A Weekend in Palm Springs with Barclay Butera: Modernism Week Edition


Modernism Week in sunny Palm Springs California is by far one of my favorite design events of the year.  In just a short drive from Los Angeles or Newport Beach where I live, you are taken back to an era where martinis flowed and there was no shortage of bold design. 

I’ve been blessed many times in my life, but the time I owned the legendary Twin Palms Estate, the home of Frank Sinatra, is one that stands out as a pinch me moment.  Being that Mr. Sinatra was the man who put Palm Springs on the map for A-list celebrities, it’s only right that we start with a tour of this home.  The estate’s interior has a neutral yet sophisticated style and is the perfect blend of iconic midcentury design and Hollywood glamour.  The home was built in 1947 by architect E. Stewart Williams who somehow convinced Frank Sinatra to build a midcentury home, although he was addiment on building a Georgian style mansion.  A popular destination for the rich and famous, the home also experienced celebrity scandal and romantic drama.  You’ll still be able to see a chip on the bathroom sink imposed by Frank throwing a champagne bottle at his second wife, Ava Gardner.  Oh if those walls could talk!  One of my favorite features of the home is the outdoor pool.  As the sun shifts and sets, the shadows create the look of a grand piano over the pool. 

I appreciate the way West Elm has taken an iconic moment in time and has freshened it up to make it relevant to today’s millennial demographic and beyond.  West Elm’s furnishings are approachable, affordable but most importantly fashionable.  Together again with Acme House Company, West Elm transformed this Palm Springs home into a luxury oasis, and starting this Spring, it will also be available to book as a vacation rental.  A shift from last year’s home, West Elm chose to design this year’s Modernism Week house with products from their Fair Trade Certified program.  The exterior also features modish murals by Shawn Savage of Savageart and Robert Landry of Crater Studio. 


I didn’t fully understand the importance and uniqueness of The Hidden Frey house, restored by Thomboy Properties and originally designed by Albert Frey, until I arrived and took the walk downstairs to reach the sunken home.  It turns out, there’s a good reason why Hollingsworth decided to excavate the lot below street level. In order to satisfy the concerns of Charlie Farrell had of having a chained fence adjacent from his Racquet Club, Hollingsworth, in good faith, pulled some strings to minimize the tennis court’s visibility. 

Upon entering the 1966 tennis estate, you’re first greeted by the elevated pool area that overlooks the famed tennis court.  A modest home at 1,900 sq. ft. compared to the size of the grounds at 15,000 sq. ft., the three bedroom, four bathroom home features a rolled roof, cantilevered carport and artwork and mural by Shawn Savage

A Moroccan Modern twist to midcentury modern design, the exquisite 1975 custom built home by architect Hal Lacy adds drama with angled walls, color and a mix of vintage and modern new pieces.  The dining room features Dunne-Edward’s color of the year, Green Hour and a vintage Lightolier chandelier from Hedge Palm Springs.  The most muted room, the living room, showcased an array of vintage pieces, including vintage Stiffel brass lamps, vintage matching Widdicomb sideboards, vintage Jere Stars on the fireplace mantle and a vintage 3-piece sectional re-upholstered in Fabricut Bolero.  It was the perfect setting for an evening cocktail party in the desert to end our Modernism Week festivities. Thank you Ferguson Kitchen and Bath for having us!