Best Cities in the U.S. for Mid-Century Modern Architecture


From Atlanta to San Diego, Austin to Denver, Palm Springs to Washington, D.C. and everywhere in between, the Mid-Century Modern style of design continues to draw new admirers each year.

While Mid-Century Modern architecture can be found across the United States, there are several locations that offer better examples and higher concentrations of Mid-Century Modern architecture than others.

Here is our list of the “Top 5 Best Cities in The U.S. for Mid-Century Modern Architecture” to help you learn more.

Understanding Mid-Century Modern Architecture

Characterized by flat planes, extensive use of glass, innovative building materials, and open design concepts, many of these homes were built between 1945 and the 1980’s. They were designed by a generation of modern architects that fled the rise of Nazi Germany, including Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius, who then taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

World War II would bring about experimental technologies and materials like steel and plywood, and architects’ designs would encourage residents to explore the world and nature in new ways. Frank Lloyd Wright, who trained many Mid-Century Modern architects, would also be a huge influence, particularly in Palm Springs, California.

Let’s begin our look at the best cities in the U.S. for Mid-Century Modern Architecture there. Continue reading “Best Cities in the U.S. for Mid-Century Modern Architecture”

Mid-Century Modern Furniture Stores in the Palm Springs Area

Mid-Century Modern Furniture Stores Palm Springs
Modern Way – Mid-Century Modern Furniture Stores Palm Springs

Palm Springs has one of the largest collections of Mid-Century Modern home furnishings, architecture and homes. Palm Springs has lots of great shopping for modern, nice retro, and great vintage. This is what Palm Springs is remembered for.

Palm Springs is a popular vacation destination for many Mid-Century enthusiasts, celebrities, and those who are looking for unusual designs in furniture.  Palm Springs has dozens of Mid-Century Modern shops – both thrift shops and upscale. Many of these stores offer pieces from the 1950’s, through the 1970’s. There are many vintage and Mid-Century Modern shops in Palm Springs. The greatest number of stores is on North Palm Canyon Drive in the design district of Palm Springs.

Listed below are a few of the best Mid-Century Modern stores in the Palm Springs are – from the well-known shops to some that are less well-known. Continue reading “Mid-Century Modern Furniture Stores in the Palm Springs Area”

Modernism Week 2014

Modernism Week 2016

Palm Springs in California has made its name over the years, to attract a lot of people from all over the world to the Palm Springs Modernism Week taking place from February 13th till 23rd, 2014.  This yearly event celebrates various cool parties, mid-century modern architecture and designs, special touring of homes and other adventures.

Modernism Week 2014 Retro Martini Party
Modernism Week 2014
Retro Martini Party


In addition to the Bus Tours showing architectural significant homes which runs on a daily basis four times during modernism week, the famous Estate of Annenberg at Sunnylands is open to the public for touring and the Convention Center in Palm Springs is holding the popular Modernism Show.  Another event which should not be missed is the Exposition of expanded Prefab Showcase and Modern Living which include:

Modern Mambo! Modernism Week After Dark Opening Night, February 13, 2014

Continue reading “Modernism Week 2014”

The 6 Coolest Mid-Century Modern Hotels in Palm Springs

Horizon Hotel exterior Palm Springs

The community of Palm Springs, California boasts one of the highest concentrations of Modernist Architecture in the world, making it a world-famous destination for aficionados of all things Mid-Century Modern. In fact, each February visitors from all over the country flock to Palm Springs to enjoy Modernism Week. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the 6 Coolest Mid-Century Modern hotels in Palm Springs and their characteristics. Perhaps you’ll stay in one of these exceptional masterpieces on your next visit or getaway to Palm Springs.

Before we delve into the hotels themselves, let’s take a look at the characteristics of the Mid-Century Modern style. After the first and second world wars, radically new architectural trends began to emerge in Europe, but the political environment in this region led architects to move to the United States. Their designs, celebrating a simplification of form, emphasized uncluttered lines and technological advancements in materials like steel, poured concrete and sheet glass. By the early 1920s, young architects were bringing these designs to Palm Springs. Often commissioned to create their designs for the wealthy, many of the best examples show a harmonious blend between form and function. Some of the characteristics include post and beam construction to minimize interior support walls, expansive exterior walls of glass with clerestory windows above, concrete floors indoors, decorative gravel ground coverings outdoors, warm colors such as muted orange and turquoise, and a minimalist approach to furniture. Continue reading “The 6 Coolest Mid-Century Modern Hotels in Palm Springs”

Donald Wexler – Iconic Mid Century Modern Architecture 1926-2015

Donald Wexler Steel House in Palm Springs
Donald Wexler Steel House, Palm Springs

Famous Palm Springs Architect

Architects Donald Wexler and Lance O'Donnell
Architects Donald Wexler and Lance         O’Donnell in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler practiced architecture during what he calls the “golden age” of California architecture from the immediate postwar years through the 1970s. This was a time when architects enjoyed considerable freedom to employ new materials and technologies in their search for functionally beautiful architecture.

