Modernism Week is hands-down my favorite time of year. For the design world, it is the equivalent of Fashion Week or the Royal Ascot — brimming with glamour, fashion, parties, and photo-ops.
Finding share-worthy snaps is half the fun of any event. And this annual celebration of all things midcentury-mod delivers Instagram gold in spades: neighborhoods that appear plucked from the 1950s, full of inspirational architecture and interiors that could be movie sets.
During Modernism Week, you’re able to step beyond those candy-colored doors … and don’t we all love seeing how other people live?
With so many incredible events, what’s a modernista on the hunt for a beautiful vignette to do? Here are a few tips.
Home tours make the best photo-ops, and with options this year in more than 23 neighborhoods, there will be no shortage of opportunity. A few noteworthy stops: the Moroccan Modern Showcase Home, which serves up a bold pink entrance; the James L. Abernathy House; Frey House II; and Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate. In addition, there are architectural walking, biking, and bus tours (meet one of the tour guides on p. 60), each providing an opportunity to shoot exteriors from a unique perspective and learn about their architectural significance.
Early Bird Gets the Worm
Arrive early to avoid having tourists milling about in your shots. Or, if early is not your friend, hang around until the very end, when the crowds thin out.
Modernism Week's Showcase Home flaunts Palm Springs' flair for indoor-outdoor living.
Find Your Light
My husband, photographer Fred Moser, likes to say the trick to taking great photos is to point the camera at something pretty and shoot. But the real key is shooting in natural light, which makes for clear, crisp snapshots; choose daytime events if you’re seeking that quintessentially bright Palm Springs aesthetic.
Dress the Part
If you aim to appear in some of your photos, you’ll want to dress the part. A quick trip to Trina Turk and Mr Turk (locations in Palm Springs and Palm Desert) will sate the need for a chic caftan for her and a short suit for him that evoke resort glamour. Or head to The Fine Art of Design in Palm Desert for a vintage frock that no one else will have — it will look as if you’ve just stepped out of (or into) a Slim Aarons photo.
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A cul-de-sac in the Indian Canyons neighborhood throws it back to 1960.
Kelly Golightly’s Instax Mini 70.
Wondering when it’s kosher to snap a photo? Learn how to be discreet and get the best shots without stepping on any freshly manicured toes.
To Snap or Not to Snap
Unless otherwise stated, it’s almost always fair game to have your camera out. That said, “while most homeowners are thrilled to have photos taken, it’s always nice to ask,” Modernism Week CEO Chris Mobley advises. In the rare instances that photography is not permitted inside, it’s OK to shoot the exterior once you’re off the property.
Fred Moser snaps a selfie.
Do Not Touch
Refrain from sitting on furniture or touching objects during home tours. Follow the golden rule: Do unto others’ homes as you’d have them do unto yours. These houses are gems, so treat them as such!
Lose the Shoes
On many tours, you’ll be asked to wear booties or to remove your shoes. Keep this in mind if you plan to make a cameo in the photos — shoot from the waist up.
Discretion Is Key
Home tours are some of the most popular events during Modernism Week. Be respectful of other people’s space and time. Don’t ask groups to wait around until you get your shot, and don’t plan on setting up a photo studio in someone else’s home. Be patient, wait until you see an open opportunity, and click.
The Moroccan Modern Showcase home, by Thomboy Properties Inc.
Posh Parties and Events
Modernism Week Signature Home Tour
“I am a huge fan of the Signature Home Tours, because you get to tour a variety of chic homes in several great neighborhoods,” shares Christopher Kennedy, interior designer and author of Making Midcentury Modern. This year, you can upgrade your Signature Home Tour ticket with a VIP chauffeur experience in which you and your squad will ride in style in an Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV.
A Night at the Dinah Shore Estate
Donald Wexler’s iconic Dinah Shore Estate, now owned by Leonardo DiCaprio, will open to the public for a special Modernism Week event supporting nonprofit Save Iconic Architecture; the L.A.-based organization champions architectural preservation and awareness efforts. This soirée will make for epic InstaStories. Party at Leo’s!
The Opening Night Party
This red-carpet affair will be teeming with vintage style as revelers channel their inner Marilyn, Sammy, or Sinatra for a night of throwback entertainment and glitz at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort, designed in 1961 by Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison. The clubhouse will recall the famous After Dark television series and be transformed into a swinging club reminiscent of fabulous cocktail parties of the 1960s.
Palm Desert Signature Home Tour
Modernism Week events extend beyond Palm Springs for the first time this year, with happenings in Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, and Desert Hot Springs. Stray into Palm Desert for its inaugural Signature Home Tour. Organized by Troy and Amy Kudlac of KUD Properties (builders of the Desert Eichlers), the tour will visit several homes, including the Kudlacs’, which was recently featured in Atomic Ranch.
Get the look
You came, you saw, you snapped. Now, channel Palm Springs modernism in your own home.
Dream of Genie Bottles
“I believe that small things can make a big difference,” Kennedy says. Vintage glass bottles are among his favorite accessories. Bon Vivant in Palm Springs is his — and my — favorite source. “They can be used alone,” he notes, “but in multiples they create a major statement.”
Kennedy’s new line of indoor-outdoor pottery, available at his namesake store in the Uptown Design District, makes another stylish souvenir. He suggests planting succulents to bring a breath of desert style to your home, wherever you live.
Palm Springs Modernism
Show & Sale
The 18th annual Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale will feature 85 premier national and international dealers serving up furniture, decor, and fine art. It’s everything you didn’t know you needed in one convenient convention center.
The Art of the Matter
And last, but certainly not least, your own photos snapped at Modernism Week make the ultimate keepsake. Consider framing one or a few as a wonderful reminder of your time living the #palmspringsdream.