If You Love Mid-Century Modern …

037… you must visit Palm Springs! For Chris’ birthday, we took a quick road trip to P.S. and had an awesome time. Here’s how we experienced the four things I wanted to give him for his birthday:

0211950s tiki culture: We experienced this at our hotel! We stayed at the very-retro Caliente Tropics (at the end of East Palm Canyon Drive), which was originally built in 1964  in classic Polynesian and tiki style (which was very cool and postwar-exotic at the time). The motel-style digs have since been redone and brought into the modern era with things like marble tubs and in-room fridges, but the motor-car-style place still retains its uber-vintage vibe, with tiki torches, bamboo plants, lots of palm trees, and even private cabana “huts” for two. There was a family-friendly pool surrounded by green lawn and barbecues. You half expected some pearl-wearing housewife and a bowling-shirt-clad daddy-o to step out with a tray of grillin’s and Jell-O.

Midcentury-modern architecture. Well, Palm Springs is the epicenter of midcentury-modern everything now. Embracing its roots, which sprung forth in the middle years of the century with the unique “desert modernism,” the town has turned its attention to renovating its modern-movement buildings. The deep overhangs, flat rooflines, great use of glass, and desert landscaping create an environment that looks right out of a vintage postcard. There are several stores that sell midcentury modern furniture and decor now, too. Superman and I stopped at the “Jetsons”-style visitors’ center and bought a map for $5 called “Modern Palm Springs” that outlines a self-guided tour of 75 points of midcentury-modern interest. Homes, hotels, shops and banks are on the map (our Caliente Tropics was No. 38!), and you can easily drive it in an afternoon. For any MCM fan, this is a must! There are photos on the map of some of the buildings from their original era that are fun to look at. The visitors’ center also has great books about modernism and fun souvenirs (we bought a very Mad-Men-esque melamine ash tray!).


Frank Sinatra stuff. Well, you can’t think of Palm Springs without thinking of Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnez, and all the other Hollywood stars who came to the desert playground for golf and sparkling pools, all set against the beautiful palm-tree and desert-mountain backdrop that’s still so remarkable it looks like some kind of green-screen. We used our handy-dandy map and found Frank Sinatra’s in-town home, and played a little of Old Blue Eyes on the radio. And I bought Superman a Sinatra-styled hat for his birthday at our favorite hat store. Look how handsome he looks:


Summer. How did we experience “summer” after the first day of fall? Well, it was 115 degrees there. Enough said.

We did another really fun activity during our weekend in Palm Springs, but I tell about that in another post. We also met this really interesting man while we were sitting out on a patio in the heat — I tell all about him here.

How about you? Are you a midcentury-modern fan? Have you seen Palm Springs’ great array of architecture?

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12 thoughts on “If You Love Mid-Century Modern …

  1. I can’t thank my Laurie “Lois Lane” enough for this awesome and quite unexpected getaway! It was so fun to get away and be catefree again for the weekend. It felt like a much longer stay because we did some really fun things. My baby knows what I love and she gave it to me. I love my hat so much. We also met a very interesting and engaging older gentleman straight out of 1940s Hollywood and one of California’s surf pioneers-at least that’s what he told us, and true or not it was fantastic chatting with him at lunch!
    I LOVED our hotel! And everything about the weekend!
    Thank you Laurie for a wonderful birthday!

  2. Hey, hubby — Yes, it was fun! Since we don’t go away without the kids very often, we treat it very specially when we do. And I loved talking to the guy straight out of 1940s Hollywood, too! Maybe I’ll have to blog about him also. …

  3. My hubby and I spent a week in Palm Springs for our tenth anniversary which was 8 years ago. We stayed at a beautiful resort and swam, relaxed, and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. It was April and the weather was perfect!

    I love the vibe in Palm Springs. It’s pretty laid back and chill with lots of interesting things to do and see.

    BTW, LOVE the Sinatra hat. He wears it well.

  4. ‘TWas a wonderful time! Thank you folks for the compliment!
    Thank you again Laurie for a great time!

  5. Hi, Kwana! So why does it look like “your kind of place”? Do you like that era, too? And thanks about the hat — I helped select it, and I thought it looked rather dapper, too! 😉

    Hi, Jeanne! Even 8 years ago, though, Palm Springs hadn’t quite embraced its midcentury roots as much as it has now. I know I wrote about PS for the newspaper about 8 or 9 years ago, and there was very little info about which buildings were MCM, etc. (and definitely no map!). Maybe two books, total. But they’ve really gone full-speed with it, which is excellent. Lots of books, maps, a DVD called “Palm Springs Holiday,” etc. So fun. Chris and I were saying that maybe they just needed 5 full decades of distance for it to all seem “cool” rather than “old”!

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  7. Looks like a great weekend! California is no doubt the Mecca of Mid-Century Modern design, and Palm Springs has some of the best examples of MCM that the state has to offer. If you have every checked out the Design Within Reach catalog so many of the homes in which they shoot the furniture are in Palm Springs. Sounds like you picked the perfect spot to take big bro for his birthday!

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