Special Nonexistent Furniture
23 April, 2013

Go modern in Palm Springs with Annalisa Capurro

Welcome to a very special week in pictures by Annalisa Capurro, an interior designer, writer and design educator at Design Centre Enmore. Annalisa is passionate about mid-century modern design, and works to preserve modernist architecture in Australia. Practising what she preaches, she lives in the 1957 Sulman Award-winning Jack House by architect Russell Jack (you may have spotted it on The Design Files) and she recently visited Palm Springs in California for Modernism Week. She shares the highlights of her trip in a series of beautiful pictures which may inspire you to learn more about modernism (and book a trip to Palm Springs). You can follow Annalisa on Instagram  @annalisacapurro for more. 

The Edris House, designed by architect E.Stewart Williams in 1954, is one of my favourite houses in Palm Springs. Stunningly sited, the house appears to grow out of its striking desert landscape. Bought by architect J.R Roberts directly from the original owners and lovingly restored with the assistance of E. Stewart Williams prior to his death in 2005, the fully intact house, now listed as a local Class 1 Historic Site,  remains a shining example of the timelessness of good design.

The guest ensuite of the Edris house beautifully expresses the architect E.Stewart Williams's intention of bringing 'the desert to modernism'. With its seamless connection to the landscape through extensive use of glass and a simple but gorgeous materials palette, the interior beautifully reflects the colours of the surrounding desert. Small by today's standards, this gorgeous bathroom feels much larger thanks to the clever use of reflective surfaces...divine!

I was so excited to see the newly restored Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs. Designed by famed architect John Lautner in 1947, the Desert Hot Springs Motel, as it was originally known, had sadly fallen into disrepair until 2008 when it was bought and beautifully restored by LA based designer Tracey Beckmann and furniture designer Ryan Trowbridge.

Hotel Lautner consists of only four suites, each fitted out with new sleek stainless steel kitchens and individually tiled ensuites echoing a different colour of the surrounding desert. The raw concrete interior walls provide a perfect backdrop for the selection of iconic vintage pieces used to furnish the suites. An original strip skylight window produces the most beautiful play of light and shade. The simple beauty of this cactus in the morning sun took my breath away...

The pool area of the Hotel Lautner has been renovated to include these gorgeous built in banquettes covered in a sunny shade of yellow. The juxtaposition of the white painted concrete, the redwood panelling, the black tiles and the chevron patterned cushions creates the perfect spot to lounge around soaking up the glorious winter sunshine!

The Kaufmann House designed by architect Richard Neutra in 1946 for Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., as a winter desert retreat for his family, is now arguably the most iconic and well known modernist house in Palm Springs. After numerous owners, including Barry Manilow, the house had seen better days. Bought by Brett and Beth Harris in the 1990's the house underwent a meticulous and award winning restoration by LA architectural firm Marmol Radziner. Another of my favourite Palm Springs houses, the Kaufmann House once again shines like a beacon to the ideals of post-World War II modernism.

Another highlight of Modernism Week this year was touring Sunnylands, the former home of the Annenberg family. This sprawling estate, surrounded by its own private golf course and lake, was designed by architect A. Quincy Jones and completed in 1966 as the private winter retreat for the Annenberg family. Over the years the strong modernist geometry of the architecture has formed a striking backdrop for entertaining many famous guests including past US presidents and a host of famous Hollywood stars.

One of my favourite tract housing schemes in Palm Springs would have to be the 1961-62 Steel Houses built by the Alexander Construction Co. and designed by local Palm Springs architectural firm Wexler and Harrison. Designed for the masses using prefabricated steel components, the houses were able to be constructed in a mere four weeks. This particular Steel House has been meticulously restored by its present owner and now once again offers the quintessential mid century Palm Springs experience.

Steel House #2, bought by Brian McGuire over a decade ago has been restored back to its original former glory with his eye for detail - check out the fabulous colour co-ordination! The Palm Springs preservation community had much to celebrate last year when Steel House #2 became the first mid century modern building in Palm Springs to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hopefully this will pave the way for others.....

I had read much about the relatively recent renovation and somewhat controversial new colour scheme of the Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs....and seeing it I wasn't disappointed!  The riotous use of colour  highlighting the strong repetitive geometry of the architecture  is nothing short of breathtaking against the endless blue of the desert sky. And if that wasn't enough the buildings are peppered with a smattering of slender, reach for the sky, palm trees...too gorgeous for words!

An annual and much anticipated event during Modernism Week is the Retro Martini Party hosted by the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation (PSPF) in a different and often secret  location each year. This year's party was  held in the 1962 Abernathy House designed by architect William F. Cody. This house was featured in the Dec/Jan 2011/12 issue of Australian Belle magazine. The Retro Martini was a fabulous party and  I even managed to coordinate my accessories with the car - very mid century!

One of the highlights of Modernism Week this year was 'The Public and the Modern House' symposium and house tour organised by the Art and Design Council of Palm Springs. As a passionate advocate for the preservation of mid century modern architecture it was an extraordinary experience akin to being in mid century heaven! The day ended at the iconic Winter's Residence designed by Palm Springs architect William F. Cody sipping cocktails as the sun set turning the surrounding mountains the most glorious shade of pink- an incredible end to Modernism Week 2013.

For more information, check out the Modernism Week website, the Palm Springs Modern Committee and the Palm Springs Museum.

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