Kathy and Gary Friedle left the hustle and bustle of New York City for the laid-back ambiance of Palm Springs, and never looked back.

Kathy is an architect and worked as a studio director at Gensler, while Gary was the chief operating officer at a private wealth management firm on Wall Street, but when their older son announced he wanted to go to college on the west coast, it got them thinking about their family’s future and the possibility of a move and a dramatic change.

“We lived on the east coast our entire lives, but it was starting to wear us down,” Kathy said. “We could have kept chugging along, but we kept thinking, ‘Let’s try something different.’ We had always dreamed about owning a little B&B when we retired, but an opportunity came up earlier than we expected and once the seed was planted, we started to actively look for a hotel to buy on the west coast and decided to give new careers a try.”

They liked the idea of moving to Palm Springs, which is already a tourist destination, and were both fans of mid-century modern architecture. In 2015, the Monkey Tree Hotel property became available for purchase, and the Friedles jumped at the opportunity to reinvigorate the historic, 1960 Albert Frey-designed hotel.

They refreshed the 16 rooms and suites, purchased vintage decor from local Palm Springs sources, and installed the desert’s first Scandinavian spa with a sauna, hot tub, and cold plunge. Gary is also now in charge of the breakfast served every morning to guests, and he has come up with a delicious rotating menu that incorporates some suggestions from diners while also using the freshest local ingredients.

“It’s a true 1960s time capsule,” Kathy said. “We haven’t made a lot of changes to it, intentionally. We want it to remain true to that period.”

It’s the property that launched the solo career of one of Palm Springs’ most influential and innovative architects.

The Del Marcos Hotel was designed by the famed William F. Cody in 1947, his first independent commission in Palm Springs. This 17-room hotel boasts cutting-edge architecture from the height of the mid-century modern movement, using native stone and redwood. The Del Marcos became an official historic landmark in 2012, decades after it earned Cody a design award from the American Institute of Architects.

The hotel retains the spirit of the 1950s and 1960s, with retro furnishings and decor welcoming guests as they enter the lobby. The restored rooms with remodeled showers are clean and spacious, surrounding the property’s inviting saltwater pool and fire pits. It is an adults only hotel, with complimentary breakfast, beach cruisers, and happy hour. Dogs are allowed in some of the rooms, and pets are treated to bones and toys upon check in.

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. 

A Palm Springs classic boutique hotel –Posh Palm Springs– has changed management and its name. Now known as The Westcott, this stunning hotel provides a timeless art deco style retreat in a relaxed adults-only atmosphere.

Public spaces and all ten guest rooms have been thoughtfully and beautifully updated. A large freshwater pool and separate hot tub features 1930s inspired poolside furniture. Sumptuous bedding, plush robes and top-of-the-line amenities will be found in each room.  Upon request, staff will arrange for private in-room spa services (massages, facials, manicures, etc.)

Breakfast is served buffet style and offers a selection of cereals, toast, yoghurt, and fruit as well as a hot egg dish made fresh daily. And they happily accommodate special dietary requests such as vegan and gluten-free. A delightful happy hour takes place daily from 5-6 PM and features a daily house-special cocktail. Light refreshments are available all day.

Eco-conscious guests will be pleased to know that The Westcott prides itself on its green practices. Solar panels generate clean energy that powers most of the hotel’s needs. High-efficiency Quietside Ductless Heating and Cooling systems and ceiling fans make each room extra comfortable. And all lighting (interior and exterior) is high-efficiency LED or fluorescent bulbs.

The Westcott is also perfect for intimate weddings, retreats, and family reunions.

Owner, Mathew Westcott, and manager, Michael Barge, look forward to welcoming prior customers of Posh who helped make it such a desirable bed and breakfast destination in Palm Springs.

From the boldly chic Cheetah Hotel to the artsy Fleur Noire, visitors to Palm Springs now have even more options for boutique hotels.

“We are delighted to welcome these new hotels and their owners to Palm Springs,” Michael Green, owner of the Triangle Inn and chair of Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, said. “They bring such creative vision and energy. And now visitors will have even more fabulous places to stay.” 

A room at the Tiki Hotel. Photo courtesy of Tiki Hotel

Husband and wife team Tracy Turco and Jerry Turco have revamped and renewed three mid-century modern Palm Springs properties, all within a few blocks of each other. Their first project, the 8-room Art Hotel at 1339 N. Indian Canyon Dr., is vibrant and colorful, with the works of local artists on display across the grounds and a large outdoor mural by Damon Johnson greeting guests. Next, they transformed the former Carlton Hotel at 1333 N. Indian Canyon Dr. into the 11-room Tiki Hotel, a Polynesian paradise with ukuleles in every suite and a gift shop with necessities for every Palm Springs vacation. 

A Cheetah Hotel bedroom. Photo courtesy of The Cheetah Hotel.

Their latest property is the 12-room Cheetah Hotel at 354 E. Stevens Rd., featuring a black and yellow color scheme and cheetah icons designed by Tracy (she picks out or creates all of the wallpaper, linens, and furniture for the Turco hotels). All of the rooms are just steps away from the courtyard pool and separate spa, and $10 from each booking goes to the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

“What I love most about Palm Springs is nature’s beauty,” Tracy said. “I love the sunsets, love the mountains with the palm trees, and all of the fruited trees.” While walking around town, Tracy loves to stop and take in the “gorgeous flowers in full bloom all year round,” she added. “The beautiful bougainvillea makes it like you’re living in technicolor. It’s just magical.”

A room at the Descanso Resort. Photo courtesy of Descanso Resort.

