Palm Springs Architectureback to article list
WORDS Amber Baker
Made famous as a holiday escape for Hollywood icons with its quirky architecture and dry predictable weather, it’s now more popular than ever as a stop-off destination for both tourists and Coachella festival-goers. Palm Springs has perhaps the most recognisable residential aesthetic than anywhere else in the US. No other city can rival the mid-century architectural and landscaping modernism of this desert resort spot, but that shouldn’t stop lovers from all corners of the globe from bringing a taste of the famed Coachella Valley into their own homes.
Here we reveal what it is that makes a home quintessentially 'Palm Springs'.
Having experienced it first-hand, believe me when I say the dry intense heat of Palm Springs is no joke. Design in areas like this is a result of simply responding to the harsh climate. Homes here typically have generous flat roof overhangs, giving enough shade for residents. Overhangs are a great way to achieve indoor-outdoor flow, whether you’re desert-based, up in the hinterlands or beachside. With an average high temperature of 42 degrees Celsius in summer, it’s not surprising a key feature of homes here is breezeblocks. These geometric concrete walls not only allow ventilation, but also establish privacy, sun shading and security. Breezeblocks are a great way to break up space in your home or perimeter, while retaining a feeling of openness.
Floor to ceiling windows are a must-have, but only at the back of the house. The glass box effect here is less fish-bowl than other styles, with an unspoken rule of minimal street-facing windows and more emphasis on achieving complete indoor-outdoor flow in the backyard, as well as highlighting views of the surrounding mountains. Mid-century inspired décor from the original days in the valley is perhaps now easier to obtain, with gold accents, framed 60s era wall prints, plush velvet furniture and retro bar carts available.
LANDSCAPING & POOLS
Xeriscaping is the key for a dry climate like Palm Springs, and it is comfortingly low maintenance. Cacti and succulents with synthetic lawns and stone-based gardens are an easy way to imitate the easy outdoor glamour of this town. Although iconic, try to avoid the renowned pink flamingos and opt for a classier poolside feature. A retro striped or pastel throwback sun umbrella wouldn’t go amiss, particularly if poolside with minimal shade from taller trees like the washingtonia filifera palm. It’s not Palm Springs if there ain’t a pool… because of the flat land of the area, mid-century style pools all tend to be perfectly level with the flooring in the home, allowing for the perfect flow from martini making in the kitchen to sipping poolside. Privacy is also a big factor, houses are less exposed with entirely enclosed backyards and pool complexes with high shrub-lined concrete walls - possibly to hide the outrageous pool party shenanigans of the late 1960s.
DRIVEWAYS & ENTRANCES
The introduction to a home is always important, but no one does it quite as bold as those in the valley. Think long expansive perfectly groomed driveways, lined with palm trees, cacti or desert grasses, guiding guests to a thoughtful (often symmetric) front door area. Curb appeal is a big factor here, a consistent theme is elegant but dramatic doorways with geometric elements, breezeblocks, rock gardens and feature walls. With the natural surrounding terrain being stark and harsh (and often exterior walls of a neutral material palette) pops of colour can be used to bring life to a space. Front doors are often painted in bright pinks, yellows and blues – this can be a fun way to have your home standout on the street, and if you’re lucky, your neighbours will be as accepting of modernism as the folks in Palm Springs.
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