon! Be sure to also stay tuned as we explore other great Instagram-friendly small hotels in Palm Springs in a new series of blog posts coming out each month.

Amin Casa embodies the quiet sophistication of Palm Springs, with a twist of old Hollywood glamour.

Once the residence of actress Gloria Swanson, Amin Casa made its debut in the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood in November 2016, following several months of major renovations both inside and out. “Amin” means “ours” in Tagalog, while “casa” is Spanish for “home,” and owners Ramon Bautista and Nelson Cooley want it to feel like “your home away from home.” 

“On property, guests will find the relaxing, club-like ambiance and genuine, heartfelt hospitality they have come to treasure,” Ramon said. 

The compound dates back to the 1920s, and when fully occupied, the property only accommodates 14 guests, adults only. The bungalows come with living rooms, kitchens complete with microwaves, coffeemakers, blenders, and dishes, eco-friendly toiletries, and bathrobes and slippers, plus the Swanson residence with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fireplace, and the property’s largest kitchen. There are stunning gardens, fountains, a swimming pool, cabanas, and an outdoor dining area with a grilling station.

Above all else, Ramon and Nelson, who have experience at some of the finest hotels in the world, strive to give the patrons of Amin Casa one thing: “Intuitive, gracious service provided by a staff passionate about pleasing our guests.”

Sparrows Lodge pool

We’re back with the next feature in our series on Instagram-able small hotels in Palm Springs, featuring the rustic chic Sparrows Lodge.

Originally built in 1952 as Castle’s Red Barn by MGM actor Don Castle, the property was a popular getaway for Hollywood stars, and rumor has it that actress Elizabeth Montgomery (best known as Samantha in the original “Bewitched” television series) was married there.

After passing through various ownerships and doing stints as Catalina Palms and El Rancho Lodge, the property was again purchased and a major renovation was completed in 2013, resulting in a beautiful property that combines luxury with summer camp vibes and lots of Instagram-friendly photo ops.

The 20-room property, located in south Palm Springs, features the ‘50s original barn, now renovated to house a bar and lounge seating. Exposed redwood beams, concrete floors with hand-inlaid pebbles and functional wood window shutters lend a cabin-y vibe to both the exterior and interiors. Rooms are outfitted with custom-made redwood beds featuring plush mattresses topped by Swiss Army blankets, as well as metal footlockers and leather butterfly chairs.

A rock wall acts as a divider for the bathroom area, which includes enameled horse troughs for bathtubs and an open shower made of concrete and inlaid pebbles.

Most guest rooms have private patios, and two larger suites offer a little extra space and luxury: the Owner’s Suite, with a large sitting area and a sunken bedroom area with a functional fireplace, and the Cabin, with a kitchen and dining area separate from the bedroom.

Outdoor amenities at Sparrows Lodge include a saltwater pool and spa, a fire pit and horseshoes, and guests can enjoy spa services in the Massage Tent. There are hammocks throughout the property, as well as bikes available for guests to use their stay.

Daytime dining is available in the Barn Kitchen, along with outdoor seating surrounded by fruit trees. Chef Gabriel Woo also preparestwo special family-style dinners each week: a chicken dinner on Wednesday evenings and a steak dinner on Saturdays.

The property is very pet-friendly, so you can bring your furry friends along for some fun in the sun!

If you’re heading to Sparrows Lodge, just look for the nameless sign bearing two small birds and you’ll know you’ve reached this laid-back and inspiring retreat.

Stay tuned for our next installment as we explore the most Instagram-able Palm Springs small hotels!

 

Images via Instagram, Jaime Kowal and Camron Carrier.

Downtown Palm Springs (roughly defined as from the north end of Alejo Rd. and south to Ramon Rd.) offers visitors a vibrant combination of the old and the new. The sidewalks are wide, the mid-century and Spanish-style storefronts are charming, and the lovely palm trees sway in soft breezes. This is all enhanced by the weather, which is beautiful, no matter what time of year you visit.

Mary Jo Ginther, Director of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, says, “The City’s goal, along with the business owners and residents, is to retain the character and ambiance of Palm Springs for visitors and locals alike, while providing new development to keep everything up to date. We are all very proud of the way our City has developed over the last 20 years.”

So much has happened in the last two decades. The old-fashioned plaza mall, which had been closed for 15 years, has been revitalized and the area is highlighted by outstanding restaurants and enticing shopping.