The extremes of the desert climate forced Wexler to develop a sustainable architecture, which was not only successful functionally, but achieved a timeless aesthetic appeal. During a career that spanned almost six decades, he designed numerous houses, condominium complexes, as well as banks, office parks and schools.

Donald Wexler moved to Palm Springs in early 1953 to work with William Cody, a high-living socialite with a sense for solid design. He had intended to only stay about six months, but like many people, Donald Wexler fell hard for the Coachella Valley immediately upon arriving in Palm Springs!! After living here for six months “I didn’t want to live any where else.”

Donald Wexler lived and was educated in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and graduated from the University of Minneapolis. He also did a tour in the Navy in World War II. He still considered himself a mid-westerner.

Donald Wexler House in Palm Springs
Donald Wexler House in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler is about logic and efficiency. His architectural designed buildings fit together tightly, like machine parts. Nothing seems out of place and his details rarely distract from the whole design. Donald Wexler’s approach dates back many decades when architecture and design was supposed to be part of research and good thinking.

The Alexander houses that Donald Wexler designed almost four decades ago in North Palm Springs feature the “folded” metal roof that is his most famous motif design. It epitomizes the no-nonsense straightforward work of Donald Wexler. His designs are considered elegant, innovative, and very aware of climate.

Donald Wexler Steel House in Palm Springs
Donald Wexler Steel House in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler’s buildings have a quiet intelligence for human beings. His classic designs include El Rancho Vista Estates (1960), Alexander steel houses (1962) Dinah Shore House (1964), Palm Springs Airport (1966), plus many dozens more houses, commercial buildings, and schools. Many of them were built of prefab steel which was very innovative. He is thought of as being very detail-oriented, and his designs are very well thought out.

Steel and Shade Architecture

Donald Wexler considers steel, glass, and concretes the most appropriate materials for desert buildings, because they are inorganic according to him. They can take a beating of natural materials and do not require a lot of maintenance. The Alexander’s in North Palm Springs are perhaps the best-known example of Donald Wexler’s preference for inorganic construction materials.

Although, through his long career, which spanned the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, he always listened to his clients’ needs but he never compromised. Donald Wexler is described as being relaxed, pleasant, and open-minded. He believes these decades were the golden age of architecture before we had so many code restrictions on buildings.

Perhaps Donald Wexler’s legacy is still more remarkable because of the constraints he set for himself: To remain a small office and to build almost entirely in the Coachella Valley.

Donald Wexler's latest design in Palm Springs
Donald Wexler’s latest design in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler was disappointed that some of his buildings have been altered without sensitivity to his designs (these are houses that he will no longer enter). Donald Wexlerwas pleased about his career, particularly for the time when Palm Springs was a frontier of modernist building. In his words, “the buildings in the desert have stood up very well the only regret is that I am growing too old”

Heidi O”Neal

Sandpiper Condominium Circles 11 and 12 Designated a Palm Desert Historic District

Sandpiper’s circles are built around pools and green belts amid lush landscaping.

Sandpiper Condominium complex has just become one of Palm Desert’s most significant architectural residential communities.  This past spring, Palm Desert City Council unanimously voted Sandpiper Condominium Circles 11 and 12 – built in 1965 by the renowned architects Palmer & Krisel — as an Historic District.

Sandpiper's circles are built around pools and green belts amid lush landscaping.
Sandpiper’s circles are built around pools and green belts amid lush landscaping.

Palm Springs Preservation Foundation member Jim Harlan authored the nomination with the enthusiastic support of Sandpiper homeowners Barbara and Bernie Cain and Jim West. The process began last December and was successfully given approval this year.

Sandpiper was conceived as a low-density community and designed for maximum privacy and mountain views with pools, spas, a putting green and wide green belts amid lush landscaping.  Located at the west end of now famous El Paseo, today, it is within walking distance to some of the desert’s most trendy restaurants, galleries, shops, and malls.

While all of the buildings within the Sandpiper complex are designed in the modernistic style, they were built over time — from 1958 to 1969 – by different builders so that various circles have different characteristics.  But Circles 11 and 12, consisting of 16 buildings housing 32 units, were determined to “represent the most intact examples of modernist architecture,” according to the Palm Spring Preservation Foundation.

