People have flocked to the resort town of Palm Springs since the 1930s. Originally, it was an escape–either from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood, or the chill of northern winters. These days, though, Palm Springs is a year-round destination. Since the 1990s–when its mid-century modern architectural treasures were rediscovered by a new generation–Palm Springs has become a Mecca for collectors of twentieth century modern design.
Want to take some mid-century modern home with you? Well, you’re in the right place. In Palm Springs, you’ll find some of the very best vintage modern–all the fabulous furniture, lighting, and decorative arts that once filled these equally fabulous modern desert homes. Some vintage shops not to be missed:
111 Antique Mall
68-401 E. Palm Canyon Drive
2500 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Owners John Hall and John Connell have been part of the Palm Springs vintage modern scene for years (in fact, Hall practically created it, with his first shop). Of course, vintage modern wasn’t always as wildly popular as it is today. “It was a joke,” says Hall of the early years. “People were laughing at me.” Nobody’s laughing now, of course. There’s more than 23,000 square feet of space, and nearly 100 dealer spaces in what Connell calls their “two supermarkets of mid-century modern.” What’s hot? Hall and Connell say customers (including Jonathan Adler, who’s hauled away truckloads) are clamoring for 1970s glamour–especially chrome, Lucite (the work of Lucite pioneer Charles Hollis Jones, in particular), and mirror-covered pieces.
1035 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Proprietor Mike Sauls describes his shop as “a department store,” but Dazzles is perhaps best known for is its unmatched collection of costume jewelry. It’s all displayed like handmade candies in a pastry case–and the effect is mesmerizing. Glittery rhinestones, brilliant enamels, and colorful Bakelite–all of it authentic vintage pieces. Sauls says these “colorful, fun pieces” are popular in part because they take us back to simpler times, when good design could still be whimsical. And affordable. Sauls has something for every budget, so that, as he says, “people can bring a little something home with them.”
457 N. Palm Canyon Drive
The Galleria is made up of several different shops, covering a range of mid-century design. Up front you’ll find a spectacularly eclectic mix of items, including the best of American, French, Italian, and Scandinavian art and design. The collection reflects the varied interests of owner Jim Gaudineer, whose passion is “discovering the modern design that was going on all around the world,” including numerous “great unknowns.” Also at the Galleria are Phil Hawkins Fine Art and Antiques and, just across the way, Bon Vivant, featuring quality pottery, glass, art, jewelry, and assorted housewares–all at some of the most reasonable prices in town.
1117 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Co-owner Greg Ledesma says he lives modern furniture, keeping one eye on the classics, and one eye on the latest trends. That way, Ledesma and partner Glenn Clarke are able to fill out their inventory of vintage modern staples (think Knoll sofas with original Alexander Girard fabric!) with some flavors of the month (think Hollywood Regency decadence). When it comes to the trendy pieces, though, Ledesma likes to be a little cautious. Rather than jump on the bandwagon, he’d rather search out the “more unusual, one-of-a-kind” pieces, those that have what he calls “true beauty and craftsmanship.”
2755 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Visiting Modern Way feels a little like visiting the prop warehouse for a James Bond film. Although the place is loaded with a range of modern designs from the middle of the last century, what really jumps out at you is the white lacquer, chrome, and Lucite from the ’60s and early ’70s. And designer names like Charles Hollis Jones, Paul Evans, Milo Baughman, and Pierre Cardin. Courtney Newman, the owner, says it’s this “glamorous, sexy, flamboyant… and over the top” look he likes best. And it’s a look that’s becoming increasingly popular with savvy shoppers. “People understand it more,” says Newman, “so they want to mix it up.”
Palm Springs Consignment
2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive
James Claude and Miguel Linares have gotten settled into their new location on Palm Canyon Drive, and are enjoying the larger space. It hasn’t taken folks long to find them either–especially bargain-hunting dealers and set designers from L.A. (some of their best customers). And if the L.A. dealers shop here, that ought to tell you something. The best strategy: visit often. More than likely, you’ll stay awhile too–it’s that kind of a place. According to Claude, “we’re never too busy to look up and say hello to somebody walking in the store.” And it’s true–between the friendly staff, and store mascots Cody and Jack, you’ll want to make yourself comfortable and stay awhile.
666 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Patinas are fine for woods and metals, but when it comes to upholstered vintage furniture, sometimes “original condition” isn’t much fun. No problem. At Retrospect, you’ll find all your mid-century modern favorites restored to like-new (or better) condition. Owner Laine Scott says simply, “we restore everything.” Or, nearly everything. Scott is quick to add that he seldom tampers with “museum pieces.” Mostly, it depends on how the furniture is going to be used. Scott uses all new materials, from the springs to the fabric (some of which is actually unused vintage stock). In addition to pieces for his own shop, he also does restoration work for customers.
Studio One 11
2675 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Studio One 11 likes to stock what manager Will Raabe calls “stable items”–design icons from the 1950s and 1960s, like George Nelson case goods, Florence Knoll tables, and Richard Schultz lounges. According to Raabe, these are perennial favorites for their “simple and elegant forms.” In addition to the “stable items,” you’re sure to find some rare and exotic designs here as well. The sort of pieces you won’t see on HGTV or in the shelter magazines–the sort of pieces around which you’ll gladly redesign your entire home. Studio One 11 also promotes a handful of carefully selected local artists, whose work complements the vintage modern furnishings.
373 S. Palm Canyon Drive
The blurring of indoor and outdoor spaces is one of the signature elements of modern architecture–often in the form of modern planters. And the place to find these little gems (along with a modest selection of furniture and lighting, and a great selection of reasonably priced vintage clothing) is Vintage Oasis. Here you’ll find vintage Architectural Pottery, as well as more reasonably priced pots from Gainey Ceramics and others. Owner Trifon Trifonopoulos says they also carry some new pieces from Gainey that are not widely available. According to Trifonopoulos, “people are attracted to the timeless design” of these pots, as well as to their rugged, high-fired durability.
Where to stay
With all this great shopping–plus the spectacular architecture, of course–you may want to plan a weekend getaway. And anybody interested in mid-century modern will be delighted to learn that the Horizon Hotel (originally called L’Horizon) reopened last year, after a two-year, multi-million-dollar renovation. Situated on two-and-a-half acres with glorious views of the San Jacinto Mountains, the 22-bungalow hotel was originally designed in 1952 by renowned architect William F. Cody, a legend in Palm Springs. The Horizon remains one of the finest examples of Cody’s work, and is one of only a handful of authentic mid-century hotels in town. The Horizon Hotel, 1050 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264, 760.323.1858 or 800.377.7855, http://www.thehorizonhotel.com.