Get the lowdown on Modernism Week, Palm Spring's annual celebration of midcentury architecture and design, from Homepolish's Angela Belt.
If you’ve never been to Palm Springs, then let me paint a picture for you. It’s like traveling back to a time when midcentury modern was paramount. Sleek, rectangular structures with large glass windows, rock gardens with succulents popping up, and colored front doors are the norm. As early as the 1920s, forward-thinking architects like Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and Donald Wexler (to name a few) gravitated toward the Coachella Valley to create modern homes integrated into the desert landscape.
The annual Modernism Week celebrates the midcentury modern architecture and design history of Palm Springs, and it educates the public on how we can re-design it for the 21st Century. This event also highlights cutting edge concepts in midcentury design with a focus on sustainability and perseveration. For someone like myself, it was a no-brainer to fly out and be a part of this event. So for all of you who couldn’t make it, let me tell you how it all went down with my top five list. Then mark your calendar for next year’s celebration!
1. The Beadle House
While trekking through a desert wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea, it was well worth it going through the desert palisades to check out the two homes from the Chino Canyon Project. The Beadle House, which was never built during the architect Al Beadle’s lifetime, was developed after scouring through his sketches and floor plans to make his dream a reality. The Arizona-based modernist architect’s design aesthetic was all about idealized structural simplicity. People who coveted his homes (you can count me among them) referred to his designs as Beadle Boxes.
I mean, just take in the view from this place! The cantilevered structure mainly composed of glass, steel, and concrete may have been a 1970s conception of the architect, but its origins actually go much farther back to the famed architect Le Corbusier, namely his Villa Savoye which was completed in 1931. The design is perfect for taking in those sweeping panoramas of the desert.
2. The O’Donnell (aka O2) House
The second home is designed by Lance O’Donnell, a very active architect in Palm Springs from the o2 Architecture firm. Unlike the Beadle House, which sits above the desert’s terrain, this home is literally integrated into the landscape. It also sports a cutting edge energy system design, actually pulling from the desert as a power source through wind, water, and solar power.
The midcentury motif isn’t limited to the exterior architecture, of course! Walking through the house, you’re greeted with sleek white walls, sculptural light fixtures, and geometric furnishings. And needless to say, there are plenty of desert views at this location too.
3. The Christopher Kennedy Compound
Ain’t no party like a West Coast party, ’cause a West Coast party don’t stop! I was so lucky to go to a red carpet event in social media starlight Kelly Golighty’s Andreas Valley home, recently renovated by designer Christopher Kennedy. Her home was designed by twenty prominent tastemakers and was overloaded with pops of color that are emblematic of midcentury modern décor. It was midcentury maximalism all the way. Wallpapered ceilings, a walk-in closet, and bathroom so chic I was ready to move-in. Plus, who can resist a shower filled with balloons? I assure you no corner was left un-designed. Those designers know what it means to WERK the room.
4. The West Elm Pop-Up House
There have been countless times when I have walked through a West Elm showroom, and I have daydreamed… “What would this look like in a Eichler-style home?” (Yes, I do get that specific in my imagination.) Let me stop for a minute and drop some knowledge on you. Josepher Eichler was a real estate hot-shot developer from Cali, who developed residential neighborhoods with a midcentury modern flare during the post-war boom. They were so popular people just started referring to them as Eichler homes.
West Elm partnered with Acme House Company to restore a 1950s Eichler home, and it was designed with their product along with West Elm’s “Go Local” initiative that focuses on highlighting artisans from Palm Springs. I biked over to the “West Elm House” catch a peek. The home was full of jewel tones, angular and curvy furnishings. There was an emphasis on texture, pattern, and bringing in color through accessories. The home made the brand come alive for me.
5. Social Potluck Dinner Party
During my trip I also got to hang out with the Modernism Week Mod Squad. These are some tastemakers from all over the world that attended the event to show everyone Modernism Week through their eyes. I attended the Social Potluck dinner at another Eichler-style home that was decorated by Design Milk and Bobby Berk and furnished by Carl Hansen & Son. I guess I should have known that a party for designers and architects would be pretty swanky.
After all these epic moments, I am convinced that the love affair with midcentury modern design is alive and well. Not only can you see it in Palm Springs… you can see it all over Homepolish! For another cool city tour, Check out designer Downtown LA walkthrough.‘s