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- Mar 19, 2018
Tania Fares's Insider Guide To Palm Springs
Vogue contributing editor Tania Fares is a multi-tasking maven: an art patron, philanthropist and British fashion champion, based between London, LA, Paris and Beirut, she's never not on the road. Here, she rounds up her favourite things to do when in Palm Springs.
- Feb 16, 2018
Albert Frey's 1931 Aluminaire House waits for a permanent home in Palm Springs.
Albert Frey may be remembered as one of the celebrated fathers of Desert Modernism, but the Swiss-born architect’s first American project was actually a model house in New York.
Soon after Frey arrived from Paris, where he had worked for Le Corbusier, the firm of A. Lawrence Kocher enlisted Frey to help design a house for the biennial Allied Arts and Industries/Architectural League of New York expo in 1931.
Dubbed the Aluminaire House, the boxy three-story structure was erected in 10 days with ready-made materials. Its aluminum-panel exterior and its sleek interiors were a hit with visitors and critics.
Almost 90 years later — a meandering history that nearly included demolition — the Aluminaire now sits in a container in Palm Springs, to be rebuilt in a city park being designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios.
A full-size representation of the house — scaffolding covered with a printed scrim — sits on the site this month for Modernism Week, which runs Thursday through Feb. 25. A scale model of Aluminaire will be on view at Modernism headquarters, part of the campaign to raise the $475,000 still needed to erect the house and restore it.
“Much of the interior needs to be refabricated,” said Frances Campani, who, along with Michael Schwarting, has been shepherding the house through its incarnations for three decades. Both are architects and academics. Schwarting was responsible for bringing the house to the Islip campus of the New York Institute of Technology in 1988 for use as a teaching tool for students.
“It had been altered over the years,” Campani said, “and as we took off the layers that had been added, it began to look better and better.”
In 2005, the institute decided to close its Islip branch, and the Aluminaire had to pull up roots again.
In 2014 architectural devotee Mark Davis invited Schwarting and Campani to talk about the Aluminaire at Modernism Week. They received such a resounding welcome that a California branch of the Aluminaire House Foundation was established to bring the house to Palm Springs.
“Frey is so important to Palm Springs, and most of his work is here,” said Davis, a foundation board member. “It’s very rare for one city to have the entire arc of an architect’s career, from the first building to his last.” During Modernism Week, several events will honor Frey, including the premiere of the documentary “Albert Frey: Part 1 — The Architectural Envoy” on Sunday. A community update on the Aluminaire project at the Palm Springs Art Museum (free but reservations no longer available) and a fundraiser at the estate of the late industrial designer Raymond Loewy are scheduled for Feb. 23.
- Feb 16, 2018
Best of Palm Springs: 6 New Places to Eat, Drink and Stay By Sally Kilbridge
Palm Springs Visit Palm Springs.
Scores of outdoor bistros, modernist gems on every corner (the only Chase bank you’ll ever feel compelled to Instagram), and a climate that encourages flip-flops in February make Palm Springs a classic California getaway. And with JetBlue’s nonstop flights from New York, it’s finally being discovered by East Coasters. The big news in the desert is the seven-block swathe of downtown that’s being reimagined as one of the sharpest, most pedestrian-friendly urban spaces in the country. The halo effect extends to the entire city, where even older businesses have an upbeat spring in their step as Modernism Week draws the crowds. Here are six of Palm Springs’ newest—or renewed—chic spots to dine and stay.
Kimpton The Rowan
Kimpton The Rowan Laure Joliet
Lounging on the rooftop pool deck while a well-toned clientele chill to a bossa nova beat, it’s hard to imagine the outcry that accompanied the construction of Palm Springs’ tallest building. Local protectionists protested the change in the city’s low-slung roofline, but the hotel opened nonetheless in late 2017, and the seven-story Rowan delivers plenty of in-room luxury (yoga mats, 360° glass showers, and minibars stocked with small batch beef jerky) along with floor-to-ceiling views of the San Jacinto Mountains and palm-lined boulevards. It seems as though every guest shows up for complimentary happy hour in the Living Room, to peruse a huge library of design books over Chablis and beer.
4 Saints. Laure Joliet
Chef Stephen Wambach likes to keep things local: You can regularly find him foraging for juniper berries in the San Jacinto hills. He also likes things hard-to-get: The John Dory they serve on the menu is imported all the way from New Zealand. And it’s a safe bet that he likes things buttery: His Parker House rolls are worth every cent of the $10 surcharge. Helming the city’s current in spot, on The Rowan’s top floor, Wambach teases desert palates with the exotic splash of a sea urchin appetizer while also catering to locals with crowd-pleasers like rib eye with huckleberry bordelaise. The Palm Springs movers and shakers who flock here make dinner reservations a must, but you can always drop by the bar for a basket of that house-made bread and a cocktail under the stars.
