Renovated Mid-Century Modern – What Does That Mean?

36421 Sandsu Rancho Mirage Remodel

If you are a Modernista looking at the good number of Mid-Century homes for sale in the Palm Springs area, you will frequently see these terms used in For Sale ad.

A quick search of our local MLS for MCM listings using the exact term “renovated” turns up about 30 listings, all in varying states of renovation.

For reference here is an example of a fully renovated Krisel.  Continue reading “Renovated Mid-Century Modern – What Does That Mean?”

The Lost Mid-Century Moderns in Palm Springs

73110 Grapevine in Palm Desert.  

We have many fine examples of this architectural genre that are “The Lost Mid-Century Moderns” because we can’t connect them with their architect.  These post and beam homes were designed for maximum light, view lines and contact with the desert. Take this home for example.

According to the County Tax Assessor record, it was built in 1957.  A knowledgeable visitor pointed out that the raked stucco exterior was often used by E. Stewart Williams, and the time frame was right. Continue reading “The Lost Mid-Century Moderns in Palm Springs”

Walter S. White, One of the Great Palm Springs Area Architects

Photo: George Gutenberg

Drawings for the Johnson-Hebert Residence by Walter S. White (1917-2002) date to early 1958.  By that time, White had perfected his ideas for mid-twentieth century modern desert residences.  Typically, he first conceived a roof for without shade, life in the desert was unbearable.  Underneath he, second, placed space-defining walls, usually not more than two per room and sometimes extending beyond the roof line in order to mark outdoor living spaces.  Third, the remaining sides of the rooms White enclosed with large expanses of glass.

Walter S. White (1917-2002), Paulette Johnson house, Palm Desert, CA, 1958, preliminary design showing the unrealized hypar roof. Image courtesy of Architecture and Design Collection, Art Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara. © UC Regents.
Walter S. White (1917-2002), Paulette Johnson house, Palm Desert, CA, 1958, preliminary design showing the unrealized hypar roof.
Image courtesy of Architecture and Design Collection, Art Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara. © UC Regents.

White liked to experiment with the roofs.  Curved shapes were a favorite of his; the Bates Residence (1954) in Palm Desert features a wave-like roof, a simple concave curve graces the Alexander Residence (1955) in Palm Springs.  By the later 1950s, White was fascinated by hyperbolic paraboloid (hypar) shapes.  Formed like a saddle, or a Pringle potato chip, these roofs were self-supporting and offered maximum freedom for the interior arrangements. Continue reading “Walter S. White, One of the Great Palm Springs Area Architects”

Palm Springs is a Mid Century Modern Shopping Paradise

Palm Springs is synonymous with Mid Century Modern architecture, an era that emerged in the post-war 1950s through the 1970s. A revival of modernism gained momentum in Southern California and has grown around the world for more than a decade.

It began in Palm Springs in 1992 when investment manager Brent Harris and his wife Beth, an architectural historian, bought Richard Neutra’s Kauffman House with the intention of restoring the historic house to its original design.

However, finding original or replacement sources for paint, cabinetry, fixtures, sheet metal and stone was a challenge, as were finding furnishings later on.

The Harrises hired Marmol Radziner + Associates to restore the house. The team went to such lengths as purchasing a metal crimping machine to reproduce the sheet-metal fascia that lined the roof and even re-opening a long-closed section of a Utah quarry to mine matching stone to replace what had been removed or damaged. Continue reading “Palm Springs is a Mid Century Modern Shopping Paradise”

The Landmark Kaufmann House Still Makes News

This month’s Palm Springs Life’s home feature, “The Road to Fame and Fortune,” by Greg Archer ( opens with one of the area’s most famous homes, the Kaufmann House, a 1946 glass, steel and stone landmark designed by architect Richard Neutra.

The home has twice been at the vanguard of new movements in architecture:  First by helping to shape postwar Modernism and later, as a result of a painstaking and expensive restoration in the late 1990s, spurred a revival of interest in mid-20th century homes, according to a New York Times review by Edward Wyatt (

This house continues to make news as an important landmark.

One of the best-known icons by Viennese émigré Neutra, who moved to the United States in the 1920s, this unusual pin-wheel plan house was designed for Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann.  It was the last domestic project by the architect, and arguably his most famous. Continue reading “The Landmark Kaufmann House Still Makes News”

All About Alexander Homes

Plans are underway for the 10th Anniversary of the “Great Alexander Weekend” in Palm Springs, March 26-27, 2011. The Palm Springs Preservation Foundation ( ) is planning a full weekend of home tours, seminars, cocktail receptions and special tributes to one of Palm Springs’ most influential and innovative home builders.

The Great Alexander Weekends and PSPF’s tribute book, When Mod Went Mass, have garnered significant awareness of the Alexander-built tract homes by architect William Krisel, and helped leverage even more importance to the genre of Mid-Century Modern homes, commercial and public buildings which are prevalent throughout Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

From as early as the 1920s and through the 1970s, an impressive roster of talented architects have been captivated by Palm Springs:  R.M. Schindler, Richard Neutra, and Lloyd Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright’s son); young Swiss architect Albert Frey whose work profoundly influenced desert architecture; and regional modernists William F. Cody, Donald Wexler, E. Stewart Williams and Krisel. Continue reading “All About Alexander Homes”

The Elrod House in Palm Springs is For Sale

Architect John Lautner’s Elrod House Now On the Market

Architect John Lautner’s iconic Arthur Elrod House ( is back on the market with a  price tag of more than $13 million.

