Modernism in Southern California
Photos and Words by Taylor Simpson
May 13th, 2019
From sweeping views of Los Angeles to blending in with the desert landscape, explore the iconic homes in Southern California's extensive mid-century repertoire.
Our journey back in time to this beloved era begins in the desert oasis of Palm Springs. Host to the design phenomenon, Modernism Week, Palm Springs is a mecca of original midcentury design. Start in the Twin Palms neighborhood and make your way through the winding neighborhood where you can see the homes below. Rather than boast about square footage and the number of bathrooms, homeowners are quick to rattle off the name of the architect who designed their home or let you know that it's featured on neighborhood tours during Modernism Week. Enjoy the laid back lifestyle and try not to get too jealous.
For those wanting to learn more about design theory and the elements that drove this style of architecture, exterior and interior tours are available of Frey House II located on a cliff overlooking downtown Palm Springs. Tours are organized through the Palm Springs Art Museum and generally only offered during Fall Preview Week and Modernism Week.
Other iconic homes that are frequently featured on tours are the Kaufmann Desert House and the Forgotten Frey, both located in Palm Springs. If visiting during a non tour time, feel free to take photos of the homes from the road. Both have spectacular settings and will leave you dreaming of building your own midcentury-inspired masterpiece.
A quick drive around town will reveal other midcentury gems like the Bank of America bank building, city hall and the visitor welcome center. Give yourself a full weekend to explore everything the town has to offer.
Our journey continues west to the city of Los Angeles. Plan in advance by booking tours to visit the Stahl House (book the evening tour if possible, you will experience Los Angeles move from day to dusk to evening, the tour is both exterior and interior), Ray and Charles Eames Home (you need to submit a request via the foundation's website 2-3 days in advance and the tours are exterior only), and Neutra VDL Studio and Residence (architecture students provide free tours of the studio on the weekends).