Located in the heart of the California desert, Palm Springs is famous for its colorful and original hotels, its beautiful swimming pools, its palm-lined avenues and its Coachella music festival.
But Palm Springs also has the largest concentration of mid-century homes in the United States, if not the world.
Strolling the streets of the city to admire these houses, with their unique desert modernism style, is one of the best activities to-do in Palm Springs.
It’s a paradise for modernist design and architecture enthusiasts, but even novices will find something to enjoy!
Here are the neighborhoods and streets not to be missed to discover mid-century homes in Palm Springs.
Desert modernism is the style that characterizes a lot of houses and buildings in Palm Springs.
In simple terms, it is a variation on the mid-century style, adapted to the Palm Springs lifestyle where leisure, proximity to the desert and fluidity between indoor and outdoor spaces are an important part of daily life.
There, you’ll find houses with clean and minimalist lines, a symbiosis between the interior and exterior spaces, large windows and the use of raw materials such as stone.
Architects who have left their mark on Palm Springs include William Krisel, Richard Neutra, William Cody and Albert Frey.
And of course, the fact that many of these homes were, or still are, owned by public figures and Hollywood stars also adds a special aura to them.
Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Marilyn Monroe and more recently Leonardo DiCaprio are just a few of the stars who have stayed in Palm Springs.
Where to go to see these famous mid-century houses?
A good option to discover these houses is to take a guided tour, in order to get more explanations about the houses and their architects.
Some of the tours offered, especially during Modernism Week, also allow you to visit the interior of these impressive homes.
Instead, we picked up A map of Modern Palm Springs, available at the Visitor Center for $5.
Unfortunately, although the map lists no less than 82 buildings with addresses, architect’s names and years of construction, I do not recommend it to create an itinerary and discover these houses.
Why is this? Simply because the iconic homes mentioned, designed by renowned architects, are mostly privately owned.
And because of the number of tourists and curious people wanting to have a peek of these houses, their owners have not skimped (with good reason) on the means to preserve their intimacy.
We ended up a bit disappointed by seeing nothing but wall corners and bits of roof behind low walls, fences and gigantic hedges.
And that’s without mentioning the fact that the presence of many “armed response” security signs made us feel like bad paparazzi.
And it would be a shame to limit yourselves to these properties when Palm Springs is overflowing with beautiful mid-century homes easily visible from the street.
Needless to say that we quickly got tired of following the map and we went to explore the streets by ourselves. And we loved the stroll, which was a favorite during our stay.
Before you start:
Please note: The streets mentioned in this article were chosen based on the fact that they contain several houses of interest easily visible from the street.
A quick reminder: most, if not all, of these homes are privately owned with people who live in it. To avoid outbursts like what happened with the house with the pink door #thatpinkdoor, and out of respect for those who live there, it’s best to stay on the sidewalk or in the street to discreetly take pictures.
Palm Springs neighborhoods and streets worth a visit
To say that Palm Springs is the mecca of modernist architecture is not an exaggeration at all.
Everything is beautiful, from simple visitor centers to hotels, banks, residences and even some gas stations !
There are far too many mid-century homes and architectural gems in Palm Springs to list them all, but this guide will give you a great overview of desert modernism and mid-century homes during your stay in Palm Springs.
The colorful doors and the small mid-century houses
A really interesting set of streets where you can see houses with colorful doors is this one, composed of:
- Camino Real;
Roundabout with mid-century houses in Palm Springs
Right next to it, do not miss the roundabouts with mid-century houses. With the mountains in the background, it’s beautiful and you really feel like you’re back in the 50s.
These are the streets:
- Alto circle;
- Toro circle;
- Flor circle;
- Azul circle.
Then, continue on Sierra Madre Street and San Jose Road, which also have beautiful mid-century houses, to get to East Sierra Way, where if you must, you can see the famous house with the pink door(1100 East Sierra Way).
Let’s face it, why this house is so popular on Instagram and has gone viral remains a mystery. It’s pretty, but it’s not the prettiest house or the most beautiful colored door in Palm Springs.
But the interior is really magnificent and you could even rent this house for your next vacation and live the life of the rich!
The Deepwell Estates area
Not far from the Saguaro Hotel(1800 E Palm Canyon Dr), which is an outburst of color in itself, the Deepwell Estates neighborhood is also worth a visit.
These are some of the streets you can explore in the Deepwell Estates area:
- Calle de Maria (don’t miss 1230 and 1344);
- Calle Marcus (including 1577 Calle Marcus);
- S. Driftwood drive.
Vista Las Palmas, Old Palmas and surrounding areas
There is a large concentration of modern houses, both architect’s houses and those that belonged to artists and public figures, in this neighborhood and the surrounding streets. Here are just a few:
- Marilyn Monroe’s house (1326 Rose)
- The Kaufmann House, by architect Richard Neutra (470 West Vista Chino Road)
- The house that belonged to pianist Liberace (1441 N Kaweah Rd)
- House of Tomorrow (1350 Ladera Circle) where Elvis and Priscilla Presley stayed on their honeymoon. The appeal was limited, however, as the house was partially hidden behind panels.
- Charles Dubois’ Swiss Misses, truly unique with their pointed roof, located at different addresses: 1133 Vista Vespero, 755 W Crescent Dr., 787 DryFalls, 1110 Abrigo Road, 700 and 855 Via Las Palmas.
- Dinah Shore Estate (432 Hermosa) whose facade visible from the street is nothing special except that it belongs to Leonardo DiCaprio and can be rented.
- Palm Springs Visitor Center (2901 N. Palm Canyon Drive), a former streetcar service station designed by Albert Frey.
Some streets to explore
In this area, several streets are also worth a visit:
- Francis Drive and East Francis Drive, where you can see the house with a pink flamingo mailbox (438 East Francis Drive)
- Plairmor Avenue with 2928, 2968 and 2980 East Plaimor Avenue.
Enjoy your visit!