Palm Springs 2018

If you are into Mid-Century Architecture and you want to immerse yourself in it like a kid in a candy store, then get in a car or on a plane and head to Palm Springs. Be prepared however for sensory overload – there is so much mid-century – it is mind-blowing. Dare we say it – it is at times overwhelming.

This trip was our second visit, we came in 2014 for our 10th wedding anniversary, and it was not during Modernism Week. This year we were there for Modernism Week as guest speakers. It was busy, and by the time we got organized all the tickets to ‘draw-card’ events [home tours + cocktail parties + design talks] were sold out [at least for the days we were in town]. Not to fear, just driving around aimlessly and exploring, stopping to take in exteriors and garden is entertainment enough. There are so many good: roof lines; breeze block walls; entryways; desert gardens; sculpture; house numbers; mailboxes; and cars, plenty of eye candy to keep you on the move. Inspiration galore.

Not one for crowds – we found it a little suffocating at times as we joined a tour of the Twin Palms Estate. Being purists – we were attracted especially to the homes with largely original features and furniture. We still appreciated, and enjoyed ever so much the renovations that provided a modern interpretation of mid-century-modern. There are times we wish we had ‘new appliances’ at the Frost House, but there is no way we will ever change them.

Anyway, just wanted to share some of the eye candy we captured as we drove around, we were too busy admiring to capture them all. Admire the view.

Schindler House

We didn’t know that much about the Schindler House when we visited. We love Architecture and enjoy learning by exploring spaces, we did know that the home is considered the start of modernism in California, and has greatly influenced many who came thereafter. So we put it on the radar for a visit to learn more.


Visiting this house is easy to plan. Turn up Wednesday – thru – Sunday between 11am – 6pm pay at the gate and in you go – no advanced reservations needed. It is a self-guided tour, and there are frequently art exhibitions going on at the same time. We won’t give you the spoiler alert on the history, and stories of it occupants over the years, we have instead opted to share some images and thoughts.





A few things stood out to us: 1] The house is in smack in the middle of West Hollywood, and surrounded by taller 3-4 story structures, it was originally surrounded by open fields – the house feels a little suffocated; 2]  it was designed for communal living for 2 families / groups; 3] everything was designed with not a lot of predefined usage of each space, so it allowed for lots of fluidity of use by the occupants; 4] the ornamentation is minimal; 5] the ceilings are incredibly low (the FLW effect); 6] the gardens are gorgeous drawing your eye from the inside out.








It had a very calming effect on both of us, and we could totally visualize this house rebuilt with the same layout, but with new materials, it would be a really lovely place to live in today’s world. We have been know to, on more than one occasion, get into rearranging furniture and artwork in the middle of a dinner party, so we can relate to the idea of ‘flexibility’ in the usage of rooms. Moving a bedroom / study as the seasons change, or just to keep things interesting (cheaper than moving house). And total admiration for their HUGE veggie garden so neatly organized and tucked away behind some growing bamboo screening.

Added bonus: Across the street you can also view, from the exterior only, the equally intriguing, and very distinguished – Rootenberg-Markham House built in 1952.



Morse House – Palm Springs

We first met Joan & Gary Gand through Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond in 2017 when their non-profit organization, which celebrates and promotes 20th century modern architecture and design, did a tour of The Frost House. When we headed out to Palm Springs for Modernism Week they kindly invited us over to their home – the Morse House [1961].

The original home owners where Teddy & Claire Morse. Teddy had selected a ranch model in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs. This area is know for it’s Alexander Homes, and the house model originally chosen is suspected to be a design by William Krisel. Claire Morse, a fan of Harold “Hal” Levitt designs [a modernist architect for Hollywood elite] wanted something fancier than the standard.  So they hired a builder to intervene and add the ‘Levitt’ design effect to the partially finished home.

The previous day to our visit, we had aimlessly being stalking homes, randomly driving up and down streets, we stopped outside one particular home and said to ourselves “OMG – now that house I want to peek inside”. It really stands out from the crowd. Fast forward to the next day, Joan texts their address, we slap it into WAZE and head on over. When we turn the corner, and WAZE announces you have arrived – OH BOY! had we arrived – right to the very house we wanted to peek at. As it stood right before us – we squealed – EEEEeeek! We couldn’t get out of the car fast enough, both rushing to the doorbell, dying for the door to open. WOWZA – what a house.

Nominated by the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation as a Class 1 Historic Site, and it deserves to be, and needs to be on the list – totally AMAZING. The minute you enter – you feel like you are apart of a glamorous MCM moment – walking right into a ‘set’ – it is so mid-century perfect. We gushed over every room – every view – every detail. We are still gushing thinking about it. This home wraps up into one perfect parcel – everything quintessential about Palm Springs Mid Century Modern. The Architecture coupled with the Gand’s impeccable taste in art and collectibles makes this house feel that way. Now – how do we get ourselves invited to the next cocktail party.

