Friday, February 24, 2012

Palm Springs Swimming Pool Number 2

Bill Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Alan Ladd at Home, 1950’s, gelatin silver print, Collection Palm Springs Art Museum, gift of Dorothy Anderson © Palm Springs Art Museum
Thanks to the Palm Springs Museum for this swimming pool. Does Alan Ladd sound familiar?
He died in Palm Springs at 50.

At his peak, Ladd was known as Shane, the leading man in the Western, Shane. The 1953 film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture but garnered only one Oscar for Best Cinematography.

Ladd had some rough patches in his life from watching his father die quickly of a heart attack to shooting himself in the chest.

Odds are, even though he was famous, he was depressed, taking an overdose of prescription drugs with alcohol.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Palm Springs Swimming Pool Number 3--the Sagauro

The latest must-go destination in Palm Springs is the Saguaro Hotel. Born from its sister hotel in Scottsdale, AZ, this is the most colorful building in Palm Springs.

The hotel's management had a tough time getting the city to accept these colors, a far flung detour from the browns that overtake the city's skyline to match the towering mountain behind.

Sporting two reasonable-priced restaurants under a near-perfect minimalist design, this hotel is sure to remove this tainted property from the jinxed list--a blessing for both locals and tourists alike who crave the stylistic in any color, shape or form.  

The hotel follows another recent success story the building housing Lulu's downtown, once spooked by a series of business failures. Both sites redefine Palm Springs as a modern carnival-like destination where tapas and minimalism replace steak and golf.

So far so good for the Saguaro--it's packed most weekends as everyone is curious about the new color that's been added to Palm Springs.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

All Modern

Less is more    Mies van der Rohe 1923
Less is a bore  Robert Venturi   1966 

It's All Modern this week in Palm Springs. In 2005 I wrote the following article for the show's magazine. It's a great review of what modernism is all about.

Innovation in furniture and technology flourished--sleek, grand forms in simple colors of the 20s and 30s replaced earlier sinuous, organic shapes in architecture and design. Throughout the next 50 years, designers of new products swung within a pendulum that ranged from extreme minimalism to the avant-garde, an all-show-and-no frills package of goods meant for everyone. Ruled by the masses who in a new industrial world now acquired what was once only the bastion of the rich, the designers conjured up practical products to fill the homes of an expanding suburban population.

From the Depression to the to the Soviet Union's breakup the Western world struggled to remake itself in an industrial world among fascism, communism and capitalism. Streamlined minimalist-yet-functional furnishings and accessories emerged from the battlegrounds. Modernism was to become the name of the game for decades. Its offshoots--Art Deco, Bauhaus, deStijl, Streamline American and '50s International style and 60s pop--dared to different, but never looked back at the intricate moldings and detail of earlier Art Nouveau and Victorian eras.  

It wasn't until the 80s when postmodernism etched itself into the mainstream that modernism was pushed aside. Styles with pastel colors, smoky glass and highly polished stone among expressive forms and witty images came of age.  Palm Springs designer Steve Chase used of glass and stone and natural desert colors. Playboy illustrator Patrick Nagel created a new image of the postmodern woman and Wendell Castle moved away from the space age bringing back wood sculpting as a craft. Factory produced items were out.

These new designs faded as retro pushed its radical touch around the world in the late 90s.

It's not just the United States either, where mid-century modern and related designs have made a comeback and that the mainstream has taken to with kid-in-a-candy-store zeal. From Camden Locks in London to the Marais in Paris, vintage mid-century items and remakes rule among store display windows.

Dependable, made-to-last-a-lifetime furniture and accessories from Deco to Retro remain vogue in 2004, striking up poses in homes from urban areas of the haute- international set to towns where college students rule.

European "Moderne" (pronounced modairn), furniture that debuted in the 1920s (as opposed to modern which usually is associated with the 50s and 60s) was streamlined and functional, setting the stage for future minimalist design. It contained sculptural elements such as decorative "knuckles" that protruded slightly up and down the furnishings legs.

