twin palms

Untouchable in Palm Springs

When a 1969 home frozen in a time warp hits the market, potential buyers swear they won’t mess with its authentic mojo

Lisa Marie Hart Interior Design

twin palms

When I received an email inviting me to preview a 1969 Twin Palms estate via a 3-D tour, I clicked on the link with mild interest. Let me guess: another hackneyed midcentury-meets-modern-meets contemporary-with-a-twist listing. I was not prepared for one of the rare instances in my life where the adjective “jaw-dropping” was entirely accurate.

For almost half a century, the home had escaped impulsive whims and erratic trends. Unscathed aside from updated kitchen flooring, countertops, and appliances, it is one of the last true originals. For two short months it was for sale, furnishings and all.

The real shocker, beyond the vivacious color schemes, is that the home survived 47 years through not one owner but two. The first conceived it; the second maintained it.

The listing went viral. And when the doors flung open, the masses, heavy with nostalgia, came in droves, eager for a glimpse of a home that tiptoes on the brink of the 1960s and’70s in near pristine condition. This 3,350-square-foot home built in a U-shape around the pool became a roadside attraction, a fun house and a real house in one. During its open houses, the three-bedroom, three-bath shrine inspired many remarks: frozen in time, Broadway stage design, set decorator’s fantasy, Froot Loops factory, history gone wild, my grandparents’ house reincarnate …

You can’t make this stuff up. Short of a Hollywood budget, you can’t recreate it either. I had to know: Would the preservation chain remain unbroken?

The dining room seats 10 under two swag chandeliers.

Finé Score’s mother and stepfather bought the home in 1994. Score’s children and their cousins grew up there during sleepovers and holidays. They never pondered the décor. It was simply “Grandma’s house.”

The original owner, a local tradesman named Milton Seidner, built the house himself with the help of his architect his son-in law, Cary Bigman. Seidner and his wife Vera lived there for nearly 25 years until Score’s parents found it in 1994.

Score accompanied her mother on the tour. “The Realtor told her, ‘The furniture is custom. Of course, you can do whatever you want,’” Score recalls. “My mom turned to me and said, ‘Why would I?’ The house was meant for her.”

Ben and Martha Hite bought it, savored it, and kept it as is. The Hites found no irony, humor, quirkiness, or theme to the high-pitched interior. They just liked it.

VIDEO: Finé Score talks about what made the home special.

Guest bedrooms drenched in royal blue and Kelly green have nothing on the master. The unrelenting pink suite features the master bed on a platform pedestal, flanked by tiny gooseneck reading lights that pop out of the wall. The bed wears its original quilted bedspread against a hot-pink velvet tufted headboard. Barbie would have dropped Ken in a heartbeat to live in this kind of Dreamhouse. But Score says men also love it. “It has a draw for them, too,” she says. “My stepdad loved it. He was amazing. He was so proud of the zoom option on the bedroom TV, and he loved to sing Sinatra.”

Timeless amenities ensure the home’s relevance. Mature fruit trees, an outdoor shower, and prime views from a quiet pocket in South Palm Springs resonate with everyone. For those who require a safe in the garage floor, it has that, too.

After Score’s stepdad passed away and her mother’s health was failing, Score moved Hite in with her family for nine years. The Hite home became a long-term rental, first cherished by a Canadian designer who permanently set the dining table for 10. When Score lost her mother last fall, she and her sister knew what they had to do. “I was dragging my feet for sentimental reasons,” Score says. “For me, the house is emotional. It represents a classier time when people would dress to come over for a cocktail before dinner.”

A friend referred Score to Lucio Bernal and Chip Romero with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. They clicked, but Score forbade a lock box and insisted that potential buyers experience a walk-through with someone who understood the property’s provenance.

Bernal was on board. “I had told her, ‘If you’re going to do it and you want the most exposure, let’s do it during Modernism Week,’” he says. “We got the call the week before.”

Finé Score, whose mother and stepfather were the home’s second owners, in the living room.

Even the quilted coverlet and bedskirt are original to the home’s beginnings.

“If these walls could talk,” reads the listing. “Take a stroll down memory lane in this meticulously preserved Twin Palms masterpiece. This one-of-a-kind time capsule will leave you feeling as though you’ve been plucked from reality and transported to a time of cocktail parties and Hollywood weekend retreats. This stunning home represents the epitome of Modernism and the essence of Palm Springs. From the moiré wallpaper and draperies to the gold crystal chandeliers, this fully furnished blast from the past will leave you asking only one question: shaken or stirred?”

The home hit the market at an asking price of $850,000 three days before Modernism Week.

