Palm Springs Modernism Week: Soaking Up Sun, Fun, Design And Cocktails


For design aficionados, February’s centerpiece event isn’t Valentine’s Day or even Presidents Day Weekend but Palm Springs Modernism Week.  The annual event, which took place this year from February 11th through 26th, celebrates the best of Mid-century modern design in the city in which it still reigns supreme with a cornucopia of parties, home tours, lectures, exhibits, films and shopping. Here, highlights of some of the events we attended during our whirlwind week in the desert.  

This year’s event drew people from around the world, many of whom flew in to the Palm Springs International Airport where Wonderama’s Marc Joseph and artist Nat Reed had given the Virgin America gate a mod makeover, just in time for Modernism Week (and the arrival of President Obama, who, while he didn’t attend the festivities, clearly appreciates Midcentury Modern design; his stay at the iconic Sunnylands Residence attests to that!).  A glamorous Old Hollywood-themed party, featuring craft cocktails, cigarette girls and a red carpet, kicked off the festivities.  

Modernism Week CAMP — the moniker is short for Community and Meeting Place — was the touchstone for registration and relaxation amid the city’s hustle and bustle.  Located in the Robinson’s Building, a Class 1 Historic Property originally built in 1958 by Charles Luckman Associates and William Pereira for the J.W. Robinson Department Store, it proved the perfect hub for the week’s activities, a good place to hang out on the comfortable furniture provided by Room & Board, picked up a coffee or a salad from Cheeky’s  or take a turn around the “Mad Men” exhibit, sponsored by Tribeca Shortlist and Lionsgate. Curated by the show’s prop master Ellen Freund and its set decorator Claudette Didul, it included such iconic pieces as Roger Sterling’s couch, Don Draper’s desk, and Joan’s red dress. “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner and fashion designer Trina Turk joined the festivities for a special “Mad Men”-filled day. 


The lounge at CAMP featuring designs by Modshop, Ferguson, Caesarstone and Bosch.


The stunning Modshop lounge at CAMP

CAMP was also the setting for the Modern Market, the place to score a selection of modernist and modernist-inspired goods. Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting, Modernism Week’s largest sponsor, not only donated kitchen appliances for both The Christopher Kennedy Compound Modernism Week Showhouse 2016 and The Last Wexler: Steel and Glass House — two of the week’s hottest events — but also set up a test kitchen with the latest and greatest appliances from Bosch and stunning countertops by CaeserStone.  The lounge at CAMP was designed by the uber cool Modshop (, where daily happy hour events and demonstrations by local chefs were hosted including “Designing the Perfect Meal with Bosch”, “The Modern Whiskey Drinker: A Premium Glenfiddich Tasting Experience”, and the final event of the week “Last Call With Charles Phoenix” – which wrapped things up with a cake by Over The Rainbow Cupcakes and Desserts filled with locally grown dates and citrus.  In one of the many parties that took place all over the city, a gorgeous desert mansion in South Palm Canyon was the setting for a swanky cocktail event with breezes provided by Haiku’s impressive ceiling fans and cocktails served up by hostess with the mostess, Mrs. Lilien. 

For serious collectors, the 16th Annual Modernism Show & Sale at The Palm Springs Convention Center was the place to prowl for a breathtaking assortment of furniture, decorative and fine arts reflecting all design movements of the 20th century, presented by 85 premier national and international dealers. Of course, there are plenty of gorgeous shops and secondhand stores around Palm Springs where you can find Mid-century modern decor but for the creme de la creme, this was the place to be.

 Photo by Jake Holt

Home Tours, one of the lynchpins of the week, quickly sell out.  Included are private homes and residences that are normally closed to the public — like the Abernathy House (seen above), designed by Mid-century architect William F. Cody for millionaire socialite James Logan Abernathy in 1962; The Frank Sinatra House; and the last home built by Donald Wexler.  The Illuminated Modern Sunset Bus Tours, showcases the gorgeous architecture of these homes in all of their dramatically lit up nighttime glory. For another kind of living space, The Vintage Trailer Show highlighted mobile homes. From vintage Airstreams to a reimagined Greyhound bus, it was a cornucopia of trailers and campers celebrating the American dream to traverse our vast country by car.  

Photo by Jake Holt

For this year’s Christopher Kennedy Compound: Modernism Week Show House 2016, interior designer Christopher Kennedy once again pulled together a group of A-List designers — including Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, Carson Kressley, Michael Berman and Patrick Dragonette — to bring color, style, and design inspiration to a hand-picked Mid-century home, taking it from drab to fab.  With fixtures and appliances from Ferguson and a dazzling display of furniture, art, objects and wallpaper, it’s no surprise that it was one of the most Instagrammed events of the week.

Photo by Monica Orozco

For bloggers and Instagrammers, including the ModSquad, an invited group of social media stars who spent the week feverishly documenting the events, homes, food and beautiful details all around Palm Springs, Modernism Week’s Social House aka Desert Eichler #3, built by KUD Properties, based on Alexander blueprints and meticulously outfitted with furniture by Carl Hansen & Son was their home away from home.  

Photo by Jake Holt

As one of the final events of Modernism Week, guests were treated to free play on over 700 vintage pinball machines at the Museum of Pinball, which is only open to the public a few times a year. The “Jurassic Park” machine, in which an anamatronic dinosaur gobbles a ball, proved a particular favorite.  

Au revoir, Palm Springs!  Thanks Modernism Week!  Looking forward to next year!   

Photo Credits: All photos except final four by David A Lee.  Second to last photo by Monica Orozco; other photos by Jake Holt



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