At the end of World War II, a near magical style was carved from the one of the era's design geniuses. Isamu Noguchi introduced the three piece coffee table-- plate-glass top balanced on two curved, solid walnut legs in 1944, a piece manufactured by the Herman Miller Furniture that brought wood and glass together for the modern age.

Offbeat shapes of coffee and dining tables and lounge chairs evolved during the 50s and 60s. Eero Saarinen's tulip chair and Pierre Paulin's ribbon chair stepped beyond the original risks of couches that swerved around Heywood-Wakefield (1940) kidney-shaped coffee tables and that, at the time, wiped out more traditional furnishings from earlier eras.

What goes around comes around and the earlier styles are becoming as ubiquitous as those are from the 50s, the peak of minimalist modern.

There are two schools of thought to the fifty-year period in which modernism evolved both driving the business of mid-century furnishings and accessories to higher level each year-- the revisionists and purists. The former mix and match styles, mainly focusing on mid-century modern, but will use many equivalents-- reproductions and even, don't even mention this to a purist, furnishings from other periods.

"A lot go for the look. Purists look for labels, designers' names and the dates furniture was made," explained  Miguel Linares, an architecture student at College of the Desert in Palm Desert and partner of James Claude, both of whom run Palm Springs Consignment, one of the oldest vendors of mid-century modern in the country. "It's 50/50 split, a lot of people by second homes want to furnish them in a fun way.  Others come in for items that will match their mid-century homes exactly."

Peter Murozzi, Palm Springs Modern Committee president, for example, remains a purist, choosing only the less-as-more, matching Mies van der Rohe's purist view. Asked about whether an art deco steel lamp would suit his home he said, "I'm not ready for that," but added,  "it's still timeless."

Isabella Emmett, of Coral Gables, FL, rumored to be an expert among dealers at the show on between-the -war design, offers deco designs that would make a South Beach Florida hipster drool with desire. South Beach is a deco wonderland. Her tastes lie within the earlier Gatsby era, a time when Paul Frankl, one of the designers that appeals to her, used light wood to create streamlined designs of perfect symmetry.

Palm Springs designer Alan Hodges tastes extend from the purist elements that one might see inside the homes of the book Palm Springs Weekend: The Architecture and Design of a Mid-century Oasis (2001), by  Alan Hess and Andrew but many of his choices in design for his Palm Springs mid-century style condo originated from earlier eras. His favorites are a Mies Van De Rohe (designer) day bed and Barcelona chairs, all items which were on drawing boards in the 20s.

He looks for furniture manufactured by Knoll, a German husband-and-wife team whose biggest coup was acquiring the rights to her former teacher a Mies Van De Rohe's popular "Barcelona" series chairs that helped Knoll to carve out a viable American market for the International Style. In 1929, the Spanish Royal Couple sat in a pair, two thrones for the elite. "It is almost easier to build a skyscraper than a good chair," said the chair's designer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Not only do revisionists choose furnishings from other eras; they also will use reproductions of original pieces. "I will buy a reproduction or reissue if the vintage piece is too difficult to obtain," he says.

Hodges finds that original pieces can be modified to suit certain decors. He purchased two lime green velvet vintage pieces of designer Thayer Coggin, an American who specialized in upholstered furniture, from Palm Springs Consignment, and had them reupholstered in contemporary-print fabric, a process that a purist would probably shun, but one that fit the needs of one of his clients.

Bubbling double rows of round cushions for the seat and the back, George Nelson went on to design the marshmallow sofa (1958), a later period choice for Hodges' condo if he only had room.

If you want new but yearn for the old you can accent rooms with original accessories for an extra shot of nostalgia in your home.

Kitsch and pop, bright colors, bold daring designs began in the 60s and are especially hot for people who want to step into modern fun slowly by buying what the dealers call "smalls". Smalls are accessories from bright red portable typewriters, complete with a matching case to rotary telephones and portable television sets and pottery. Shawnee, McCoy, Haggar or the likes in pink or baby blue radiate a 50s flavor all around. The bright colors of California pottery offer a 60s powerhouse of retro in one small free form piece.  A Bakelite (that's the first plastic that was made) clock radio with an oversized dial, the numbers 54 6 7 8 9 11 13 16 arched around it in a Norman Rockwell manner. 

