Palm Springs

Two Iconic Homes



Last month, I had the pleasure of touring two iconic, mid-century modern homes in Palm Springs.  Frey House II, designed by the creator of desert modernism, architect Albert Frey.  And Sunnylands, the stunning estate of Walter and Leonore Annenberg.

Frey House II

Frey House II

After living in his home for more than 30 years, Albert Frey donated it to the Palm Springs Art Museum after his death in 1998.  It is rarely open to the public.  The Annenberg estate opened its doors just three years ago, so it was a very special treat for me to be able to to visit both of these homes!

View from Frey House II

View from Frey House II

Frey House II is perched part way up the Palm Springs San Jacinto mountains and looks across the expanse of the Coachella Valley.

Measuring only 800 square feet, it was at the highest elevation of any residence in Palm Springs when it was completed in 1964.

Corrugated Aluminum

Corrugated Aluminum

His choice of materials, colored concrete block, corrugated aluminum siding and vast expanses of glass reflected his understanding of the desert climate, light and mountain views.

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Frey took five years to select the site and another year to measure the movement of the sun around the property.  He designed it specifically to have little impact on the surrounding environment.

One of the most famous elements of the property is the incorporation of a large boulder into the design.  It protrudes into the house and acts as a divider between his bedroom and living room.

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During his long life in Palm Springs, Frey designed over 200+ structures, including two homes for himself.

Desk / Work area

Desk / Work area

Frey House I was a tiny 320 square-foot structure build in 1940 with a second story added in 1953.  Frey House I no longer exists.

Pool under construction

Pool renovation


Hillside seating for two!

Mountainside seating for two.  Cocktails anyone?


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The views and light here are incredible.  None of us wanted to leave…

Sunnylands, Walter and Leonore Annenberg’s Rancho Mirage 200-acre estate, is purely modern.

It was designed by Southern California architect, A. Quincy Jones.

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Renowned interior designer, William Haines, decorated the 25,000 square foot home.  We were unfortunately not allowed to take any pictures inside the home on the tour.

Sunnylands opened its doors to the public for the first time in 2012.

Walter and Leonore Annenberg built Sunnylands (1963 – 1966) as a winter retreat from their home in Philadelphia.  The home was built with the purpose for grand occasions.  The architecture reflects open gracious living for guests and family to enjoy.

Leonore wanted the roof to reflect the glow of the desert sunset.  The style departs from mid-century modern design, with a nod to the Mayan culture.  You see the “Annenberg pink” all over the property.




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It was such a contrast touring the 800 square-foot Frey House II and then the 25,000 square-foot Annenberg estate, both perfect examples of midcentury modern architecture.

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the wry home


Martinis &
Midcentury Modern

Midcentury Modern Madness in Palm Springs last weekend!

Architects to know:  Albert Frey, Richard Neutra, Donald Wexler, William Cody, A. Quincy Jones, Charles Tanner.

Styles to memorize: Butterfly Roof, Swiss Miss, Brise-Soleil, Pattern Block, Clerestory Window.

Neighborhoods to browse:  Little Beverly Hills, Twin Palms, Old Las Palmas, Movie Colony East, Tennis Club.

All this, and 110 degree heat, had my head spinning!

Modernism Week in Palm Springs is all about the appreciation of midcentury architecture and design.

There are amazing tours of historic homes, parties, lectures and education about all things midcentury modern.

1946 Richard Neutra

1946 Richard Neutra

You might recognize this house from the famous Slim Aarons photo “Palm Springs Gossip.”

"Palm Springs Gossip"

“Palm Springs Gossip”

The current owners have restored this beauty back to its original condition.

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Mr. Frank Sinatra would hang a flag between two palm trees on his property (on right) to let his Hollywood peeps know he was having a party.

Frank Sinatra home / 1947

1947 Frank Sinatra home, designed by E. Stewart Williams

His “Twin Palms” estate set the standard for postwar Hollywood glamour and the ever-important cocktail hour.

1964 Dinah Shore home, designed by Donald Wexler

1964 Dinah Shore home, designed by Donald Wexler

Dinah Shore and many of her LA friends lived close together with secret backyard entrances between their homes.  Leonardo DiCaprio owns her home now.

1935 William Tanner

1935 Charles Tanner Community Church

The historically significant Palm Springs Community Church, designed by Charles Tanner, was considered avant-garde at the time.  It was destroyed in a September 2013 fire, but is slated for renovation and reuse in a collaboration between an LA design firm and the Palm Springs Architectural Advisory.

1966 Robert Alexander

1960 Robert Alexander

This pink “House of Tomorrow” is a midcentury modernism icon.  Elvis Presley leased the home in September 1966 for one year as a retreat from his activities in LA.  He and Priscilla honeymooned here in May 1967 and had Lisa Marie nine months later.

1947 William Cody

1947 William Cody

The Del Marcos Hotel was designed in 1947 by famed desert architect William Cody.  The 17-room hotel is the perfect midcentury modern place to stay in Palm Springs!

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My weekend also included fun in the sun.  DELICIOUS mojitos by my friend Jackie.  Charlotte and San Francisco friends gathering for dinners and parties.

A mean game of hearts ended my Palm Springs stay.  We played before, during and after dinner.  And D, I did not cheat!!!!!

Thanks to my Palm Springs hosts and all of the shenanigans that went along with the long weekend.

It is exciting to see all of the effort being put into the preservation of modern design, architecture and urban development in Palm Springs.  The midcentury modern period (1933 to 1965) is recognized by scholars and museums as a significant movement.

the wry home