Built in 1952 by actor Don Castle as an escape for the Hollywood elite, the legendary Red Barn on East Palm Canyon Drive saw a few incarnations before it was reimagined as a beautiful boutique hotel.
“Sparrows Lodge, as it exists today, is supposed to feel like the kind of desert ranch that movie stars had in the 1930s, before midcentury modern existed in Palm Springs,” says David Dittmer, a co-founder of PRG Hospitality Group, which owns the property along with Richard Crisman and Jeff Brock.
They were set on preserving the hotel’s “ranch” bones and board-and-batten exterior while enhancing these rough-hewn characteristics with modern amenities that would appeal to worldly guests. New, exposed, wood-paneled walls inside the rooms and Barn Kitchen restaurant were made to look old, while sunken bathtubs and luxury beds lend a new element of comfort to the charmingly rustic setting.
The 2-acre property, surrounded by majestic mountains, also features a pool, hot tub, fire pit, and garden, where family-style suppers are hosted every week. The latest addition, an open-air massage tent, gives guests “the best of both worlds” as they enjoy top-notch treatments in a laid-back setting.
Meanwhile, visitors to Idyllwild, a neighbor of the Coachella Valley, will find myriad rustic accommodations throughout the quaint little mountain town, including the early-1950s Woodland Park Manor. Built by a man named Walter Wood, the 5-acre site hugged by 100-year-old cedars and pines was purchased a quarter of a century later by Colin and Denise Day, who loved it so much they raised their family here and still run the cabin resort.
“We strive to create an atmosphere of welcome and warmth in the beauty of the forest,” Denise says. The six pet-friendly cottages, all outfitted with a kitchen and fireplace, and some with a personal hot tub, hold between two and six guests. The swimming pool is open half the year and typically covered with snow in winter. But whatever season you visit, it’s like a trip back to simpler times. Only cozier.
“Sparrows Lodge, as it exists today,
is supposed to feel like
the kind of desert ranch
that movie stars had
in the 1930s.” David Dittmer, Sparrows Lodge
find your escape
The Lautner Compound
Something about this sleek midcentury compound envisioned by legendary architect John Lautner feels beautifully rustic. Maybe it’s the mahogany walls and crackling fireplaces, the window-framed vistas, or open-air spaces filled with earthy perfume carried in by the desert winds. Or perhaps it’s the meeting of these elements that makes this mod compound such a needed retreat from the real world.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MIKE SCHWARTZ PHOTOGRAPHY
The Lautner Compound.
Joshua Tree Inn
Everything about this High Desert inn is rough around the edges and homey, from its simple design to the characters who make up its storied past. The ranch-like Spanish Colonial is a bucket-list lodging for anyone seeking an authentic, no-fuss experience. Many come to visit Room 8, where country-music legend Gram Parsons played his final song before slipping into a forever sleep. Others come to unwind by the backyard pool with a shandy and let their worries float away on the clouds.
29 Palms Inn
Far out in the vast Mojave Desert sits the 9,000-year-old Oasis of Mara, where a cluster of old palms and relatively new lodges make up the 29 Palms Inn. From 1920s wood-frame cabins with walkout decks to 1930s adobe bungalows complete with fireplaces, all “guest quarters” boast privacy and epic views. For socializing, gather around the pool or a table at the adjacent restaurant, serving up the freshest ingredients from the on-site farm. You can also paddle around the pond, get crafty at The Creative Center, or take a hike in the nearby national park.