A variety of small boutique hotels in the downtown area offer visitors enchanting options for personalized accommodations in lushly landscaped settings. Many of these hotels were favorite getaways for the rat pack during Hollywood’s heyday in Palm Springs and they still exude the charm of that magical era. Some of these beautifully designed retreats, all members of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels association, include Casa Cody Country Inn, Andalusian Court, Ingleside Inn, Holiday House, La Serena Villas, La Maison, and Alcazar Palm Springs.. Several of these hotels include wonderful restaurants such as The Pantry at Holiday House, Melvyn’s at the Ingleside Inn, Acuzar at La Serena Villas, and Birba and Cheekys at Alcazar.

Plans for future expansion and renovation of the downtown area are underway. Discussions include renovating the historic Town and Country Center to much of its original mid-century modern condition. These plans are important because this area connects Palm Canyon Drive to Indian Canyon Drive, which is becoming two-way instead of one-way. This will improve the area for pedestrian traffic.

The city is expanding eastward toward the airport. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which has been very involved in the economic development of Palm Springs, is developing an exciting new campus with a cultural museum, bath house and spa, and an expanded casino. Construction is also just starting for a spacious 10,000-seat arena.

The Tahquitz Corridor going from downtown to the airport has been preserved. For example, an historical building designed by celebrated architect Hugh Kaptur has been restored to its original mid-century modern design rather than replaced by a high rise that had been contemplated by some developers. The once almost-empty building is now flourishing with retailers, a coffee bar, a wine bar, and offices.

Since the areas being developed are owned by both the city and the Agua Caliente tribe (in a checkerboard pattern), some plots of land are controlled by the city and some by the tribe, but they have worked well together over the years to develop the area. There is also a very healthy preservationist community that is involved in many of these plans and residents are active in decision-making with great value placed on buildings that are unique to the mid-century heritage of Palm Springs. These renovations have brought back visitors who value the historical significance of the area.

Much credit for development goes to the businesses putting their resources back into the city. Ten years ago, there was no real food scene in Palm Springs and now many wonderful restaurants are thriving. Tours have also exploded, with biking tours, mid-century modern tours, hiking tours, and celebrity bus tours. There is even a foodie’s Desert Tasty Tour and the Palm Springs Historical Society has tours every Saturday morning with a focus on the town’s unique history.

Downtown Palm Springs is perfect for walkers. You can walk from many of the small boutique hotels and explore the shops, restaurants, and architecture. People are friendly and the town is safe. The vibe is relaxing with something for everyone.

The city’s slogan — “Like No Place Else” — is so true. And the city’s planners intend to maintain and continue to develop its special character.

The Orbit In embraces its mid-century modern roots, wowing guests with its retro furnishings, lively pool area, and — of course — those irresistible Orbitinis, served every night during happy hour.

During their second stay at the Orbit In, husband and wife Kevin Miller and Jinny Park had the place all to themselves, and as they sat outside, looking up at the sky, they started talking about their dream of selling everything in order to buy and run the hotel.

Orbit In owners, Kevin Miller and Jinny Park

“Right then, a huge shooting star went across, and we made a wish,” Kevin said. “Three years later, we bought it. We are guests who ended up buying the hotel, and we try to run it from a guest perspective.”

The Orbit In is a mid-century modern hotel built in 1957, purchased by Kevin and Jinny in October 2007. Guests spend their days gathering around the Boomerang Bar, beating the heat in the pool and under the misters, enjoying Orbitinis during happy hour, and taking advantage of cruisers they can take around the neighborhood.

“It kind of feels like a hotel, but it also feels like you’re coming to someone’s house,” Kevin said. “It splits the difference there. We see a lot of repeat guests, and that’s just terrific.”

Although he is always improving the hotel, Kevin listens to his guests who like the retro vibe and want things to stay exactly the way they are.

“They always say, ‘Don’t change anything,'” he said. “They love it the way it is. They really like the staff. Everyone is personable and knows them by name, and they feel at home here.”

Palm Springs is known for being a haven for mid-century enthusiasts, but there are so many different architectural styles scattered around the city.

The Del Marcos Hotel was designed by famed architect William F. Cody, his first independent commission in Palm Springs. This modernist hotel launched his career in the desert, and received an award from the Southern California chapter of the AIA for its cutting edge design. The Del Marcos Hotel, 225 W. Baristo Road, Palm Springs. 800-676-1214

The Korakia Pensione describes itself as blending the “silhouette of Tangier with a whisper of the Mediterranean.” A pensione is a type of guest or boarding house, with the term typically used in areas of North Africa, the Middle East, and continental Europe. The hotel has Moroccan touches everywhere, from the courtyard and daybeds to tea service every afternoon and lanterns lit up at night. Korakia Pensione, 257 S. Patencio Road, Palm Springs. 760-864-6411