A small's secret harrows in the senses--a kind of new modern age quest to gather items that flash with camp, color, light, and sound, and that connect past generations to your life today.

The smalls design and color give clues when items were produced. The pale spring colors are likely to have been used in the 50s, screaming colors in the 60's, then toning down to browns and olives in the mother earth 70's.

A quick snapshot from a year of each decade from the 50s to the 70s shows life as it once was:

In 1955, a set of Bertoia form wire chairs with tangerine seat cushions were perfect for sitting and chatting during the cocktail hour.  Houseguests often lounged on armless, curved, floating-seat sofas. Martini glass rested under a napkin with a poodle on it on top of a two-tiered kidney-shaped coffee table. 

In 1968 one grooved to the Doors under the light of a chromed metal lamp with a revolving head, maybe relaxing, reading the Rolling Stone in a black Globe chair with red cushions. With a swivel, a red cylinder, pre-formed plywood cabinet/table appears to launch at your side. Arm reaching out dangling with love bead bracelets, a pitcher of Kool Aide is not far away.

Ten years later paying your bills is mellow act in a beautiful home office of modular furniture.  It includes a laminate-faced worktop and storage units--all attached to aluminum frames.  Your spouse can watch you in admiration in one of a set of brandy- colored, leather armchairs.

In the 80s Steve Chase encouraged designers to use the natural desert landscape as a backdrop for interior design in new Palm Desert homes, a style that was picked up in suburban living all across the Western United States.  His home in the Thunderbird Cove Club was a perfect example, staircased squares and rectangles of adobe, the same shades as the boulders and mountains nearby.  Inside, he used the same shapes inlaid with transparent materials for subtle desert views and muted light. Dr. Carol Soucek King in her book Empowered Spaces classified Chase's style as "Earth Spirits," making Chase a key element in solidifying the back to nature trend.

"The acid citrus, shag rugs and in-your-face patterns and prints changed into a more subdued pallet of pastels--muted pink and mauve," explains Randy Patton of Steve Chase Associates.  "The soft, quiet colors were in response to the earth tones of the desert.  Much of the architecture was clean and tailored to the environment and heavy with masonry and solid materials." 

Remembering Steve Chase, Patton reflects: "He was a dynamic personality, a creative genius.  He had a sense of scale and worked within both the architectural envelope by creating bold and simple statements using natural materials."

The desert designer of large estates, had two homes then, one of which he simply thought of as "all charm, no sense" (his Del Mar home) and the other as "all sense, no charm (his Rancho Mirage home). Chase's suggestion (from King's book):  "Take desert colors and shapes and hard regional materials and make a warm house."

Chase died in 1994, just about the time when mid-century revival began.

Fifty years of the twentieth century design history in a city Murozzi brands a "Mid-Century Disneyland" is filled with the spirits and works of great designers among majestic natural surroundings where you can find less being more and among camp and kitsch that's never a bore.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Palm Springs Pool Number 4

Here's a shot that has feeling like you're in a Palm Springs. It's easy to take--just set your camera on the ledge and snap, you've got the water filling the bottom of your frame. This pool is in the Versailles condo complex, the back of which faces Palm Canyon on the south end of the city.

How many swimming pools in Palm Springs? Let's take some wild guesses to figure how many pools there are in Palm Springs. There are 52,000 people living here. Let's say that an average of 10 people live in each dwelling (houses and condo complexes). That leaves us with 5,200 single-family homes/multi-family condo complexes. Now speculate that 75 percent of these properties have swimming pools. That leaves us with 3900 pools.

So, would you believe that there are anywhere from 2500-4000 swimming pools in Palm Springs?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Palm Springs Pool Number 5

What could be more glamorous than a swimming pool at night? If you look closely at the light in the image above, you'll notice each little light dot is a star up close. This happens because I shot the image with a tiny aperture (yes, with a long shutter speed, too, because it was night). You can mimic this effect by looking at a light when your eyes are squinted.

Swimming at night is a wonderful Palm Springs past time, but it can only be done at certain times of the year. The months from June to September are best for a night swim. Temperatures are still hot until midnight--anywhere from the mid-90s to near 80, and sometimes higher.