Look at that garden. We could be happy here living outside in the pool on a float, where we can admire the garden and be mezmerised by the kinetic sculptures as they dance in the wind. Those windows you see, they are giant sliding doors that open the house up to: the swim-up bar; and the sunken living room.

Back inside – who doesn’t love a Malm fireplace in their master bedroom? A dreamy house – every room is fabulous – see we are still gushing. For sure this is our Palm Spring MCM fave. Thanks for the invite Joan & Gary, and thanks for putting up with our ‘teenage fan club’ behavior. You can read more about the house here and here.

And one last note, that is equally impressive – the living room / pool is the subject of this SHAG piece of art called “The Impostors” you can purchase it here. Gary Gand is sporting a hat on an eames lounger, whilst Joan Gand is looking glam sipping a cocktail – seated on the stairs. Can you see why we want to go to party here – this piece captures the feel of the home perfectly. Cheers!

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Dezeen – Design Magazine

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Thanks Dezeen for the feature. Fingers crossed this story telling will lead us to some new connections with information and/or tales of life in an Alside Home. We are close to finding 30 of the homes .. out of the known 96 that rolled off the production lines and there is a possibility there might be as many at 200. Check out the homes we have found so far – thanks to the power of social media – on our Alside Homes Locator page.

You can read the full article on Dezeen here.

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Eames House – Case Study House #8

If you find yourself in LA, make sure before you arrive that you make a reservation to tour the interior of the EAMES HOUSE. You can find out all the details here. The tour is intimate and incredibly special, it feels like a morning or afternoon as a house guest, with an opportunity to sit on the rug and have a chat with the docent. It’s something that we could see ourselves returning for another interiors tour, there is so much to absorb, and so much packed into an efficient and somewhat compact space. It is a splurge, but it is work every penny – the money is reinvested into the preservation of the property.

The most surprising element to the property was the proximity of its location to the ocean. Perched on a hillside, the home is set back, and overlooks a meadow in which you can see the ocean framed through tall beautiful eucalyptus, the setting is incredibly magical. We can see why Ray when she would arrive back to the house + studio, she would ‘inhale deeply and smile’, we did too.


We did notice some similarities, and I am sure Emil Tessin was influenced by these case study homes. We noticed that the exposed steel beams and colors had some likeness in our Alside House, maybe that helped us feel comfortable when we were on this tour.

There was so much to be inspired by on this visit. For example, the ferns in the garden [pictured above] are something that we want to place into our garden, and we definitely want to introduce more house plants into the interior. Photography is not permitted of the interiors – but check it out for yourself – the vignettes are so inspiring. Oh! And we must be the last people on earth to learn that the ‘house bird’ is a replica of a decoy that Charles & Ray picked up in Indiana when on a road-trip after getting married in Chicago [yep – we purchase one – but on the hunt for a ‘decoy’]. Lots of inspiration here, that is why we can see that return visits would be of value – so much to experience.

Establishing ‘Trust’

We loving seeing the story of our house popping up everywhere: from major publications; and websites; to blogs across the globe. With each share we get to learn something new. This particular blog, it was the comments that grabbed our attention. Ross who is into restoring things, including an incredible home – Cross House. He shared our Curbed story with his readers, and one reader in turn shared some incredibly thoughtful food for thought:

“I have never found mid-century modern to be a personally appealing style, as my preference would be something built before 1900 out of wood., yet this house is exceptional. It is the epitome of preservation.”

Although we personally like mid-century modern we can also appreciate all styles of well persevered craftsmanship that represent a point-in-time, enabling the experience of life in another period in history.

It appears to me from reading the article that the reason that everything goes so perfectly is because the house and furnishings appear to have been chosen by a single designer or team of designers who not only designed the house, but were among those who created the very concept of mid-century modern. The fact that it was all put together as a model home means that the concept has never been tainted by the whims of its owners.

A great observation – we will have to quote you in our presentations for that thought.

The Frost family’s lifestyle lent itself to maintaining the house and its contents so beautifully, makes it a true example of a movement that has been little understood, nor, when I was young, even seriously taught in courses in the appreciation of the history of art.

The kids when they moved in were young teenagers, and we know that they did have a dog in the house, they knew how to respect what your hard earned money had purchased.

For its new owners, Bob Coscarelli and Karen Valentine, to walk in and recognize the value of these details and want to preserve them, is crucial to its continued preservation. It will limit them in their choices in the future, but is a trust that they seem ready to carry.

It is so true, although we love the house, we were hoping that we could have had a small project to update the kitchen and bathrooms, but because everything was so well maintained, it would have been wrong of us to change anything too significantly. These homes in this state are ‘needles in a haystack’.

Speaking of trusts, this house should be on the national register. I would hope for this house the same thing that I would like to do to for mine if I am able to complete its restoration, and that I would like to see Ross do for the Cross House.