The Andalusian Court, a Spanish Revival inn, feels like it’s out of another place and another time. The old world charm is evident while walking through the inn’s Spanish courtyard and villas — turn a corner and you’ll stumble upon colorful tile and fountains, then make a right and you’ll find fountains, lush greenery, and a well. This hotel has a distinctive 1920s vibe. The Andalusian Court, 458 W. Arenas Road, Palm Springs. 760-323-9980

The Mediterranean-style Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn was once the hideaway of a Los Angeles millionaire, and now is a small, luxury boutique hotel that draws people looking for privacy and relaxation. The Willows, built into the bedrock of a mountain, was designed by William J. Dodd, and completed in 1925. It features terraces, where guests can soak in the surrounding vistas, and complex ironwork and hand-chiseled limestone. It’s no wonder Albert Einstein used to enjoy coming here. The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn, 412 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. 800-966-9597

Korakia Pensione (https://www.palmspringspreferredsmallhotels.com/stay/korakia-pensione) is one of Palm Springs’ most unique hotels.

It’s actually three separate buildings — an adobe dating back to 1918, a bungalow built in 1924, and a 1930s villa. There isn’t just one vibe, as Korakia Pensione has touches of Northern African and the Mediterranean; there are arches and fountains and candles everywhere, with guests able to slip into one of two saltwater pools at any time of day. There’s also a library, which has been a gathering place for writers and artists and musicians for decades.

The property’s one-of-a-kind feel makes it perfect for photo shoots. The hotel has been prominently featured in several of the world’s most popular magazines, including VogueElle, and Architectural Digest. Of course, it’s also been the backdrop in countless wedding pictures, as the hotel and its stunning views of the San Jacinto mountains and palms have attracted brides and grooms from around the world.

 

You made a wise choice to visit Palm Springs, where the sun shines 360 days a year. As you pull up in front of the Avanti Hotel, the contemporary exquisite stone entrance affirms that you also made the right decision for your home away from home…especially if you brought your pup.

The secure hotel requires newcomers to ring the doorbell. Suddenly, Jim Rutledge, the owner, and manager opens the door, for he lives on site. His huge smile and very welcoming greeting immediately help you understand you are about to have a memorable experience.

Pets are always welcome at the Avanti Hotel in Palm Springs.

Dogs are very welcome at Avanti. Next to the registration area is a knee-high dog constructed of real looking plants sitting beside a chalkboard welcoming your dog with their name and a water dish. When is the last time your dog has been welcomed in such a gracious manner?

Avanti View as you enter into the complex.

When you look around the space, you see the spacious pool surrounded by the ten rooms identified by bright sunshine-yellow doors. Framing the doors are full-length beige drapes, which help define each space.

Lucky room 88 at Avanti Hotel in Palm Springs.

If you are fortunate, you will be checked into the lucky room, Room 88. Why the number 88 when there are only ten rooms, you ask?  The number four is considered unlucky by those with traditional Chinese beliefs. When management learned about the number four, they had already numbered all the rooms. Since eight is deemed lucky, they decided to make room number four twice as lucky by labeling it 88.

The hot tub is open 24/7 at the Avanti Hotel.

It is not often you will find a spacious hot tub separated from the main pool. In this case, it is not only separated from the main pool, but it also has its own private walled space. Comfy benches are strategically placed around the perimeter, and artwork adorns the walls. Once again, the long beige drapes make an appearance adding to the elegance of space.

The jacuzzi holds 12 people. Can you imagine having a retreat here and saying, Let’s meet at the hot tub for a brainstorming session? By the way, the hot tub and pool are open 24 hours a day. However, there are rules, and they will be enforced.

Avanti Hotel patios offers refuge from the world.

 

Four rooms have kitchenettes and one a full kitchen. So even though snacks are freely available, it is good to know you can prepare your own romantic dinner if you so choose.  Or order from a Palm Springs restaurant that will deliver meals complete with cocktails. Some of the rooms have large patios with a dining table. These patios are an excellent place to hang out if you want to do some quiet reading.

Breakfast is Served Poolside at the Avant Hotel in Palm Springs.

Breakfast is served around the pool. As Jim was quick to point out, it is a cold breakfast. However, there is more than enough to get you on your way for the day.

After a day of sightseeing, you will want to get back for Happy Hour, which will be the perfect time to mingle with other guests, often from other countries. For example, the Avanti has the same visitor from Iceland come back a year and after year.

Avanti owner and Manager Jim Rutledge with doggy diva Maya

Jim Rutledge is the owner and has been watching over the development of the space for ten years. Here he is pictured with his companion, Maya, who is the diva of the Avanti.

He keeps a close pulse on the community. Thus, guests have access to a wealth of information to decide how they spend their time exploring the Coachella Valley.

