Icons of desert modernism: The 5 coolest Palm Springs homes

The mid-century modernist homes of Palm Springs are the stuff of architectural legend, ranging from the celebrated Elrod House featured in the Bond movie Diamonds are Forever to the Twin Palms estate where Frank Sinatra threw parties for half of Hollywood…

We've chosen five properties which, says leading Palm Springs real estate agent Andy Linsky (ASK@windermere.com), are among the most covetable in the area, with potential values ranging from USD 2 million - 35 million.

"All are located in Palm Springs proper (as opposed to further east in the Coachella Valley) with the  Elrod and Kauffman properties rising to the top architecturally, followed by the Sinatra, Loewy and Elvis houses -  although all are quite spectacular in their own right," says Linsky. 

 

Raymond Loewy House by Albert Frey

Design genius Raymond Loewy penned the lines for everything from the Coke bottle to the Scenicruiser Greyhound Bus, the Studebaker Avanti and the Lucky Strike cigarettes logo – but he left the job of planning his three-bedroom dream home to Zurich-born 'desert modernism' architect  Albert Frey. Created in 1946 at 600, Panorama Road, its slide-back glass walls give way to a breathtaking view of mountains and desert. Relatively small and minimalist to the core, the open-plan living accommodation centres around a lagoon-like illuminated pool.

Kaufmann Desert House by Richard Neutra

Pittsburgh department store tycoon Edgar J. Kaufmann commissioned the great Richard Neutra to design this five-bedroom, five-bathroom home in 1946. It fully embraces the 'indoors-outdoors' living style of Palm Springs with sets of vast, sliding windows that open on to a series of poolside patios. The place is considered to be such an architectural gem that it was offered for sale by Christie's as a single lot in a 2008 sale of modernist design. The hammer fell at USD 15 million – but the successful bidder failed to come up with the cash.    

Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate

Set in the heart of the Palm Springs 'movie colony', Twin Palms was designed for Frank Sinatra in 1947 by architect E. Stewart Williams, complete with suitably 'grand' piano-shaped swimming pool. Ol' Blue Eyes originally lived there with his first wife, Nancy Barbato, but subsequently ensconced his second bride, Ava Gardner. The pair hosted lavish parties at Twin Palms, but the four-bedroom, seven-bathroom home was also the scene of their tempestuous rows – as evinced by the cracked washbasin which still bears testament to a badly aimed (or well dodged) champagne bottle. 

Elvis's Honeymoon Hideaway

Robert and Helene Alexander were as near as it was possible to get to Palm Springs royalty during the 1960s – not least because their construction company built many of the best-known homes in the area. Few, however, were as impressive as their own pad at 1350 Ladera Circle. Capable of accommodating 180 people (the Alexanders loved to party), it featured a 64-foot, built-in sofa and its own outdoor stage. Its space-age design saw it dubbed 'the home of tomorrow' – but five years after moving in, the Alexanders were killed in a plane crash. The following year, in 1966, Elvis leased it for a year, honeymooning there with bride Priscilla in May '67. 

 

Elrod House by John Lautner

John Lautner, one-time apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, conceived this spectacular ridge-top property for interior designer Arthur Elrod in 1968. Perched high above Palm Springs, it is visible from miles around and features a vast, conical roof and a 60-foot wide, circular living room in which protruding rocks form part of the decor. The natural lair of a 007 nemesis, it was chosen as the summer house of gem-obsessed villain Willard Whyte in the 1971 movie Diamonds are Forever. Sean Connery's Bond famously took a beating there from Whyte's gorgeous female bodyguards, Bambi and Thumper. With five bedrooms and five bathrooms, the Elrod House was last offered for sale in 2011 at USD 13.8 million.

Photos: Getty Images / Jan Baedeker

You can find an ever-expanding list of spectacular properties for sale in the Classic Driver Market.