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Palm Springs Modernism: Designers and Stories of ICONIC Homes

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The lure of retro themes and Mid-Century Modern architecture beckons those with a love for design. Meet three top designers who have made Palm Springs their home.

Palm Springs boasts the most significant collection of Mid-Century Modern homes and notable vintage neighborhoods. Some of the most famous architects have left their mark on the desert community, including William Cody, Richard Neutra and Albert Frey.

A playground for politicians, presidents and entertainers, Palm Springs became Hollywood in the desert, given its proximity to Los Angeles. Actors could escape to this nearby enclave for social events and still be within the two-hour rule of most studios when working.

Combine celebrity ties with design, and Palm Springs is a place full of stories and excitement. It’s no wonder designers and architects alike find this destination ripe for renovation. In this case, reimagining each property while staying true to the form and function is what makes this small city great and worthy of celebration each year during Modernism Week, which celebrates Mid-Century Modern design and the fashion and culture surrounding it.

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Anne Michaelsen Yahn:

Anne Michaelsen Yahn, designer in Palm Springs

Paige Ratcliffe Photography

Known for her deep understanding of defining the dynamic edge between classic and modern, Anne Michaelsen Yahn has transformed her ICONIC house in the Marrakesh community into a contemporary oasis. With more than three decades of success, Michaelsen Yahn is an expert in her field. As a member of ASID and The Orange County Design Alliance, Michaelsen Yahn has garnered countless accolades and awards for design.

Paige Ratcliffe Photography

Originally, Michaelsen Yahn had no interest in residing in Palm Springs until she was introduced to the rosy allure of the Marrakesh community. “A friend introduced me to the Marrakesh Country Club neighborhood. Immediately, I fell in love with the preserved Hollywood Regency architecture, the massive rooms, the grandeur of the views, and everything the neighborhood and community had to offer,” she said. 

The Marrakesh community was the last project of renowned Hollywood Regency architect John Elgin Woolf. Elgin’s specific vision and appreciation for beauty were the driving forces that created this ICONIC community. Michaelsen Yahn utilized her design knowledge to create a unique home without compromising its history. The name of the home Michaelsen Yahn designed is “La Maisonnette” which translates to little house and perfectly encapsulates the space she created—not grand in size but in elegance.

Paige Ratcliffe Photography

“I love my home! Being able to draw from the past, honor the legacy of the original architecture and bring it to modern conveniences was a dream come true,” Michaelsen Yahn remarks. “Paying homage to the home’s elegance, high ceilings and glamorous Hollywood lifestyle is what I’m always looking for. Opportunities like this – staying true to a home’s roots while modernizing- perfectly encapsulate my motto of ‘Contemporary Living, Classically Inspired.”

Barclay Butera: 

Barclay Butera Inc.

Celebrated interior designer and author of six books, Barclay Butera is a pioneer in the design community. His approach to elegant, glamorous and chic interiors has landed him partnerships with some of the industry’s most respected brands. 

With Butera’s busy, on-the-go lifestyle, the tranquility and unique aesthetic of Palm Springs gives Butera a healthy balance of work and relaxation. Not only does Palm Springs offer a relaxing getaway, but the ties to original Hollywood superstars are one thing that resonates with Butera. 

Barclay Butera's house in Palm Springs

Barclay Butera Inc.

“I think the thing that draws me to Palm Springs the most is the history and ties to the golden age of Hollywood,” Butera says. “The legendary stories of Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, and, of course, Frank Sinatra are still very much alive. I try to frequent the celebrated restaurants that were the haunts of these notables from decades ago. The extraordinary thing about Palm Springs is that you can find tranquility and relax or go out in the town; it is the best of both worlds. Plus, I have recently gotten into golf, and there’s nothing better than hitting the courses in sunny Palm Springs with friends and family.”

Barclay Butera's living room in Palm Springs Home

Barclay Butera Inc.

Butera’s beautiful Spanish home sits on a half-acre lot and projects brightness and light while maintaining the elegance and glamor often found in his work. 

“Spanish architecture tends to be dark and moody. I wanted a bright, happy home and we achieved that.,” Butera explains. “I did add new flooring, comfortable new furnishings and gorgeous artwork. Outside, we added magnificent tile touches, and we also added fantastic new lighting inside and out! The home glows; it’s so welcoming and inviting. I love pulling in the driveway and enjoying my perfect little enclave in the heart of Palm Springs.” 

Barclay Butera's kitchen in Palm Springs Home

Barclay Butera Inc.

Mark Sacro

Michael Berman is a renowned interior, product and furniture designer, completing high-end projects from coast to coast. Berman’s work reflects his interest in history, art, architecture and nature. 

“I’ve always been a somewhat eclectic interior designer,” Berman says. “I’ve loved different eras and styles such as the streamlined modernism from the 1930s, art deco furnishings from the 1940s, atomic age furnishings from the 1950s and Mid-Century Modern furnishings from the 1960s into the late 70s and early 80s. I love putting things together, and I think an interior that speaks to the owners’ personalities is always more interesting than a formulaic type of interior.” 

 

Michael Berman's living room in Palm Springs home

Mark Sacro

With the aesthetic of Palm Springs similar to Berman’s style preferences, it’s no surprise that Berman gravitated to the desert city’s relaxing lifestyle and striking architecture. Palm Springs not only offered Berman a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding metropolitan cities but also inspired him for his work. 

“I started coming out to the Desert area in the mid-80s; it was wonderful,” Berman explains. “There is a certain amount of glamor and ease of living lifestyle associated with Palm Springs from the 1960s and early 70s that is alive. So we came out one weekend,  bought a house and started living life. I’ve always been one to look back for inspiration, so anything vintage and retro was very inspiring to me, especially for my Interior Design Projects and my furniture company.”

Mark Sacro

Berman’s home in Palm Springs reflects his eclectic style and life experiences. Pieces symbolic of his and his life-partner, David Rubin’s journeys are showcased throughout the home. 

“We are interested in mixing antiques with soft modern furnishings such as Asian, British Colonial and Danish pieces with simple silhouettes,” Berman says. “The juxtaposition of texture and sheen is always a gorgeous combination that pairs well with our eclectic mix of art, including African masks from our trip to Tanzania, bronze Buddha from our visit to India and our vintage and modern photography and paintings. “

 

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