These days, Palm Springs is predominantly associated with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which happens nearby in Indio, and which kicked off today. But many crop top-clad festival attendees may be unaware of the area’s rich heritage, particularly related to real estate from the mid-20th century.
The homes in Palm Springs are known for their retro style—these luxury Desert Modern homes feature open-design plans, wall-to-wall carpeting, swimming pools to cool off from the desert heat, and floor-to-ceiling windows. This look later became synonymous with the Palm Springs lifestyle of sipping on martinis after a day of golf at the local country club. Even today, the area feels like a blast from the past, and it’s easy to imagine celebrities like Frank Sinatra or Marilyn Monroe spending their vacations there.
In the area’s heyday Hollywood’s elite would come to Palm Springs as an escape from the movie business, and the Coachella Valley became a place to be seen, to party, to spread gossip, and to live in leisure.
New developments in the Palm Springs area are equally as grandiose and chic, but for different reasons. Two of the homes on our list are worth over $9 million each, and have become architectural stars in their own right.
Click through the gallery above to see 15 of the most iconic homes in Palm Springs!
Twin Palms Estate: Frank Sinatra and Nancy Barbato's home from 1947-1953 was designed by Stewart Williams. The estate boasts his famous grand piano-shaped swimming pool, four bedrooms, and a pool house. The home still includes his original sound and recording system, and small mementos like a crack in Sinatra's sink from a champagne-tossing brawl between him and his wife.
Sinatra's home was famous for hosting lavish parties with celebrities like Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and even Vice-President Spiro Agnew. In 1962, Sinatra made some major updates to his home to accommodate President John F. Kennedy's visit, which was later cancelled after rumors of his involvement in the mob started circulating.
These days, the estate is available to the public for rent.
Bing Crosby's Estate: Bing Crosby was an avid golf player, and helped establish the Thunderbird Country Club before selling his golf course lot in 1952 to buy this estate with his first wife Dixie Lee.
The luxury home is located on a hillside in the star-studded neighborhood of Thunderbird Heights. To get a sense of the place, the 7,000 square-foot lot was often dubbed "The Playground of Presidents."
These days, the spacious five bedroom and six bath home costs $3,000 per night to rent.
Steve McQueen's House: In 1963, Steve McQueen bought a home with Neile Adams in Southridge, later living there with his second wife, Ali MacGraw.
In 1971, Sports Illustrated featured the home, describing it as "some decorator's dream come surrealistically true. There are kongoni skulls and zebra skin pillows, the mounted head of a Boone and Crockett-class bighorn sheep, a gold-plated Winchester .30-30 'presentation model' hanging on one wall."
In Adams' memoir, she discusses McQueen's specific decorating instructions, who told her: "Just think of it as my pad, baby, OK? Decorate it as if it belonged to a man, a bachelor. No feminine stuff."
The Southridge home was built in 1968 by Hugh M. Kaptur, and features mountain views, and an expansive parking area for McQueen's extensive car and motorcycle collection (he had two Porsche 911s and six motorcycles in 1971). The living room is a steel I-beam, surrounded by a wrap-around balcony with giant sliding glass doors opening to the pool and private backyard.
The Elrod House: Also located in prestigious Southridge, this property is currently for sale at $9.5 million, and became famous after hosting the filming of the James Bond classic, "Diamonds Are Forever."
The five bed and six bath home took seven years to build out of 700 tons of hand-cut Idaho quartz stone.
Sonny Bono's Estate: After his famous duets like "I Got You Babe" with then-wife Cher, Sonny Bono became the mayor of Palm Springs from 1988-1992.
While living in Palm Springs with his wife Mary, they owned a three-house property that hit the market in 2011 for $3,995,000. The estate includes three homes: a 6,648 square-foot main house, a two bed and bath guest house, and a 740 square foot third guesthouse. The property built in 1940 features a large pool, an outdoor barbecue area, a full tennis court, and a four car garage.
Elvis' Honeymoon House: In 1966, Elvis Presley leased this home with his new wife Priscilla. The couple spent a year here.
Robert and Helene Alexander rented the home from 1960-1965, throwing infamously lavish parties. While living in Palm Springs, Look Magazine came to take pictures of the socialites, who were friends with many local celebrities.
An excerpt from 1962 the article reads: "The Alexanders' architect, improving on the Egyptians, used glass and peanut-brittle stonework to inscribe four perfect circles on three levels. He installed electronic controls to manipulate the indoor climate, the outside lights and automatic rain. The decorator did the walls in textured plastic, took a Nile formality right out into the artificial landscape. The table-tennis set stands by the heated pool upon stately Egyptian pedestals. Result: a $300,000 pleasure dome that proves California has only begun to show how luxurious can be on this planet."
