Palm trees, pools, desert wellness, and, of course, mid-century modern glamour & style! Hollywood A-listers made Palm Springs their weekend retreat as far back as the 1930s (apparently the Hollywood studios stipulated that while under contract, actors had to stay within two hours of Los Angeles so they could quickly get back to set for last minute film shoots). Had the rules been different, Palm Springs might not have become the “it destination” that it was then and still is today. While Palm Springs has evolved throughout the years, its attraction remains strong as a place where past meets present, and style, glamour and wellness are plentiful. Although just a couple of hours from LA (depending on traffic), this desert oasis feels like a world away.
If you’re looking for a winter escape, add Palm Springs to your list! While much of the country is talking about chill factors in February, the desert sun offers the perfect escape to refresh and renew, surrounded by a plethora of natural beauty. February also happens to be the timing of Modernism Week, the 11-day extravaganza of mid-century modern design and celebration of Palm Springs’ noted history as the birthplace of American Modernism. If you are a design lover—and especially a fan of mid-century modern design and architecture, this is your chance! Modernism Week takes place February 16-26 and offers hundreds of events including home tours, architectural walking, biking and double-decker bus tours, tours of the historic Annenberg Estate at Sunnylands, a classic car show, garden tours, the Modernism Show at the PS Convention Center, a 2-day vintage trailer show, nightly parties, and a series of educational programs and talks. The list goes on.
I recently sat down with my fellow NY to CA transplant and designer friend Jon Call who now calls Palm Springs home to get his take on the ideal Palm Springs visit.
Jon has been heralded as both the past and the future of interior design. The name of his firm, Mr. Call Designs, is actually a cheeky reference to the days of past when designers were known by Mr. or Mrs. But Jon’s energy and panache for creating fun and fresh interiors that exude modern comfort is anything but outdated.
Megan Reilly: Why Palm Springs? What sparked your move here?
Jon Call: I had been in New York for twenty years and was looking for a change. My checklist was clear: I wanted to live in a community that valued creativity, had a fabulous year round climate, and was near a good airport. Palm Springs checked all three of these boxes for me. It has been a great adventure ever since.
MR: The Palm Springs demographic seems to have shifted younger over the last decade, both as a result of all the festivals and lifestyle events that have popped up over the recent years (Coachella, Stagecoach, etc.) and, more recently, as a result of the Pandemic migration with remote working. Have you noticed this demographic shift and influence?
JC: There’s this sense you get when you’ve arrived somewhere and can feel a specific vibe. Palm Springs feels on the verge of a renaissance right now. It’s become a convergence zone for people that are looking to get more out of their lives. In our own way, we are seeking a renewed modernism for our generation.
MR: Let’s talk about modernism. Your home has been featured as part of the Modernism Week tour and so many mid-century modern fans descend upon Palm Springs each February for all those festivities and events. Ant tips to navigate Modernism Week or must-see spots that pay homage to the mid-century modernism history of the area?
JC: The one thing to keep in mind, especially about the older modernist architecture in Palm Springs, is that it was all an experiment. No one knew where it would stand let alone that people would be touring these designs 80 years later! So before walking into any project, ask yourself “what problem was this architect trying to solve?” or “what questions were they trying to find answers for?”.
The definition of “modernism” is “to question”. Modernism Week is a good reminder of that, and if other guests also start questioning things, they are truly going to feel the spirit of this historic movement.
MR: Ok let’s talk about Palm Springs musts when planning a visit… Palm Springs has no shortage of stylish boutique hotels. What are a few of your favorites?
JC: I love the hotels in town. You really get a broad spectrum, each catering to a unique personality or vibe. For classic 1940’s Hollywood glamour, you can’t beat The Colony Palms. Then there is Sparrows Lodge, which is its own unique experience. It’s on acreage filled with log cabin bungalows, gardens, a killer art collection and a barn. It’s all very eclectic but it works. I love it there.
MR: The must-get dinner reservation?
JC: Bar Cecil reinvented the game out here restaurant-wise. It’s decorated in homage to Cecil Beaton in this quirky upbeat manner. They serve simple bistrot fare: the perfect steak frites, one of the best butter lettuce salads I’ve ever had, and the chocolate chip cookies… Warm from the oven. You can’t go wrong. If you buy ten martinis, they create a brass plaque and place it on the wall permanently. It’s amazing.
MR: Best spot for more cocktails before (or after) those ten martinis?
JC: Tailor Shop. Hands down. It’s a newer venue. Seats about 50. They focus on craft cocktails and absolutely perfect service. It has a certain moody, dim, sexy interior that is quite intoxicating itself! Be sure to make a reservation.
MR: How about your favorite hidden gem for a casual meet-up?
JC: French Miso. Get the Eggs Benedict. Run, don’t walk. It will change your life. It’s located right downtown but on a pedestrian path between buildings. It’s hidden. The garden is gorgeous. I can’t say enough good things.
MR: How about shopping?
JC: Thick As Thieves is my perennial favorite. It’s a mixture of home goods, fashion and lifestyle that has a certain Joshua Tree chic quality to it. The products I can’t do without are their hand-crafted face oils, soaps, balms and creams. They smell the way you imagine Palm Springs deserts would. They also make great little gifts. Also check out Mojave Flea.
MR: Your favorite way to spend a Palm Springs weekend?
JC: Colony Club cocktails by the pool. I could chill here with a good friend and proper cocktails for hours. It’s the reward I look forward to at the end of a long week and an antidote to everything and anything that ails you.
MR: Any other things we should consider adding to our itinerary?
JC: Take a trip to Pioneertown! It is only about a 30 minute drive away, but is so cool. Catch some live music at Pappy & Harriet’s or get a drink and food at the nearby Red Dog Saloon.
Thanks for these insider tips Jon. We can’t wait for our next visit in February! ☐
For more insider tips to help plan your perfect Palm Springs getaway, check out, www.mrcalldesigns.com/palmsprings.