Design lovers flock to Palm Springs every year for Modernism Week, a celebration of the style that put the city on the mid-century modern map. But what if you had other things to do in February? You’re in luck: Many of the most incredible homes welcome renters and visitors alike, all year round. With some caveats — those tours sell out quickly, and four-figure stays are assuredly the norm — here’s how to get a peek inside some very rarefied homes.
If you’re looking for a worthy splurge, rent out Desert Wave, also known as the Miles C. Bates House. Built in 1955 by Walter S. White (no, not that Walter White), it was Bates’ sculpting studio, with unparalleled views of the Palm Desert. The nickname refers to the “roller coaster roof,” which is rendered in the design of a wave. The rental will set you back $1,000 per night, but where else can you stay in a bachelor pad straight out of a Bond film?
Dinah Shore Estate
The Dinah Shore Estate in Old Las Palmas gets its name from the Big Band-era singer who hired architect Donald Wexler to design the home in 1963. In 2014, it was purchased by Leonardo DiCaprio for a cool $5.23 million, although you’re unlikely to see him there. Instead, the six-bedroom home operates as a vacation rental, with a private pool, tennis court and grand piano at your disposal. The home and separate guest house are available with a two-night minimum stay for $3,750 per night, with the housekeeping assessed separately.
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Franz Alexander Residence
In Palm Springs’ Little Italy neighborhood, the Dr. Franz Alexander Residence was built in 1956, also by architect Walter S. White, for the titular Alexander, a famed psychoanalyst, and his wife, an artist. What sets the home apart is the degree to which it was designed to permit a seamless co-existence with the surrounding landscape of the desert city, with a cambered roof allowing in copious sunlight. Get a look at it in person with Modern Tours, with additional stops at other homes.
Frederick Loewe Estate
If you nab one of the extremely limited tours of the Frederick Loewe Estate, you won’t soon forget it. Constructed in 1956, the 2.5-acre estate was the home of Broadway composer Loewe, known for his work on My Fair Lady and Brigadoon. In a 1960 issue of Time, Loewe called it his “airy, glass pleasure dome” for its mountain views and abundance of desert plant life. (And, uh, various pleasures that he did not further describe.) Modern Tours also visits the Loewe estate, or rent it out: $2800 per night, with a three-night minimum.
Frey House II
The Frey House II is named for the famed Modernist architect Albert Frey, who created local landmarks like Palm Springs City Hall. This home, managed by the Palm Springs Art Museum, was his second home in the area, built in 1964 to overlook the Coachella Valley. The influence of its rocky surroundings is communicated in the living room’s exposed stone. Visits are offered through Modern Tours as an add-on to the standard tour.
The Lautner Compound
Starchitect John Lautner is known for his work in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, including the residence of Bob Hope, a futuristic home that looks straight out of The Jetsons. This 1947 house is one of the few you can actually visit, originally envisioned as a planned community. After the first prototype was built, the building sat vacant for decades. Today it’s the Lautner Compound, a four-unit rental and event facility — there’s a long list of chores for renters, but at least the nightly fee is under $500 (note the two-night minimum). You can also attend the seasonal Sunset and Sips Happy Hour, which includes drinks and tours.
Built in 1966, Sunnylands has hosted a wide array of storied guests over the years, including seven US presidents, multiple governors and Queen Elizabeth — Frank and Barbara Sinatra even got married here. Owned by Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg, the home was designed by A. Quincy Jones with a roof inspired by a pyramid. Today, the estate offers retreats for world leaders. Monthly tours are available, though they sell out quickly.
There may be no Palm Springs home more iconic than the Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate, the Movie Colony home where the crooner lived with wife Nancy, and later with film star and second wife Ava Gardner. Designed by architect E. Stewart Williams, the estate earned its name from the iconic trees that sit on the property. The home is open for private tours and as a vacation rental through Natural Retreats — it’s $3,000 per night and sleeps eight.
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