Posts Tagged: Mid Century Modernism


The grand finale to our Palm Springs adventure was a visit to the “Ship of the Desert,” Trina Turk and Jonathan Skow’s beloved modernist home. The house had originally been commissioned by the Davidson family during the Great Depression as a winter retreat. In 1936, California Arts and Architecture magazine featured the home on its cover that had previously only shown traditional architecture and interiors. The house was so unusual that it inspired a transformation of the entire region to embrace modernist design.

Via Loews Magazine

The Art Moderne house was built by the architecture team of Wilson and Webster.  In addition to the distinctive streamlined architecture, the house was also innovative in that it was designed from the inside out. The interiors and built in furnishings were part of the earliest stages of planning the house. The original designer, Honor Easton, worked with the architects very closely to ensure no details were left out. In fact, when the American Institute of Architects honored the house in 1938, Easton was named in the award, not the architects Wilson and Weber.

Via Palm Springs Life

In 1998, Trina Turk and Jonathan Skow previewed the house at the urging of their realtor.  It was not in the style, size, or location they had originally wanted, but they fell in love and bought it. Halfway through the renovation, a devastating fire destroyed most of the house and they had to rebuild. This gave them the opportunity to work with Marmol Radziner, a Santa Barbara firm, that specializes in museum quality mid-century modern restorations. They worked with the original architectural plans and followed them to the exact specifications including plumbing fixtures and hardware. The curved walls and redwood balconies resemble a ship’s deck.

Trina and Jonathan have filled the house with abstract works of art, textiles and furnishings ranging from the 1930s-70s. The living room has lighting around the perimeter of the ceiling to actuate the curved shape. All views are oriented towards the vista of the Coachella Valley or towards the swimming pool which was added to the house in the 1950s. The elevation of the pool adds to its privacy…one only sees mountains or palm trees in any direction. in any direction.

JetSetModernist  described the house perfectly…“The house sits proudly on its hill, commanding presence, like a patriarch enjoying the brood of rambunctious mid-century modern children gathered at its feet. Thanks to the foresight of its saviors and current stewards, it will continue to transform the acolytes of architecture who visit it for generations to come.”

After a fabulous tour, we were treated to an amazing meal poolside.  All ingredients were locally sourced and included honey Jonathan had extracted himself….very impressive. Their hospitality made our trip beyond memorable. The “Ship of the Desert” wholeheartedly embodies the lifestyle that Trina Turk represents.  She claims that Palm Springs is her muse and we could not agree more!  Our creative pilgrimage to the desert left all of us feeling very inspired and ready to channel our experiences into our respective fields. Thanks to Trina and Jonathan for making us feel so welcome!

Until next time!


Norma’s at The Parker Palm Springs

With an annual 350 days of sunshine and 73 degree winter days, Palm Springs is the PERFECT destination for a long weekend getaway. The dining, shopping, culture, spas, and physical beauty of the landscape are absolutely incredible.  Begin with an al fresco brunch at Norma’s in The Parker Palm Springs. We learned a lot from the natives when we were there and it is best to do any touring early in the day before the desert heat sets in.

The Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra, 1946

Robert Imber, architectural buff and preservation advocate, treated us to a wonderful and educational  tour of Palm Springs.  What began as an agricultural community in the mid 1800s was wiped out by drought and floods.  In the mid 20th century, visitors began coming to the restorative and healing desert climate including many stars of the early Hollywood era. From the 1940s-1960s, the area experienced tremendous growth which attracted many of the era’s most talented architects to the area. “Desert Modernism” was born and thousands of innovative structures were built. The architecture was influenced by the early modernists such as Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. However, Palm Springs architects were creating their own original version of modernism. The structures were crafted from honest materials that integrated beautifully into the desert landscape.

With the economic crash of the 1970s, many fortunes were ruined and several modernist masterpieces fell into disrepair. A new wave of modernists came to the valley in the late 80s and 90s in in search of original modernist homes. This energy instigated a renewed interest in modernism and several homes were saved.

View from the Street

Seeing the iconic Kaufmann house was at the top of my bucket list.   In 1936, Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar Kauffman, who had also hired Frank Lloyd Wright to build “Fallingwater”, commissioned Richard Neutra to design his desert home much to the disappointment of Wright.  He had wanted a home that was more open and airy than what Wright was constructing at the time. Neutra had a vision ot build a transparent house within the desert landscape.  An expansive pool set perpendicular to the house balances out the architecture against the mountains.

Slim Aaron’s Iconic Image of The Kauffman House

The 3,800 square foot house was designed to be a beautiful object framed by the desert landscape.  It cost $30,000 at the time it was built.  In 2007, it was auctioned off as part of Christie’s Post War and Contemporary Art Sale for $15,000,000. Now known as one of the greatest masterpieces of modern architecture, the Kauffman house came to be a symbol of post war optimism and the American dream.

Am Alexander House

Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra, the father/son architects and builders George and Robert Alexander designed some of the first developments in Palm Springs. The houses had a distinct layout of a carport, breezeway, windows and wall that could be oriented in various ways where they were built.  The open floor plans, clean lines, and mass produced materials made them easy to build and now the original Alexander houses are highly collectible in the Palm desert.

The brightly colored doors found on several homes pop against the white surfaces, landscaping and brilliant blue skies.

