There’s an air of excitement in Palm Springs every October, and not just because of the cooler weather. Running October 14 through 17 is Modernism Preview Week, a mini-version of February’s Modernism Week. This event was originally designed to attract journalists and entice them to write about Palm Springs’ unique architecture.

With few design regulations in Palm Springs, Los Angeles architects Arthur Elrod, E. Stewart Williams, Don Wexler, Hugh Kaptur, and Albert Frey came to the area reveling in the prospect of experimenting with unusual shapes for roofs and buildings. Today, most of their buildings are preserved, and in some cases, also have the original décor. 

During Modernism Preview Week, there are numerous tours available, both walking and through the buildings. Be sure to get tickets in advance at Modernism Week. 

Palm Springs Art Center Architecture and Design Center in downtown Palm Springs. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Palm Springs Art Museum and local citizens come together

Recognizing the significance of these architects’ impact on the Palm Springs area, a coalition of local residents raised funds to convert the Coachella Valley Savings and Loan building originally designed by Stewart Williams into the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center. (Fun fact: Williams also designed the Palm Springs Art Museum!) Today, with the design help of Marmol Radziner architects, this building holds the papers donated by Albert Frey, as well as other documents and designs by the architects that helped put Palm Springs on the map.

Photo: Kathy Condon

Exhibitions that excite

The Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture Design Center is at the end of downtown Palm Springs’ retail shopping district, and a great stop to make after enjoying lunch. Take time to notice the plants surrounding the building, and how the cacti cast shadows onto the windows. Walking through the entry doors, you are greeted and asked to pay your $5 admission fee.

The Modern Chair exhibition will quickly grab your attention, with each chair having its own space so it can be viewed from different angles. Swiss-French designer LeCorbusier designed the oldest modern chair, and its inclusion helps one see the journey of the development of the modern seat beginning in 1905. 

Just some of the chairs in the exhibit. Photo: Kathy Condon

Ribbon chair by Pierre Paul, 1966. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Heart Cone chair by Vemer Panton, 1958. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Corrugated chair by E. Frank Gehry. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

The old drive-thru window. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Did you notice incorporated in the décor is the drive-up window installed when the building was a savings and loan? Next to it, the modernism wall is covered in an easily recognized wallpaper design of the ’60s. 

A book store and gift shop worth the stop

What do you do with a vault that is impossible to move? Turn it into a place to house your vast collection of architectural books for sale. The Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture Design Center’s collection of books will help you navigate the world of modernism, with many of the authors from the Palm Springs area.  

A unique gift shop entrance. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

With an architectural theme, the items in the gift shop are colorful and unusual — as an added bonus, many of them are created by local artists. Take the time to browse and ask the knowledgeable staff and volunteers any questions you might have.  

The well-stocked gift shop. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

The Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center exhibitions and educational programs change, so be sure to sign up for their mailing list. As you walk out the door, look down. There you will see stars in the sidewalk honoring the architects and interior designers who embraced modernism and helped Palm Springs become a destination that embraces the style. 

If you really want to immerse yourself in the architecture, use the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels website to search for mid-century modern hotels. The best way to cap a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center is by then checking into one of these fabulous properties.

Kathy Condon

No two rooms are alike at Ruby Montana’s Coral Sands Inn (https://www.palmspringspreferredsmallhotels.com/stay/ruby-montanas-coral-sands).

Each one is a testament to the owner’s distinct style, which was on full display in the store she once operated in Seattle, Ruby Montana’s Pinto Pony. Many of the furnishings and knickknacks from the shop made it to California with Montana when she moved in 2000, and they are now in the different themed rooms.

The hotel was built in 1952, but Montana is going for more of a kitschy feel, rather than pure mid-century modern. The hotel is pink after all, with a kidney-shaped pool in the middle of the courtyard, and the rooms have names like “Howdy Doody Goes to Bali” and “The Yiddish Cow Girl.”

Depending on where you stay, there might be wagon wheels and horse lamps next to your bed,  pictures of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on the wall, or maybe a leopard carpet covering the floor with a matching duvet on the bed. It’s this fun, surprising vibe that keeps guests coming back.

We always love it when travel writers visit Palm Springs and stay in one of our uniquely beautiful, independently-owned Palm Springs boutique hotels. But it is particularly heartening when a writer like Joanna visits us and is completely captivated by the charm of her hotel and Palm Springs. Joanna recently stayed at the Alcazar and here’s what she had to say about her trip.