Yes, we need to get moving on this listing, we really want to make sure it gets some recognition it deserves, at the every least with a listing on the National Register.

Now this next part is really interesting…. total food for thought when thinking about the future of ‘The Frost House’ – what next – could we consider a ‘preservation trust’:

  • Coscarelli and Valentine could set up a private preservation trust, foundation, or other tax-exempt entity for the property funding this trust with contributions.
  • (Although I don’t have the knowledge to determine the best entity within current laws. I will hereafter refer to the entity chosen as a trust.) Those contributions could come from multiple sources.
  • Those who would have a serious interest in having a tour of the home could be charged a significant fee, at least one hundred dollars per person. Such tours could be held on a regular basis, at the owner’s discretion. High fees would ensure that they would be limited to those with a serious interest, and of course the owners would have the right to show the house to anyone they liked at any time they like.
  • The current owners should not have any limits on their comfortable enjoyment of the property that don’t already exist.
  • The fees and other contributions could be invested in such a way that the capital would increase with every tour.
    • Only the income from the investments could be used for any purpose with hopes that the capital would continue to grow.
    • Income that was not spent in a calendar year would be used to increase the capital.
    • The board of trustees should be the owners, and others that the owners would select from the legal and financial community with a serious interest in the continued preservation of the house. I would say that it be specified that trustees would not be allowed to receive any remuneration for their work as trustees either financial or in any other form. It is my belief that too many such trusts have been gutted by trustees who “volunteer” in order to line their own pockets or steer work or patronage to people who would create some other benefit for that trustee.
  • The house could be owned by the trust, giving it tax free status and having the trust pay for upkeep in such a way that the owners could recoup their original investment plus any appreciation or minus any loss in value if we have deflation. This could be implemented by requiring one of two things.
    1. It could made into a house museum.
    2. The rights to its use as their home could be sold to people who would be committed to its preservation within the parameters set up by the current owners when the trust is formed.
  • For example, if the Frost family had set up such a trust, they could have left the house to the trust to preserve it. If they had had such a trust and wanted the value to go to their heirs, I am sure that their heirs and the trustees would have gladly approved Coscarelli and Valentine as the new owners and the Frosts would likely have been delighted to know that the new owners have a sense of commitment to its preservation.
    • The trustees could have approved and paid for the replacement of the carpet with terrazzo, as a solution to the worn carpet. After all, carpet can be put down at any time to return it to the exact original design, while the terrazzo will wear very well and serve the owner’s needs better.
    • They could also find specialists who can repair and maintain the vintage appliances, systems, and decor. Examples of such would be to go so far as to have fabrics custom made to match the original coverings etc. if necessary.
    • Covenants could be added to the deed that would assure the preservation of the house.
  • The trustees’ job would be to assure that the house is properly maintained, the capital is managed so that the income is only spent on quality maintenance with a diverse portfolio (to prevent huge losses such as those funds that invested so heavily in mortgage backed securities or companies such as Enron), and that no one could push for the alteration or demolition of the house for any reason.
    • They would manage the various efforts to raise additional funds, other than income from tours, for the trust. They would also have regular reserve studies done to assure that there is sufficient funding to prevent its decline.
    • A separate reserve fund could be maintained for expenses anticipated by the reserve studies.
    • The trustees could also create and raise money for a fund for the purchase of the rights that the owner(s) enjoy if they choose to sell.
  • I admit, I have written this in such detail to solidify ideas I have for the future of my own house and other historic properties that I have had buzzing around in my head. I find the lack of foresight that seems to result in the loss of properties whose owners or others were intent on preserving to be alarming.
  • The idea of turning a property over to municipalities for preservation seems to result in demolition due to budget cuts and disinterest from government officials.
    • There are so many examples that I hear about when someone posts an article, written in outrage when it is too late to do anything.
    • I usually prefer not to express my political views because I consider the to be private. I don’t really think that this statement is political, but others may. I feel that elected officials main interest is in being reelected, and the interests of preservation are not necessarily a thing that will help them with that. The bureaucrats who implement programs such as property preservation are required to do what they are told to within the law.

Such an incredibly thoughtful comment and discussion. We have reached out to Ross to see if he can connect us with Mr. McLean, he seems like a very interesting person.

Indianapolis Monthly – Feb 2018

It is here! Our first feature in print thanks to Indianapolis Monthly – Feb Edition 2018. It is a lovely piece written by Gina Bazer and photography by Bob Coscarelli. Our favorite quote in the article ….

Constructed of steel and aluminum modules in different colors, the Frost House winks at passing drivers like a Mondrian painting in the middle of a forest.

Thanks for the enchanting chat about the house Gina, we had fun reliving the story, and we continue to enjoy finding out more facts – it is like a good archeological dig.


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Look for the FEB 2018 Edition on news stands or pick up a copy for your favorite digital reader through an app like Zinio.

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