Tour Palm Springs mid-century modern homes

Modernism Week in Palm Springs, CA, each February (with a smaller version in October) is a celebration of the many beautiful mid-century modern homes – both old and new.

If you love architecture and design, and mid-century modern is your vibe, you’ll want to get tickets to tour these homes with fascinating, famous and secret pasts. But even if you don’t particularly love mid-century, you might be turned!

I personally wouldn’t fit out my house with mid-century furniture, for example, but seeing these homes that are all-in from colour to design, decor and inspiration, is so fabulous.

Palm springs mid century house 1
The breeze-way connects the garage to the house

Palm Springs is about a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles, so makes for nice a day trip from LA – if you pick the day right and don’t try and return at the end of a long weekend! There are so many wonderful things to do in Palm Springs, that you’ll want to spend at least the weekend. I was here on my fourth visit.

This time I found the most fabulous day spa built upon a natural hot spring, right in the middle of town and you can use the entire facilities for the whole day if you wish, just for booking one treatment. And I went on a mid-century modern architecture tour with David Dixon, who runs Modernism Week and knows everything there is to know about these houses. Including who built them and who used to own them!

Because it’s the stories behind them too. Did you know Elvis Presley and Priscilla were planning on have a low-key wedding here in Palm Springs in the house below, where Elvis had been renting for about a year in 1967, when the neighbour caught wind of it. Unfortunately for the love birds, she was editor of a magazine and pretty soon the cat was out, so they borrowed another neighbour, Frank Sinatra’s, jet and flew to Las Vegas and got married there.

Elvis Palm springs mid century house

They returned to this house for their honeymoon in the William Krisel, 1960 designed house. Inside the walls are curved with lots of glass and lined with exposed rock. It has an octagonal shaped swimming pool. It sold in 2022 for $5.65 million.

Palm springs aerial tramway mid century building
Your first welcome to Palm Springs is from this former gas station, now ticket office
Palm Springs aerial tramway roof
The mid-century design has been preserved as the gas pump area is now the entrance to the welcome centre for the Aerial Tramway.
Palm springs mid century house 15
The Dr. Franz Alexander House (1955), designed by architect Walter S. White.

The Alexander home (above), completed in 1955, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and features innovative construction methods (particularly the V-bent steel frame “skeleton” which makes up the structural support system), as well as the unique cambered roof, which appears to lift off from the structure’s southern façade.

Alexander residence
Palm springs mid century house 2
New houses are being built with more than a nod to mid-century design
Palm springs mid century house 17
Frank Sinatra’s house. If the gates were open you’d seen modern lines of a pergola leading to the front door.
Palm springs mid century house 16
Signature folded-plate roofline and innovative steel construction by by Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison

Visit Modernism events in Palm Springs

Each February Modernism Week (which runs for 11 days) is one to get to. It’s a celebration of midcentury modern design, architecture, art, fashion and culture in the Palm Springs area. Over 100,000 people visit each year participating in more than 350 events.

“Highlights of the festival include the Modernism Show, Signature Home Tours, films, lectures, Premier Double Decker Architectural Bus Tours, nightly parties, live music events, walking and bike tours, tours of Sunnylands, fashion shows, classic cars, modern garden tours, a vintage travel trailer exhibition, and more.”

Each October a similar four-day event called Modernism Week – October runs as a taster for the big February one and is also great to visit if you don’t have the time to see everything. “Mini-Modernism Week” offers some of the most popular tours from February, talks, and of course parties, highlighting midcentury and modern architecture in the Palm Springs area.

Palm springs mid century house 3
The breeze block passage way adds privacy to the rooms behind
Palm springs mid century house 4
I had these very same breeze blocks in my room as a kid as the ends of a bookshelf! This is also a new home with modern day mid-century design elements too
Palm springs mid century house 5
Minimalist mid-century
Palm springs mid century house 6
Sleek, white, clever designs for privacy and minimalising the hot desert heat
Palm springs mid century house 7
A cheeky pop of colour on the mail box
Palm springs mid century house 8
Oversized front doors are feature
Palm springs mid century house 9
An original mid-century modern home. The top glass windows will be the living room
Palm springs mid century house 10
One of the few houses built up the mountains, as this is now banned in Palm Springs
Palm springs mid century house 11
Peek through the front entrance into the courtyard
Palm springs mid century house 12
Leo DeCaprio’s house, built by Donald Wexler in 1964 for Dinah Shore.

Stay in Leo DiCaprio’s house

432 Hermosa (above) was built in 1964 for Dinah Shore and rumoured to cost Leo $5.32 million in 2014. He sometimes holidays here, but so can you!

If you have a cool $3,750 per night, you can stay here. Or if you just want to nosey (virtually) through it, it has its own website: 432 Hermosa.

Palm springs mid century house 13
What a view!
Palm springs mid century house 14
Palm springs mid century boulders
Clearing away the boulders is the first part of the build in Palm Springs!

Visit the Modernism Week website to read more and buy tickets for coach tours and events during the festivals. You can also buy tickets for an architectural tour year round.

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