Enjoy this video tour of the men’s clothing optional Triangle Inn Palm Springs with hotelier, Michael Green. This historical mid-century modern resort was originally the Impala Lodge designed by the legendary Hugh Kaptor.

Old Ranch Inn in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan
Contributed by: Brittany Ryan

Nestled between Indian Canyon and bustling downtown Palm Springs, sits the historic Old Ranch Inn. Here, in this intimate eight-room boutique hotel catering to adults and their pet dogs, is where travelers come to find a home away from home. Although Old Ranch Inn has been offering guests a peaceful escape since the 1930’s, it has recently come under new ownership. Old Ranch Inn is now being looked after by Troy and Jason, and they have big plans for the Inn’s future including an extensive renovation of the guestrooms and public spaces.

Troy, who is a retired partner from the accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young, has 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, loved the idea of customers being able to feel like they were staying at a close friend’s guesthouse.

“Old Ranch Inn is designed to offer privacy and intimacy.” Troy explained to me. “Because the property accommodates 16 people total, we are able to provide a completely customer-centric experience for our guests from the time they check in to the time they check out, which is reflected in our Expedia rating of 4.7 out of 5 and a 9.6 rating out of 10 on hotels.com” And since the hotel is located in a residential neighborhood, it’s a peaceful setting.

This customer-centric experience is made apparent in all of the details of the property. When you arrive at this slice of paradise, you’re welcomed by the trickling sound of fountains and birds singing in the trees. Western lanterns line the property offering a peaceful amber glow in the evenings.

Old Ranch Inn Courtyard in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan

Old Ranch Inn Courtyard in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan

The pool is surrounded by bright teal lounge chairs, each with their own pillow. It’s easy to see why some guests spend their entire trip just relaxing by the pool. Jason and Troy see to it that all of your poolside needs are taken care of – cold water, sunscreen, pool noodles, and floaties. The patio offers a variety of umbrella-covered seating areas. This is a favorite spot for guests to enjoy cocktail hour and dine al fresco under the string lights as the sun begins to set.

Old Ranch Inn Pool in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan

Old Ranch Inn Pool in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan

Old Ranch Inn is set in the Historic Tennis Club area – one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, founded in 1937. Just minutes from the famous Palm Springs Walk of Stars, Palm Springs Art Museum, the bars/restaurants on Arenas, the Tennis Club was once an under-the-radar destination for Hollywood celebrities, politicians, statesmen, and infamous world travelers. Today, the desert community is considered one of the premiere locations for upscale boutique hotels.

The eight pristine guest rooms at Old Ranch Inn create an instant feeling of coziness. Tasteful western design elements, like Tiffany-style lamps and white quilted linens, are seamlessly blended with modern amenities, like a kitchenette, walk-in shower, and a private patio.

“We wanted to pay homage to the western desert roots that the Old Ranch Inn is known, while still providing a contemporary, relaxing experience for our guests,” says Jason.

Old Ranch Inn Bedroom in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan

Old Ranch Inn Bedroom in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan

Troy and Jason’s vision for a comfortable home away from home is quickly coming to life. The guesthouse caters to both short and long-term travelers. Old Ranch Inn is set in a very walkable location, just a few blocks from local favorites like FARM, a charming, French-inspired eatery, and Wilma & Frieda Palm Springs, a brunch spot with reinvented comfort food. Head in the opposite direction toward the mountains, using one of the Inn’s free bike rentals, to hike one of the popular Tahquitz Canyon hiking trails and get some grand views of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. If you’re lucky, you might even see some big horn sheep.

“We have active guests that love the ease of access to hiking, golfing, shopping, and local dining, and we also have guests that come simply to enjoy the quiet pleasures of relaxing poolside for the majority of their stay,” says Jason.

Old Ranch Inn at Dusk in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan

Old Ranch Inn at Dusk in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan

In short, Troy and Jason’s vision for Old Ranch Inn is to provide a luxury level experience in an intimate setting. The fact that this boutique hotel is perfectly located between the San Jacinto Mountains and Downtown Palm Springs is icing on the cake!

This mid-century modern hotel has everything you need for a fabulous vacation.

At the beloved Desert Riviera, guests become family. This mid-century modern hotel has a loyal — and even international — fanbase, with some guests coming to stay multiple times a year.

The Desert Riviera has everything you need for a fun, carefree getaway.

Poolside firepit at the Desert Riviera

Built in 1951 and designed by Herbert W. Burns, this mid-century modern hotel is now under new ownership, but nothing will change for guests. The Desert Riviera still offers fantastic complimentary amenities, including use of retro bikes, continental breakfast, and concierge services to help with everything from restaurant reservations to golf tee times.

