“Palm Springs is surrounded by mountains on all four sides, and you see them, along with towering palm trees, from nearly every vantage point,” said Brady Sandahl, the founder of Brady Sandahl Real Estate Group, a subdivision of Keller Williams Realty in the Coachella Valley. “The setting is pretty incredible and hard to match.”
Palm Springs became a popular vacation destination in the 1930 and ’40s, Mr. Sandahl said, when Hollywood’s elite including John Wayne, Dean Martin, Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra began frequenting it as a weekend escape.
“They loved the proximity to L.A. and their sets, and many of them bought homes,” he said. “California can get fog along its coastline, but Palm Springs boasts mostly sunny days, which only upped its appeal.”
Famous for its Mid-Century Modern homes, the city has always been an affordable place to buy a vacation property, compared to pricier areas such as Malibu and Santa Barbara, according to Stewart Smith, a partner with the Palm Springs real estate firm PS Properties. In the wake of the pandemic, however, he said that the real estate market has seen a surge in residential sales with higher prices following soon after.
“People wanted out of large cities and craved space, and Palm Springs offered a value for your money,” Mr. Stewart said. “Once the market exploded, the scenario changed.”
Below, everything to know about living in this vibrant Coachella Valley desert city—and its iconic homes—today:
Photo: Teigan Media
Architecture, History and the Allure of Mid-Century Modern Homes
Palm Springs is synonymous with Mid-Century Modern architecture, an aesthetic defined by high-ceilinged homes with floor-to-ceiling windows, post-and-beam construction, smooth angles and clean, minimalistic finishes.
The movement dates to the mid-1950s when local developer Alexander Construction Company embarked on a multi-year venture to build more than 2,200 homes in the Coachella Valley. Many are situated throughout Palm Springs and designed by the architects Dan Palmer and William Krisel, founders of the firm Palmer & Krisel, in a mid-century modern style. In fact, Mr. Krisel is credited for creating Mid-Century Modern’s signature butterfly roofline where a roof inverts upwards, similar to the wings of a butterfly.
Some “Alexander Homes,” as they became known, were also built by other architects such as Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison.
“Homebuyers took to Alexander’s, and they became highly sought after,” Mr. Stewart said. “A lot of the nicer homes were and still are in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood and snapped up by celebrities like Dinah Shore, Dean Martin and Kirk Douglas.”
The draw to Mid-Century Modern homes hasn’t waned today. Mr. Sandahl said that Palm Springs’s home buyers—since the pandemic and for the decade leading up to it—seek out these bright, airy properties and often update them with the latest technology and new fixtures. Recently built houses are also inspired by the style. “It’s a look that’s as relevant as ever,” Mr. Sandahl said. “The glass in your home overlooks your swimming pool, manicured backyard and the mountains. The artwork of the destination comes into where you live.”
But while the mid-century modern architecture in Palm Springs may be the most iconic and get more than a fair share of publicity, Mr. Sandahl pointed out that the city’s housing stock consists of properties in other architectural styles including Mediterranean, Spanish and traditional.