The late architect, renowned for his organic structures, composed  this amazing home carved into the rugged Southridge foothills overlooking  Palm Springs in 1968.  The house has been featured extensively in lifestyle, architecture and design magazine articles ( and is best known  as the James Bond bachelor pad in Diamonds are Forever. It is one of three buildings in Palm Springs by Lautner:  Bob and Dolores Hope’s “space ship” domed home also on Southridge (1979) and the Desert Hot Springs Motel (1947).

The Elrod  house contains many Lautner hallmarks:  a difficult site, harsh environment, modest entrance that conceals soaring space, and rooms that conversely move between indoors and out.  The 8,901-square foot house possesses a daring Mid-Century design and breathtaking vistas. Continue reading “The Elrod House in Palm Springs is For Sale”

The West Coast’s Largest Design Event

West Coast’s Largest Design Show Celebrates the Best Modern Projects, Products and People.

If you can’t get enough Mid-Century Modern, do not miss Dwell On Design ( ), the West Coast’s largest design event, returning June 25-27 to the Los Angeles Convention Center.  Only a two-hour drive from Palm Springs.

Curated by the editors of Dwell Magazine, this three-day extravaganza features more than 200 brands on exhibition with design-forward exhibits, competitions, East and West side home tours, and over 80 presentations and panels by design industry  leaders and influencers. Continue reading “The West Coast’s Largest Design Event”

Home Prices – Will History Repeat Itself?

We see a lot of news about home prices, both good and bad.  Nobody can predict the future, but we might find clues about it in the past.  The Case-Shiller Home Price Index, captured the California home price collapse in 1990, as shown in the first chart – for high-tier Los Angeles homes.  Then the prices had increased by about a factor of two, just like our last bubble, as shown in the second chart.  The scale in the first chart has been expanded to show they were very similar bubbles, even to their relative size, shape, duration and the false recoveries in 1991 and 2007.  Maybe we can use the 1990’s experience to project our current recovery. 

If so, the blue bars show that it took seven years from the peak to just get to the point where prices began a true recovery.  Our price recovery may not start until 2013, and this is a worse economic situation than in the 1990’s. In between now and 2013 we may see still lower prices.  It is difficult to tell if the small peak we see today is a false recovery or the reaction to an overshoot in the drop, but from the last bubble it is not likely the beginning of recovery.  Again historically, that increase around 2013 will be at the rate of inflation, which in the long term is around 2.5% a year.  If so, this is relative price stability and isn’t bad news – volatility in home prices is the bad news because neither sellers or buyers know what to expect.  – Wayne Longman

Case-Shiller LA High Tier 1990 Bubble
Case-Shiller LA High Tier 1990 Bubble
LA Case-Shiller High Tier 2006 Bubble
LA Case-Shiller High Tier 2006 Bubble

Historically Significant “Cody” Mid-Century Modern

71388 Country Club Dr in Rancho Mirage

We just listed this historically significant “Cody” Mid-Century Modern in Rancho Mirage. This timeless, captivating Cody mid-century modern has been thoroughly updated without loss of its original style and integrity. The angular walls and roofline; open floor plan with generous amounts of glass, are in his classic style. Although believed to be by William F Cody, this has not been confirmed, but the City has designated this home as historically significant. Wonderful news for golfers the new owners are eligible for nomination for membership in Thunderbird Country Club!

Well located in central Rancho Mirage, on an eye-catching, private (approx.) 1/3 acre desert-landscaped corner lot, it has two solid steel gates that open to the circular driveway with a large parking area and double garage. Stonework (Palm Springs Gold) on the house looks the same as that Cody used on his awarding winning Del Marcos Hotel in Palm Springs.

Visitors are greeted with panoramic view of the pool and patio through eight glass panels. To your right is the dining area with patio access, and the kitchen, which has been completely renovated with Caesarstone Quartz countertops, hardwood maple cabinets and new appliances including a Bosch dishwasher. Find cork flooring in these areas, while the rest of the house boasts laminate wood floors, except for the bathrooms. The kitchen has direct access to the garage and laundry area.

The airy living room has the same glowing stonework surrounding the fireplace as found on the front of the house. South facing, it opens to the pool and patio, as do the first master and the third bedroom with a large closet, which has been opened for use as a den. The living room has double sliders that extend this area to the outdoors.

All the bathrooms have been updated. There is salt and pepper terrazzo for the floor and sunken tub in the first master, and Italian tile in the second master- and third bathrooms. The well-separated second master suite has a walk-in shower and private patio.

A cool-deck patio surrounds the 16 x 32 swimming pool with a 10 deep diving end, a fountain, and overlooks attractive desert landscaping with palms, mature cacti and fruit trees. Shade is provided by overhangs and retractable awnings.

All the windows and sliders have been replaced by Low-E double-paned glass with invisible V-Kool film, and most have Mecho mesh window shades. The original 2 x 6 construction has other updates that include two tank-less water heaters, dual-zone air conditioning, newer pool equipment and crushed stone roof.

It shares the same block as the famed Kenaston Residence, used by many Hollywood stars. An outstanding home at a very reasonable price.

Ralph  Haverkate