Sandpiper’s architectural features includes a flat roof, expansive use of glass, clerestory windows, and novel uses of then-new concrete screen block and Shadowall, multi-faceted concrete masonry.

In his report, Harlan notes that the complex Circles 11 and 12 are excellent examples of architecture built during the midcentury period with modern methods of construction.  In addition, they are the work of master architects, Palmer & Krisel.

“The architects’ successful site planning, landscape and architectural design create not only a unique but an early example of a multi-unit residential condominium project,” said Harlan in his report.Sandpiper 4

The two sections are a “singularly intact example of the significant modernist architecture for which the Coachella Valley is internationally known.”

Even when it was built, The Sandpiper complex was immediately recognized by the architectural community as an extraordinary effort that combined a sense of proportion, massing, refinement and use of modern materials and technology – a stylistic marker of the modernist movement.

Palmer & Krisel’s building design and site plan created a “built-environment” that attempted to combine the best of city and rural life in a utopian environment.

At the time, Sandpiper was advertised as “a new concept in carefree desert living” where “each Sandpiper apartment is cleverly arranged around a pool and garden area amid an oasis of tropical landscaping.”

Sandpiper unapologetically catered to the aspiring upper middle class, so that the feeling of the buildings had to exude urbanity but in a more informal resort setting.  Homeowners were promised a “garden apartment with maid, linen and other resort hotel services as your fingertips!”

The late 1950s were a sophisticated, optimistic and open time, a feeling still expressed by Sandpiper Circles 11 and 12’s design.  The buildings and site still retain a high degree of integrity and continues its association with the modernism movement that has made a significant contribution to the community.

Pamela Bieri





Palmer & Krisel Mid Century Modern Architecture Celebrated During Palm Springs 75th Anniversary

“Palm Springs should be very proud that it is known as the capital of the world for Mid Century Modern architecture,” said William Krisel, one of Palm Springs’ foremost MCM architects who designed Canyon View Estates for developer Roy Fey in 1962.

Krisel was interviewed for a Palm Springs Life story this month by Lawrence Karol. The feature focuses on two Canyon View Estates homes that have been refurbished by a younger generation of modernists.

This year, as Palm Springs celebrates its 75th anniversary, its prestige as an architectural center is clearly part of the celebration.  Krisel said that Palm Springs, “is the one city in America that really protects that design, advocated that design, and is proud of that design.”

A New Generation of Modernists

Continue reading “Palmer & Krisel Mid Century Modern Architecture Celebrated During Palm Springs 75th Anniversary”

Los Angeles Design Festival In Full Swing

Now underway through June 30 (2013), the Los Angeles Design Festival is an annual series of design events staged around greater Los Angeles that celebrates how design in — all its disciplines — impacts our quality of life.

A plethora of events are held from the Los Angeles Convention Center, home tours and skyline walks  to small design shops, produced by organizations and companies that have a point of view on design and its role in the LA environs and culture.  The Festival encompasses Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties.  Major sponsors and partners include Dwell on Design, The Lincoln Mercury Company, JC Penney, and the American Society of Interior Designers. Continue reading “Los Angeles Design Festival In Full Swing”

PST! There’s Still Time to Experience Pacific Standard Time: Modern Architecture

PSTP-Banner-combo2400x1696 (3)Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., a scaled down sequel to the first Getty initiative in 2011, is underway in Los Angeles and environs.  The current initiative celebrates Southern California’s immense impact on modern architecture with exhibitions and programs by 17 cultural institutions now through July, 2013.

Events are scattered across the city from construction sites to the Schindler House, and from Pasadena to Santa Barbara.

Just opened May 9, Everything Loose will Land, an installment at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, makes light of Frank Lloyd Wright’s infamous dig: “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”  In the 1970s, boundaries between L.A.  artists and architects blurred, leading to unprecedented collaborations and innovations. Function and form ceased to be distinct in this exhibit that unites PST’s emphasis on architecture and visual design. Continue reading “PST! There’s Still Time to Experience Pacific Standard Time: Modern Architecture”

The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands Is a Time Capsule of Past and Future

Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage was the winter home of former US Ambassadors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists Walter and Lenore Annenberg.

Designed by iconic Southern California architect A. Quincy Jones, the 22,500 square foot Mid Century Modern home, completed in 1966, served as an unofficial center for world leaders, US presidents, politicians and celebrities, who were frequent guests of the Annenbergs for more than 40 years.

Situated in the middle of 200 acres of landscaped grounds and a private golf course, all surrounded by pink block walls, anticipation of seeing the magnificent Aztec-inspired glass and stone estate builds as you drive up the winding road to the summit. Continue reading “The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands Is a Time Capsule of Past and Future”