Sculpted Lawn and Geometric Door
Indoor/ Outdoor Sculpture
Our fabulous guide Robert Imber

As the afternoon heat sets in, a stop at the Viceroy Palm Springs is essential. Designed by Kelly Wearstler, this refuge from the heat is like an oasis in the desert.  In her book Palm Springs Living, Dianne Dorran Saeks describes it as  “Refreshing iced lemonade on a blazing summer day.”

The Bar at the Viceroy
Custom Cocktails
Our Future Real Estate Agent
Poolside at the Viceroy

The Viceroy was originally built in 1929 as a series of bungalows and surrounding pools, lawns and shaded terraces. Known for its discretion and privacy, the Viceroy hosted many Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Ann Miller and Tyrone Power. Kelly Wearstler used 1930s and 40s Hollywood as inspiration for the decor of the hotel which is evident in the overall glamorous, dramatic, and exotic vibe of the hotel.

Citron Restaurant at the Viceroy

Next, be sure to check out The Palm Springs Art Museum. The museum was founded in 1938 specializing in Native American artifacts.  Today, it boasts one of the country’s best permanent collections including works by Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichetenstein, Donald Jedd, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, and Robert Rauschenburg. Some of my personal favorites are below…

Phenomena Wind Off Big Sur, 1970 by  Paul Jenkins
In front of Judy Chicago’s Rainbow Pickett, 1939
Ivy, 2002 by Teresita Fernandez
Acrylic cubes


Casualty in the Art Realm, 1979  by Robert Ameson,

After a long and fulfilling day of culture, a visit to The Purple Palm at the Colony Palms Hotel is the perfect finale. The Spanish Colonial Hotel was built and opened in 1936 by Al Wertheimer, who was a reputed mobster and member of the Purple Gang. The hotel served as a private club for Wertheimer and his gambling pals complete with a pool, secret underground speakeasy and brothel concealed by a staircase in the kitchen pantry. The hotel then fell into the hands of Robert Howard and his Oscar-nominated wife Andrea, who owned the champion thoroughbred Seabiscuit.Under their guidance, the supper club became a Palm Springs hot spot for the next 30 years. In 2007, the current owners Sheila and Don Cluff re-opened the hotel as The Colony Palms Hotel.  They enlisted celebrity interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard to renovate and redecorate the storied property.  It is now a 4 star boutique hotel spread over 3 acres house a world class restaurant, spa and accommodations.

Poolside at The Colony Palm Springs
The interior of The Purple Palm
From February 13-23, Palm Springs will be hosting their annual Modernism week celebrating and fostering the appreciation of mid-century architecture, design, fashion and culture. The week features over 100 special events including the Modernism show, home tours, films, lectures, parties, music and more. To learn more about the celebration and purchase tickets, click here.


All of this snowy weather has me longing for warmer destinations, lounging by the pool, and soaking up the sun. My all time favorite hotel is The Parker Palm Springs designed by the incredibly creative and talented Jonathan Adler.  Mr. Adler’s sense of humor is evident is every detail of the design and branding of the hotel. He created the hotel as the estate of the fictional “Mrs. Parker”, a chic, eccentric globe-trotting collector and lady of leisure. The modern mix of bohemian decor reflects Mrs. Parker’s wanderlust and items collected on her travels around the world.

There is a surprise around every corner at The Parker.  The estate has been configured as a series of outdoor rooms with pathways hidden among tall hedges.  You never know what you will find at the end of each path….it could be a gorgeous pool set against the backdrop of the mountains and palms, a croquet lawn, the colorful PSYC Spa, or the delightful Lemonade Stand seen in the image below (complete with mist to fight off the desert heat).

The architecture and interiors blend together seamlessly.  From the entrance through the infamous orange doors, pops of orange connect the eye through the lounge areas and onto the terrace where Norma’s restaurant is located.

The chic and cleverly named Mini-Bar off of the main hotel lobby…

In addition to the spa and various villas, guests will discover clay tennis courts, two saline swimming pools, petanque, fire pits, hammocks, croquet, and charming lounge areas nestled into the grounds of the estate.

Each villa is decorated in typical “Mrs. Parker” style with furnishings and accessories from Jonathan Adler along with vintage mid century furnishings and art.

The Palm Springs Yacht Club (cheekily known as PSYC) features world class treatments set in a colorful nautical theme. The spa also has an indoor pool, fitness center and outdoor garden and dining. Click here to see a hilarious video of the amenities at the spa.


We believe in the American country club experience: mixed doubles, a long steam, and a stiff cocktail. We believe in inner beauty. But, do what you can on the outside. We believe in old-world etiquette and new age simplicity. We believe you can swim right after you eat. We believe we should trust those seeking enlightenment and doubt those who claim to have found it. We believe the earth is three-quarters water, and your body is three-quarters water, and… this is purely coincidence. We believe in good sport as well as fitness: Pétanque and Pastis, Pimms Cup and Croquet, Snooker and single malt whiskey. We believe you are only young once… but you can be immature forever. .

My fun-loving travel partners…accessory designer turned stylist Jodianne Johnson and artist extraordinaire Windy O’Connor. A special thank you also goes out to Trina Turk for getting this trip donated as an auction item for the Mint Museum Auxiliary.
For more fabulousness from Jonathan Adler, click on this video to see how he inspires his team to hip hop their way to their inner creativity….
Here we are meeting Jonathan at the flea market in Paris….this made our whole trip!
All images from the Parker Palm Springs unless otherwise noted.