At the new Descanso Resort, it’s all about that indoor/outdoor living. This men’s resort, formerly the East Canyon Resort & Spa, is the brother property to the Santiago, and provides the same luxe accommodations. Located at 288 E. Camino Monte Vista, the hotel underwent a total transformation, with all guest rooms and areas undergoing renovations. The rooms are equipped with new furniture, high-end linens and bedding, and Gilchrest & Soames luxury bath products. The pampering starts as soon as guests arrive — at check in, a snack bag is provided, and complimentary food and beverages are available in the cantina; a continental breakfast and poolside lunch is also offered. The private grounds feature native plants, a heated pool and spa, day beds, and a garden shower.

A beautiful mural at Fleure Noire. Photo courtesy of Fleur Noire

The Fleur Noire at 1555 N. Indian Canyon Dr. offers an eclectic mix of 21 casitas, bungalows, and suites, each one with its own distinct design — and a refrigerator that is stocked daily with complimentary water. There are stunning floral wall murals by artist Louise Jones (a.k.a. Ouize) on display across the property, and guests can lounge by the heated pool and multiple fire pits or in the club house, which has a communal pantry and working and dining areas. La Boisson, a speakeasy champagne and rosé bar, is opening later this spring.

An Azure Sky bedroom. Photo courtesy of Azure Sky

Azure Sky, a 14-room luxury hotel at 1661 S. Calle Palo Fierro, is set to open in the early spring, and is already causing a stir. Originally built in 1959, new owners Acme Hospitality and Eastern Real Estate have lovingly restored the property, bringing in vintage lighting and custom woodwork to dazzle guests. Most of the rooms have private patios with hammocks and kitchenettes, with built-in beds, stone tile flooring, and mid-century modern inspired design accents. The lounge boasts a premium cocktail bar, and outside, there’s a sparkling pool, fire pits, two courtyards, and a large hot tub that can hold up to 25 people. 

Whether it’s for a weekend getaway, a romantic retreat, or a long much-needed workcation that’s not too far from home, there’s a small boutique hotel waiting for you in Palm Springs with just the vibe you crave.

About Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels

Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels is an association of independently owned boutique hotels, which are an essential part of this desert resort town’s uncommon culture and economy. From quirky to charming, mid-century modern to clothing-optional, Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels has got your stay. Subscribe to our Monthly e-Newsletter, Boutiquely Palm Springs. From tips on what to do, see and eat in Palm Springs, to interviews with hoteliers, it’s the insider’s guide to everything great about Palm Springs and its iconic boutique hotels. Follow the fun on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.

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!

There’s no place like the Korakia Pensione.

The historic property says it “blends the silhouette of Tangier with a whisper of the Mediterranean,” and is the perfect escape. There are two restored historic villas — the Mediterranean Villas and Moroccan Villas — with spacious rooms featuring wood-beamed ceilings, stone showers, balconies, private patios, French doors, and antique and handmade furniture. The Moroccan villa was built in 1924 as a hideaway of Scottish painter Gordon Coutts, who wanted to recreate his earlier life in Tangier.

Guests at Korakia Pensione are treated to outdoor yoga and meditation sessions, hot breakfasts in the Moroccan courtyard, use of books in the library lounge and cruisers to get around town, Moroccan tea service in the afternoon, and vintage movies screened outside at night.

The Moroccan courtyard is filled with fountains, a stone waterfall, olive trees, date palms, citrus, and bougainvillea, and as the sun begins to set, staff light hundreds of candles and lanterns across the property, setting off a magical glow. Massage treatments can be booked in the indoor/outdoor spa lodge or in guest rooms, and the two heated saltwater pools, with views of the San Jacinto Mountains, are open all day and night.

At the Avanti Hotel, the guest experience is of utmost importance. Owner Jim Rutledge ensures that he knows where visitors are traveling from and what they enjoy doing, in order to offer recommendations and keep the hotel safe and secure.

Owner Jim Rutledge loves dogs, and goes out of his way to make their stay comfortable — at check in, they receive a bag with a pool towel, sheet for the bed, water bowl, and snacks.

“We very much enjoy having them,” Jim said, adding that hundreds of dogs have stayed at the hotel since its opening. These special guests can be spotted on the Instagram page Dogs of Avanti.

Of course, their owners are also treated well at the Avanti, a 10-room mid-century modern hotel that was built in 1954. There are no resort fees, and guests can take complimentary cruisers for a spin and relax at happy hour and an extended continental breakfast. Because it’s such an intimate hotel, Jim gets to know all of his guests, and he estimates that nearly 50 percent of his patrons are repeats.

“We like to get to know our guests, and where they’re from and what they like to do,” he said. “We get to meet people from all around the world who come here.”

Jim and his brother-in-law purchased the property in the early 2010s, after both took buy outs from their corporate jobs. They started from scratch, even coming up with a new name, and Jim, originally from Seattle, was excited to be in a town he was already familiar with.

“I’ve loved Palm Springs and had been coming here for years,” he said.

For guests who enjoy meeting new people, the pool is a natural gathering place, but there are also hideaways for those who want to have some solo time.

“The rooms have private patios, and you can hang out there and read a book,” Jim said.

One of the Avanti’s biggest draws is its security. There is a locked gate, and Jim has a video doorbell, so he can see who is coming and going and he doesn’t have to let people in who don’t belong.

“I know who is in my hotel,” he said. “We have repeat guests, and single women, who know about the safety factor and they love it. They know that when they come in, the door is locked behind them and no one can come in. I know all of the guests, and people who stay here for two or more nights get to know the other guests, and they all recognize each other.”

Take a video tour of The Monkey Tree Hotel! This classic mid-century modern hotel is a Palm Springs time capsule.  Perfectly restored with meticulous attention to detail by owners Kathy and Gary Friedle, who preserved the original architecture and furnishings. Kathy’s background in architecture and design shows in every detail. If you love mid-century design, you will love this tour.