Last October I had the pleasure of attending the “Desert Modern Architecture” tour in Palm Springs hosted by the Western Museums Association, which allowed me to visit some beautiful and stylistically different examples of 20th century modern architecture. Our tour guides and hosts were very hospitable and full of knowledge – it was a great tour!
The highlight for me was the Grace Miller house designed by Richard Neutra in 1937. The current owner purchased it in 2000, and has done an incredible job of restoring it. It looked fantastic. This was not easy, considering that when she purchased it the property was basically a neglected crack house and had suffered a number of inappropriate remodels over the decades. It’s bad enough having drug heads wreck your Neutra, but the flowered wallpaper just adds insult to injury!
The owner also had some of the original built-in furniture recreated for the interior rooms. The place was small but had the feel of being on a boat where every use of space is maximized and so it felt very right.
We also toured a steel and glass house designed by Donald Wexler and Ric Harrison from 1962 that was part of a small development tract of similar houses. The house is a combination of pre-fab modules that were manufactured elsewhere and then brought to the site and completed. I think seven of the steel houses in this group are in existence.
The house has the distinction of being the first mid-century home in Palm Springs to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Right on!
Also on the tour was this great house from the mid-fifties designed by E. Stewart Williams and his firm for William and Margery Edris. Mr. Williams also designed the well-known (especially if you watch television) 1947 Frank Sinatra house in the Twin Palms area of Palm Springs.
The Edris House is in the “Little Tuscany” neighborhood of Palm Springs.
The interior (especially the kitchen) has been well-preserved and maintained, which was great to see. We heard a bit about the glamorous parties and social events held here back in the day which must have been something else.
The last period modern house on the tour was the Raymond Loewy house from 1946. The well-known industrial designer Loewy teamed up with the Swiss-born Palm Springs-transplanted architect Albert Frey to create this house.
The entry way beyond the front door has a narrow path between the indoor-outdoor pool, which every home needs in my opinion. Crazy! The owners of the house were super cool and gracious and I wish we could have hung out longer.
One other fun fact: the Loewy house is next door to Neutra’s famous Kaufmann Desert House, which is unavailable for tours as far as I know. However, it’s not really visible from the Loewy house due to the landscaping and angle of the properties.
Such a great tour!