“We’re all about the customer service and community,” general manager Misty Roland says.

The Desert Riviera has a loyal fanbase, with repeat guests coming back annually — and in some cases, multiple times a year. They love that the pool is heated to 93 degrees in the winter, and parties are held throughout the year to mark special occasions — on Valentine’s Day, guests might find a chocolate fountain set up outside, and on the Super Bowl, the big game will be on, with a big spread of snacks.

“Guests like that we’re a boutique property, where the pool is open 24 hours,” Misty says. “There’s an open layout, and they enjoy that we have a lot of greenery and sunshine, instead of a concrete pool area.”

The Desert Riviera attracts guests from around the world — China, Russia, Kenya, England — who love the Palm Springs experience.

“Sometimes, we don’t even have anyone here from the United States,” Misty says. “It’s about understanding one another, and we’ll all sit around the fire pit and talk and play card games.”

 

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.”

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.

L'Horizon Pool and mountains - Jeff Mindell

Next up in our series of articles on the most Instagram-worthy small hotels in Palm Springs is L’Horizon Resort & Spa.

L'Horizon exterior - Jeff Mindell

In 1952, Jack Wrather, producer of Lassie and The Lone Ranger, wanted a desert retreat for himself and his Hollywood friends. He enlisted prominent modernist architect William F. Cody to create a large property in South Palm Springs featuring 20 separate bungalows that ultimately hosted everyone from Marilyn Monroe to the Nixons during its heyday. More than six decades later, designer Steve Hermann, who has designed homes for clients including Christina Aguilera and Vera Wang, purchased the property and reopened it in July 2015 as L’Horizon Resort & Spa following an extensive renovation and redesign.

L'Horizon Pool and mountains - Jeff Mindell

L'Horizon guest room - Jeff Mindell

Hermann’s design update retained Cody’s signature midcentury architectural elements while infusing modern comforts and luxuries. An al fresco fine dining restaurant called SO.PA was added to the property, as well as a poolside bar and a spa.

L'Horizon Pool Bar - Jeff Mindell

L'Horizon Instagram posts

A blue-tiled infinity pool is the centerpiece of the resort, with guest room bungalows scattered around the property.

L'Horizon Infinity Pool - Jeff Mindell

One bungalow, called the Fireplace Suite, was Marilyn Monroe’s personal bungalow when she stayed with the Wrathers during the 1950s. It features a wood-burning, copper clad fireplace as the centerpiece of the room and opens out onto a private patio.

L'Horizon Bungalow with Fireplace - Jeff Mindell

The ultimate luxury accomodations at L’Horizon can be found in The Residence, which is a nearly 2,000 square foot standalone home with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, living room, sunken wet bar and its own private pool with gorgeous mountain views.

L'Horizon Residence - Jeff Mindell

L'Horizon Residence Pool - Jeff MindellOther Instagram-able details I love at L’Horizon include the black and white multi-patterned design motifs around the property; the ornate starburst front doors; bikes available for guest use during your stay; bocce ball court; hammocks; and the desert landscaping throughout the resort. The property is adults only, but your four-legged friends are welcome!

L'Horizon Front Doors and Bike - Jeff Mindell

L'Horizon Hammock and Bocce- Jeff Mindell L'Horizon Instagram Posts

Stay tuned as we continue to explore other great Instagram-friendly small hotels in Palm Springs in this series of blog posts coming out each month!

 

Images via Jeff Mindell for Palm Springs Style and Instagram.

He’s been called the “Desert Maverick” who brought “Fifth Avenue to the desert,” and the project that put him on the map was the Del Marcos Hotel.

The Del Marcos, built in 1947, was architect William F. Cody’s first independent commission in Palm Springs. He was destined for this career — his mother was an interior designer, and during his childhood, they would sketch buildings together. In 1946, he left Los Angeles to begin working as the staff architect at the Desert Inn, and just a year later, he was hired to design the Del Marcos.

The Del Marcos Hotel was the project that put William F. Cody on the map.

The modernist Del Marcos, made with stone and redwood, was praised not just by guests, but also Cody’s peers; the Southern California chapter of the American Institute of Architecture honored Cody with a creative design award for the project. From there, his success snowballed — not only did he have an accomplished career in the desert, where he designed L’Horizon, the Palm Springs Public Library, the Thunderbird Country Club, and St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, but Cody was able to leave his mark internationally, coming up with the blueprints for a London apartment building and golf clubs in Cuba and Mexico.

Cody died in 1978, but his legacy lives on at The Del Marcos.