When asked what brings him joy about living here and managing the Avanti, his reply was with a large smile, “It’s the people I meet from all over the world.”

Are you looking for a place with a serene setting to relax and forget about your hectic schedule? Look no further than the Amin Casa boutique hotel, where you can spend hours sitting and listening to the sounds of a three-tiered water fountain and birds chirping. 

Located just steps away from bustling downtown Palm Springs in the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood, you can park your car at Amin Casa and take a rest from the congested roads that may be part of your daily life. If you fly in, no need to rent a vehicle — the airport is a quick 10-minute trip by taxi. 

Amin Casa owner and manager Nelson Cooley. Photo credit: Nadine Conger

Owner and manager Nelson Cooley is quick to bounce out of his office to greet you upon arrival. He has your keys in hand, and the online registration filled out ahead of time told him everything he needs to escort you to one of the property’s eight bungalows, your home for the next few days.

A historic place

This repurposed hotel was once the home of famed Hollywood actress Gloria Swanson, considered one of the most photographed women of her time. Indeed, there are numerous photos around the property of her walking the grounds with people from the entertainment world. It is rumored Joe Kennedy was a frequent visitor, so imagine the entourage he brought with him.

Another interesting factoid: During this period, Swanson was the highest-paid entertainer in the world. She starred as Norma Desmond in the 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard, one of the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time.

The Amin Casa grounds. Photo credit: Nadine Conger

Gorgeous grounds

Swanson recognized quickly that the four-bedroom house needed a swimming pool and, of course, a guest house to help maintain her privacy. The pool and tennis court were added to entertain her guests, who were also summoned to participate in Swanson’s famous movie nights. Today, the tennis court has been replaced by a lawn, which is home to a 100-year-old cactus.

A new chapter 

As Swanson’s career skyrocketed, she decided to sell her home to a newspaper heiress from Rhode Island, and moved to a new place in the Movie Colony neighborhood. The Swanson property was transformed into a hotel, with a kitchen added to the guest house (those quarters still have the original all-oak paneling). The inn was called Arenas Garden Hotel, which gave homage to the road it is located on and the gardens that wind their way through the property. 

New owners bring life back to the property

In recent years, the property languished for lack of visitors and no caretaker to make sure repairs were done. It was becoming an eyesore, and fear was mounting that this beautiful place would come to face the fate of a wrecking ball.  

Cooley and partner Ramon Bautista were frequent visitors to Palm Springs, and when they saw the hotel, they appreciated the architecture of the building and understood its historical significance. By chance, Bautista went to a dinner party in Los Angeles and was seated next to a woman he knew well, who told him, “I need your help. I have a friend who owns a small boutique hotel in Palm Springs inherited from a childhood friend who had no heirs, so he left the place to my friend. She lives in Chicago and does not know what to do with it. Would you look at it?”

Yes, it was the hotel the two men had admired from afar. In March 2016, they bought the property and the work began. Cooley, a former high tech executive, took over the outside and interior structural aspects and day-to-day management of the hotel. Bautista is the mastermind behind interior design while continuing his medical practice in Pasadena, where he specializes in international travel medicine. Their goal was simple: to maintain the integrity of the architectural structure, interior, and grounds

Amin Casa’s bungalows are fully equipped for your stay. Photo credit: Nadine Conger

Staying at the Amin Casa

When getting ready to launch Amin Casa, the men wrote down everything they disliked about going to other hotels. The list included parking fees, resort fees to use the amenities, and extra charges for special cleaning, satellite television, and Wi-Fi. Today, when you go to check out at Amin Casa, you will find no surprises on your bill — everything is included in the cost of your room. 

This hotel heats its pool all year, giving guests the opportunity to swim or read a book and sip a cocktail poolside during winter, spring, summer, and fall. Since Palm Springs has 350 days of sunshine, you can work on your tan at the same time. 

Amin Casa’s sparkling swimming pool. Photo credit: Nadine Conger

Longterm guests are welcome, with many already booked for years to come. Amin Casa’s bungalows are well-appointed with everything one may need to live comfortably — in the deluxe bungalow, I was surprised to see fine china displayed in the glass-door cupboards. If you want to prepare a gourmet dinner for special friends, you have everything you need to impress even the most persnickety.

The bungalows have lovely living rooms, which could be used as part of a movie set. Attention to every detail has been magnificently executed throughout the entire property. 

Yes, there is a great deal of history in this 94-year-old structure. It is one of our premier Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels standing open and ready to invite you to bring your family here for a reunion or a wedding. However, most of the year, it is a beautiful place to relax and meet fascinating people. If you want to escape the real world for a bit, this is the place to step back in time and be pampered.