Ingleside Inn. Steve Kepple
In the 1930s, this Spanish Colonial compound was one of Hollywood’s favorite hideaways, welcoming everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Salvador Dali. Norman Vincent Peale favored the spot, too. And thanks to a head-to-toe makeover, it’s enjoying a new wave of glamour. The handsome renovation didn’t mess with the hotel’s charms. The 30 guest rooms retain their original keys (no plastic cards here), and the luxe additions (vintage tiles, leather benches, oriental rugs) would be at home in the library of an uncle with great wealth and taste. For a historic icon, there’s a surprisingly funky side: The general manager leads complimentary yoga classes, the room service martinis are mixed at your door, and nobody raises an eyebrow when a guest starts his day strumming Neil Young tunes by the pool.
Melvyn’s. Steve Kepple
A dinner guest once asked a captain at Melvyn’s how he felt about wearing a tuxedo to work each night. He replied, “I’d feel naked otherwise.” Adjacent to the Ingleside Inn, Melvyn’s has received its own gentle refresh: walls opened up, colors were brightened and the menu was revisited. (Thanks to chef Jennifer Town, it’s now possible to get a vegan meal.) But nobody wants things to change too much: At any Sunday afternoon jam session by the piano bar there are nearly as many 30-somethings on the dance floor as Palm Springs retirees.
La Serena Villas
La Serena Villas. La Serena Villas
If you’ve ever wanted to tiptoe from claw-foot tub to al fresco fire-pit without stopping to throw on a robe, this boutique hotel is your kind of place. The original 1933 bungalows have been reconfigured with high-walled outdoor bathing patios where you can soak with a glass of bubbly while watching the moon rise over the mountains. Inside, the 18 rooms and suites are studies in Morocco-meets-Mexico cool, with the added bonus of wine fridges. (You can walk through the lobby toting a Trader Joe’s wine caddy with pride.) Also on-site: a pocket-size spa and Azucar restaurant, whose new chef, Joanne Garcia Colson, should be shaking things up tout suite.
Holiday House Bob Payne
Perhaps it’s the blue-and-white color scheme, or the muffled splashes from the pool or the guests padding up to the bar in bikinis, but there’s something about this 28-room hotel, originally opened in 1951, that seems as serene and faraway as a small Greek island. Rooms come in three categories—“good,” “better,” and “best”—all crisp and comfortable, with substance (good reading lights) as well as style (art you’ll wish you could take home). Lunch at the hotel’s tiny Pantry restaurant stars buckets of veggies, lobster rolls and beautiful salads; Fried Chicken Friday dinners are communal evenings you should reserve in advance.
- Feb 2, 2018
How Palm Springs' modernist villas redefined glamour
Oscar Holland, CNN
In May 1947, Frank Sinatra showed up at Emerson Stewart Williams' office in Palm Springs, California, and asked for a Georgian-style vacation home. As the late architect recounted to Vanity Fair more than 50 years later, the singer's only other stipulation was that it was finished by Christmas.
The deadline was feasible. But when it came to the design, Williams had other ideas, according to Tim Street-Porter, the photographer behind a new book on the city, "Palm Springs: A Modernist Paradise."
"(Sinatra) wanted it to be in a period style, but the architect talked him into having a modernist house," Street-Porter said in a phone interview. "When he got it, he entertained in it. And because Sinatra was who he was, it got other entertainment industry people, like Diana Shaw, to get modernist houses there too."
Complete with a swimming pool, glass walls and a shady veranda for cocktail parties, Sinatra's home was typical of the mid-century modernism that swept Palm Springs after World War II. The city soon became a holiday playground for the stars -- from Zsa Zsa Gabor to Bing Crosby -- leaving it with one of the highest concentrations of modernist buildings anywhere in the world (Street-Porter puts the overall figure at over 5,000 houses).
While the photographer's new book omits Sinatra's home in favor of lesser-known residences, he uses the story to illustrate an important point -- that the Palm Springs modernist boom wasn't just about the whims of Hollywood. It was about the vision of the city's pioneering architects.
- Jan 31, 2018
Luxury Guide to Palm Springs: It’s not exactly groundbreaking to talk about Palm Springs as an ultimate California getaway. The desert town has long been a favorite hot spot for A-list Angelenos—like Hollywood stars Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Hope, who first made it glamorous when they were bound by their studios to be within 200 miles of L.A. at all times. Then it quickly became the place to see and be seen in the swinging ’50s and ’60s, drawing visitors from around the globe.
Today, however, the modernist oasis is in the midst of a renaissance. Sleek new hotels are cropping up throughout the region, and some of the oldest Hollywood hideouts are being restored to their former glory. World-renowned exhibitions like biennial Desert X (a 2017 Best of the Best winner for its innovative art exhibitions) and Palm Springs Modernism week, along with the ever-popular Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, are drawing in the word’s jet set once again, giving visitors far more to do than lounge by the pool with a martini. (Though there’s certainly no shame in spending a weekend doing just that.)
Here are our top picks for where to stay, what to eat, and what to see for an ultra-glamorous long weekend in the desert’s modern oasis.