In May and October, it's a bit too cold in the mornings to make the pool comfortable because the temperature can drop into the 60s. If it gets really hot during the day, then the pool will warm up, making swimming comfortable during the day.

Night swimming is far better the further south and east you go in the Palm Springs area. The north end of the city is very windy, making you cold whenever you get out of the pool (water evaporates, cooling the skin). The wind makes the water evaporate faster so you get cold quickly.

Finally, when you get into the pool on a warm summer night, it can be like a hot tub. Temperatures creep up to 110 degrees during the day, sometimes staying there until 6 p.m., without going down much until the wee hours of the morning. Many nights the temperature can be 99 degrees at 9 p.m. If you come to Palm Springs in the summer, one of the most enjoyable activities is a night swim.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Palm Springs Swimming Pool Number 6

If you've never heard of mid-century modern, you've probably never visited Palm Springs. It's known as a mid-century modern Disneyland.

So just what is mid-century modern? Well, take a look at the image above, noticing the floor-to-ceiling glass for inside/outside living, the the roof-line, which is split into two parts and angels upward toward the sky (more dramatic example at this mid-century modern soaring roof  link), and post-and-beam construction.

I took this image years ago on color film. If you look closely, you can see the grain in the image (enlarge and look at the sky).

Now, for the swimming pool. What do you think is mid-century modern about that? Since it's not kidney-shaped, it's not really a classic. There are very few original kidney-shaped pools left in the city.

It is, however, constructed with large slabs of unfinished concrete, which is definitely a clue that is mid-century modern style (although many pools built today have concrete sides, but not quite as elaborate of a form, meaning the way in which it the slab rises above the ground at the edges).

So, did I miss anything. What else makes a pool have the mid-century modern style?

Find out by reading Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Palm Springs Swimming Pool Number 7

Today's swimming pool comes with an article I wrote (click on swimming pool) describing swimming pool choices. Pools here cost about 10,000 for an average one, up to 50,000 for a hot tub infinity pool.

After all, what's better than sitting by the pool with a large, cold drink (beware of Palm Springs' favorite, the martini) surfing the Internet with your Apple iPad 2?

There is danger in this activity--sunburn, which you probably know can cause cancer down the line. You need sunscreen (SPF 15 at least) a hat and sunglasses. Even if you take these precautions, staying out in the sun all day, you'll be sorry. Don't sit in the sun for too long--an hour or two at most--because you're skin will fry, leaving blisters and burns.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Small Business Help

There's a time and place when you're finally ready to set up your own business online. Today it's easier than ever with an ecommerce solution.

The company that gave you TurboTax (you know the program that assists in tax preparation) and Quicken has a plethora of resources to get you started with your online business from website building to marketing and setting up an online payment system to creating a detailed bookkeeping system that's easy to use.

If you've got the business-savvy enthusiasm to sell your products online, your ticket to being self-employed is here. Self-employment is the employment engine that supplies  the people of Southern California  with meaningful work. Intuit is a leader in helping small businesses get on their feet.

One of their newer products, Go Payment, lets businesses conduct transactions on-the-spot by attaching a credit card reader to a mobile device. Intuit's innovative new and existing products and services and attention to employees and customers have propelled it to get on Fortune's top best 100 companies to work for.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Swimming Pool Number 8

Today's Palm Springs Swimming Pool, taken at a serious angle, is edged with the shadows of chase lounges.

Recall from the last posts, I'm offering a tribute to Palm Springs Museum's latest exhibition Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography. The blog has many of the photos from Backyard Oasis. Notice the abstract looking swimming pools.

Lines, curves and other shapes fill the frame, merging, spreading out, and/or scattering about along with frames filled with wild and weird reflections. Makes you wish you had an underwater camera!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Swimming Pool Number 9

Any person swimming in a pool gets you thinking about the water. Not everyone likes swimming, even in Palm Springs. Most images of swimming pools don't show people swimming.

Some of the images at the swimming photo exhibit at the Palm Springs Museum give a new take on what it's like to be in the water. They consider all points of view--in the water, out of the water, under the water and all three combined. These are really incredible.