Palm Springs Modern Committee Recognizes Four Properties

Fierce and fearless rehabs sweep the 2023 Preservation Awards.

September 30, 2023
For the Hope House, the owner and architect unearthed Lautner’s original plans for the home from the Getty archive as a reference. The “volcano” of an estate retains its 60-foot-wide, crater-esque skylight above the courtyard.
PHOTO BY ELIZABETH DANIELS, COURTESY PALM SPRINGS MODERN COMMITTEE
A flying saucer, a pink William Cody, a pioneering 1940s home, and a church turned recording studio: Bold buildings and the midcentury devotees behind them made 2023 a banner year for the tenets revered by the Palm Springs Modern Committee (aka PS ModCom), which ripple out beyond preservation to encompass restoration, renovation, and reuse. Since 2003, the nonprofit has advocated for threatened buildings and celebrated those who revive desert modern design. On Oct. 7, PS ModCom will recognize four revitalized properties and two outstanding individuals during its annual Preservation Awards at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Decorator Bill Stewart, among this year’s award recipients, speaks for many when he says, “Nothing makes us feel better than preserving Palm Springs’ architectural past and bringing it into the present for all to enjoy.”

RESIDENTIAL RESTORATION AWARD

Owner Ron Burkle and Architect Helena Arahuete
Hope House, Architect John Lautner, 1979

Comedian Bob Hope left a conspicuous memento on the Southridge hillside: the largest of his three Palm Springs homes. The 24,000-square-foot estate of steel, glass, and concrete holds a mysterious air. Why so large? Why does it resemble a UFO?

Architect John Lautner followed his Frank Lloyd Wright–induced proclivities for organic architecture to emulate a volcano. (It didn’t need to feel homey; the Hopes used it mainly for parties.)

After years of construction delays and decorative edits, the final version veered from Lautner’s vision — that is, until current owner Ron Burkle set out to fulfill the intended design. Original site architect Helena Arahuete, who worked with Lautner for 23 years, returned for the restoration. Calling upon an estimated 100 craftsmen, the team created a perfectly modern specimen, more minimalist than ornamental and warmed by natural materials.

RESIDENTIAL PRESERVATION AWARD

Bill Stewart and Joe Gyori
Cody Pink House, Architect William F. Cody, 1957

“Every house they do is fantastic,” PS ModCom board president Courtney Newman says of Bill Stewart and Joe Gyori. “This one had such great bones, and they didn’t hide the architecture. You walk right in, and it’s William Cody — but then it’s also Bill and Joe.”

A Modernism Week 2022 tour description dubbed it “brutalist yet delicate.” The pair played to both styles, finishing the property in six months with their go-to contractor, Chris Neil. They installed a cedar shake roof per Cody’s original, reverted exterior planters to their initial design, duplicated the open blockwork on walls, and added a parking court with aggregate to match the original.

William Cody’s Santa Elena Residence.
PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS MODERN COMMITTEE
“We restored and enhanced,” Stewart says. Now the house glows like a painted sunset. “The soft, warm pink contrasts with all of the original white terrazzo patios and decking.” A black post-and-beam entry affirms: a bit of glamour is welcome here.

RESIDENTIAL RENOVATION AWARD

Jackie Thomas and DeeAnn McCoy
Gillman Residence, Architect Herbert W. Burns, 1948

As a self-taught architect, Herbert Burns brought his own vision to Palm Springs, borrowing from Frank Lloyd Wright and the late moderne style to lay an early foundation for desert modernism. Today’s guests at The Hideaway, Orbit In, and Holiday House appreciate his strong compositions anchored in indoor-outdoor living, soothing horizontality, Arizona sandstone, and Santa Fe brick.

A view of the Gillman Residence.

PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS MODERN COMMITTEE

His partly demolished Gillman Residence teetered on the verge of a teardown before Jackie Thomas and DeeAnn McCoy of Thomboy Properties Inc. deemed it ripe for one of their mindful transformations. Void of the original grandeur seen in a 1951 story in Los Angeles Times Home Magazine, the property required a restorative overhaul of epic proportions.

“One of the biggest challenges was identifying all of the architectural elements that were missing and then sourcing or fabricating as many of the original materials as possible,” Thomas says. Their efforts yielded a Class 1 Historic designation in 2022.

INSTITUTIONAL ADAPTIVE REUSE AWARD

MiShell Modern and Jay Nailor
The Church Studios, Pleger, Blurock, Hougan & Ellerbroek, 1960

Driving by the former Presbyterian church hunkered on the south edge of the Cathedral City Cove, one finds no indication of the 7,000-square-foot space’s re-imagined identity as an analog and digital recording studio.

Rising from a stone wall, the original cross still spears the sky. Once shrouded by tall hedges, “spider leg” beams now define the covered walkway, flanked by lollipop trees. Same shell, new crowd.

The Church Studios remains a hallowed gathering site for music and shared beliefs — all under one midcentury roof — as it has for more than 60 years. MiShell Modern and Jay Nailor, owners of The Shag Store in Palm Springs, honored the aesthetics as they remixed the interior.

An Advocate and an Educator

Two additional awards celebrate champions of significant architecture.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Janice Lyle

Janice Lyle has been a beacon of the preservation crusade for four decades while fortifying two of the Coachella Valley’s prized cultural institutions. Amplifying her leadership at Palm Springs Art Museum (1984–2007) and Sunnylands Center & Gardens (2008–2022), Lyle has lectured on modern architecture and midcentury preservation, served on nonprofit boards, and authored a book about Sunnylands. In 2012, she oversaw the restoration of the historic Annenberg estate.

LEADERSHIP IN EDUCATION AWARD

Linda Patton-Eakin

Thinking outside the textbook, Linda Patton-Eakin sought to incorporate local architectural history into her curriculum at St. Theresa Catholic School in Palm Desert. Her idea sparked the ever-expanding Building Educational Architectural Models (BEAM) program, now 10 years and five schools strong. PS ModCom volunteers introduce a modernist mindset to students, who design and build model midcentury homes. “Education is the key to our success and our future,” Newman says. “Linda has been instrumental in spearheading that.” In her 40-plus-year career, she has taught at St. Theresa since 1999.