Palm Springs Modernism Week 2017

Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to Modernism Week events. All opinions are my own.

I love seeking out new adventures but there are some places that I long to return to over and over again like San Francisco, Disneyland and Palm Springs. With it’s (usually) sunny weather and iconic mid-century architecture Palm Springs is my favorite getaway. Whether it’s for a long weekend or just for the day my heart skips a beat as soon as I’m hitting that dessert air. Especially this time of year when for 10 days the town becomes a most magical place as it celebrates its annual Modernism Week.

This year I headed out on an especially rainy weekend. Usually, when it’s raining in my area it’s clear in Palm Springs but this particular time turned out to be the exception to the rule. It was overcast and windy most of the day and the temperature was downright frigid. Nevertheless the treasures of the town shone through the gloomy weather.

I started my adventure at the Christopher Kennedy Compound – the annual Modernism Week show house. Each year a particular house is chosen for transformation as various designers take over individual room amd leave their distinctive design mark. Last year’s house proved underwhelming so I approached this year’s with a bit of skepticism. This year’s house belonged to social media star Kelly Golightly who’s heavily inspired by Audrey Hepburn. The designers took this to heart and the result was a delightful confection of mid-century meets modern decor filed with color, color, color.

I could find myself at home in much of it but alas, it’s already taken (and wayyyy out of my price range).

Soon enough it was time to leave the show house and I raced to CAMP, Modernism Week headquarters, to catch my next adventure, the Premier Double Decker Bus Tour. The annual tour is a staple of the event and though I’ve been attending for the past few years I’d not previously gone on it. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to check it out and quickly grabbed my spot on the upper deck of the bus and for the next 2.5 hours my fellow passengers and I were squired around town on an in depth tour of the area’s architecture.

Although I’ve been to Palm Springs many times I’ve never gone beyond my specific destinations and explored its many distinct neighborhoods. How foolish have I been? They are chock full of historic architecture ranging from the Spanish Revival estates of the early 20th century to the swinging mid-century pads of its mid-mark.

It was fantastic despite the fact that it was freezing cold on the open air bus. Our guide was a local resident and long time Modernism Week volunteer who was full of extensive knowledge of his home town. Friendly and affable he made the time fly by and before I knew it we were back at CAMP. I was sad to end the tour but excited about all the new places I’d discovered. I can’t wait to go back and explore more on my own.

My next stop was the Modernism Week Social House – a newly built Eichler home filled with Carl Hansen & Son furnishings.

I love Eichler homes. I live near a neighborhood filled with them and it’s a magical place to visit. I wish I could afford to live in one but until then I’ll have to be satisfied with just visiting. The Desert Eichlers are a group of brand new homes built using original blueprints from the architectural master (allowing for minor updates to accommodate modern living). The social house is a particularly stunning example of the iconic design.

Filled with a mixture of contemporary Carl Hansen furniture and vintage pieces it’s a stylish addition to the Palm Springs landscape. I could see myself live there. I really could.

After non stop architecture I decided to slow down a bit and headed to the Palm Springs Art Museum to catch the lecture and film How to Read a Neon Sign.  The lecture was presented by Eric Lynxwiler of the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, one of my very favorite places. He presented several wonderful slides of neon signs both lost and existing and explained their provenance and inner workings. It was absolutely fascinating and Mr. Lynxwiler’s enthusiasm for the art form shone through. Following his lecture we then watched The Neon Struggle – a beautiful documentary from This ‘n That Films.

Telling the story of the multi-generational family behind Riofine Neon Sign Company it’s the bittersweet tale of a family business struggling to survive in a dying industry. Neon is such a beautiful art form and it’s heartbreaking to see how little it’s appreciated today. I loved the film and felt it was the perfect accompaniment to Modernism Week.

Heading out of town my last stop was at the Chino Canyon Project featuring two new homes designed by Lance O’Donnell and the late Al Beadle.

Nestled right against the hillside with commanding views of Palm Springs the homes are true statements. While not particularly my style I appreciate how they seamlessly blend into the town’s landscape.

Once again Modernism Week did not disappoint. Filled with memories of incredible architecture, beautiful design and heartwarming film-making I left town  more in love with it than ever.


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