Kaufmann Desert House: This home is one of the most famous pieces of real estate in Palm Springs. The Richard Neutra-designed home was built in 1946 and purchased by Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann as a vacation home.
The home boasts five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a pool, a pool house with a viewing pavilion, and a tennis court that all sit on 2.5 acres.
In 1970, the home changed ownership to Grammy winner Barry Manilow, and then to Brent and Beth Harris in the 1990s, who drastically refurbished the entire home. When the Harris' divorced, the house was put up for sale through Christie's, and received a bid at $15 million that was later retracted.
Mr. Harris now owns the property, which was part of his divorce settlement.
Marilyn Monroe's Home: The actress resided in this 1950s bungalow-style Las Palmas home for a year in 1960. Features include a lush garden featuring wildflowers, evergreens, and palm trees.
Norma Jean (who later became Marilyn of course) was discovered by Johnny Hyde in Palm Springs while playing by the pool at the historic Racquet Club. A 26-foot statue of the late actress was erected in her honor by Johnson & Johnson heir Seward Johnson.
The Kennedy/Lawford Home: Originally built for Peter Lawford and his wife Patricia Kennedy, the Alexander Construction butterfly-shaped home is among the most well known homes in the Las Palmas area.
During President Kennedy's visit to Palm Springs, he stayed at this home instead of Sinatra's, which caused a scandal at the time.
The proximity of Lawford's home to Marilyn Monroe's stirred gossip of an affair between Kennedy and Monroe.
Like many of the old celebrity homes in Palm Springs, it is available to rent for $300 per night.
Dean Martin's Home: The legendary Rat Pack member lived in an Alexander Construction home that he bought with his second wife Jeanne for $56,000 in the 1960s.
Las Palomas: Cary Grant and his wife Betsey Drake bought their home in Palm Springs in 1954, which was built in 1927 as an exact copy of a 19th century Andalusian Spanish farmhouse. The 6,000 square foot Spanish-style home has six bedrooms and five and a half bathrooms. Although the couple later divorced, Grant lived at the estate until 1972.
In Mark Elliot's "Cary Grant, a Biography," he says that "the outdoor patio had what [Grant] reffered to to as 'the conference table,' a large area with a Tamarisk tree in the center of it, around which Grant could read scripts and Drake could read, write and paint." The couple called their life in Palm Springs an "excursion into the art of living in simplicity." They divorced in 1962.
Dylan Cannon, Grant's second wife, described it like this: "At the end of a long driveway, surrounded by beautifully manicured grounds, rested a magnificent Spanish Hacienda. The living room was spacious but cozy, with a floor of burnished red clay tile and a cavernous fireplace with the big white couches artfully arranged in front of it. Solid wooden beams ran the entire length of the high ceiling and wooden stairs led to a book-lined reading loft."
The home is currently for sale with a listing price of $2.9 million.
Ann Miller's Home: The late actress' Spanish-style house was built in 1928. It includes a swimming pool, a large yard, and remains one of the expansive lots in the famed Los Palmas neighborhood.
The current owners of Ann Miller's old home are Toni Holt Kramer and her husband, Robert Kramer.
Piazza de Liberace: Liberace was well-known for his opulence, and the Palm Springs home that he lived in from 1968-1972 definitely reflect his style. Details include musical notes on the garden fencing and Roman statues of men and lions sitting in front. The mailbox is even shaped like a grand piano.
Inside the home, a large portrait of the late musician posing with his hound (one of his total 27 dogs) presides in the foyer under two vintage candelabras. While Liberace was living there, he allegedly had a room entirely decorated in white.
The present owners discovered 7,000 bricks painted green by Liberace under the flooring—he converted the outdoor patio into a living space indoors. The bricks are now scattered around the house in his honor.
Palm Springs Life/http://www.palmspringslife.com/Palm-Springs-Life/November-2012/Living-With-Liberace/
Patricia Gucci's Mountain Center Estate: The grand-daughter of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, Patricia Gucci, purchased a home in Palm Desert on 23 acres in 1993.
She completely transformed it into an expansive compound, complete with a 11,000 square-foot 10 bedroom home, guesthouses, a movie theater, spas, and a tennis court.
She lived at the property full-time until she listed it for $9 million in December 2012.
Palm Springs Life/http://www.palmspringslife.com/Palm-Springs-Life/March-2013/Hot-Property-Guccis-Mountain-Mansion/