Bernal and Romero tag team the listing and open houses, anticipating a heady response. “I was raised by my grandparents and this pretty much was their house,” Romero says. “When I first got here, I couldn’t talk.” His déjà vu moment is the first of countless personal reactions to come.

The pair prep for the onslaught by walking through with Score to cover finer points and details. All furniture will be included in the sale, from the builder’s custom living room table to his Rococo bathroom towel bars. (I brace myself at the thought of anyone tearing down the flocked wallpaper.) All parties agree: In its heyday, this was quite the specimen. “Hotels must have felt unimpressive to the owners when they traveled,” Bernal muses.

A shapely step-up sunken tub is the leading lady in the bathroom.

The hall to the master bath has his-and-hers closets on each side.

“These few days have been quite a thrill,” Bernal says. “People who walk through identify a smell, a texture, an item. There’s a connection for them, whether they like it or not. Their grandparents had that carpet, their parents had that chandelier. Designers who have come through have said whoever did this used top-notch materials.” Voyeurs revisit with curious friends in tow. Bernal and Romero count upward of 500 visitors.

A neighbor wanders in from across the street. His home was another in the neighborhood built by Seidner. “It’s unbelievable what’s going on here,” he says, shaking his head. A woman Score’s age remarks that she didn’t appreciate the style then but she does now. Many seem instantly attached for the memories it begets. Yet memories aren’t required for lust. A teenage girl in a black concert T-shirt has her eye on the shaped, step-up terrazzo bathtub. “This is my dream house,” she murmurs.

For me, the “Tom Jones room” has it all. That’s what I nickname the scotch-rocks den with a mirrored wet bar, wood paneling, fireplace, 1970s sound system, and padding around the edge of the cocktail table for extra seating. “This is where we all got together for Sunday football,” Score remembers, with the blender going and the green and gold Culver glasses at the ready.

The agents say three buyers are already circling. “The parties who are most interested say they will do a little updating to the kitchen and keep everything else,” affirms Romero.

A padded edge that wraps around the cocktail table provided extra seating for parties and family gatherings in the den.

Bernal is inundated with calls and emails. Media outlets are picking up on it and want interviews, photos, tours, access. English photographer Matt Henry arrives with models in teased hair, vintage shift dresses, and go-go boots. Photos from his two-day shoot that include a bubble bath, a woman passed out on the bar, and a naked man cleaning the pool might figure into his next book.

Not all comments are kind, especially those responding to a story on “It’s so hideously fabulous it would be sacrilege to ever change it!” writes one. “Would not change a thing, other than wearing sunglasses inside to avoid the glare,” and “The inside looks so fantastically awful that it’s damn near mesmerizing,” chime in others. “What’s with all the green? It looks like a leprechaun decorated it.” “Not been touched obviously means never been redecorated. Get a grip.” Critics who find the home garish, however, are in the minority. Most readers are ready to move in.

Of those who see it in person, some find the environments overwhelming. “Sensory overload,” they say, finding a place to sit down before pressing on. Between dizzying layers of sheers under valances with a deep swag and chubby-cheeked cherubs peering out from alcoves, each space presents much to absorb.

Although they lived there full time, even Score’s parents needed a change of scenery. Playing snowbirds in their own home, they weathered the winters in the pink bedroom then relocated into the cooler, more refreshing blue for the summers.

“What I would hope is that the new owners appreciate it for what it is,” Score says. “I can see them taking out the popcorn ceilings and reupholstering. But, you know … ”

“The most common thing we’re hearing from everyone who walks in is: It may not be my taste, but I wouldn’t do a thing to it,” Bernal says.

Score’s family made use of the three-stool mirror-back bar on Sundays during football season.

Two months to the day, the residential sensation forwarded and clicked on around the world has two offers. For Score, the day brings a heavy heart. Her mother is always on her mind.

“When she had open-heart surgery, she needed her gold earrings and her nails done. That’s just who she was. She had a leopard coat and leopard pajamas. She liked to dress up, but she could ride a horse too,” she says, smiling. Score can almost see her pumping away on her exercise bike, tucked into a corner of the patio facing the pool and the mountains. “It’s been exciting to share it with people who appreciate it as much as I do,” she nods. “The home is ready for someone else to take it and enjoy it.”

The haters prove to have questionable taste. Two pop stars make competing offers after touring it within hours of each other. Kesha loses out. A male artist’s offer is accepted, sealed in silent archives with a signed confidentiality agreement. The cut crystal lighters and glass grapes are heirloom accessories that Score brought in for staging. The new owner will need to head Uptown to procure his own.

The home’s blue guest bedroom appealed to second owners Ben and Martha Hite as a cool change of scenery. They wintered in the pink master suite then moved into the saturated blue room for the summer season.

Score receives a call from communications professor Deborah Morrison at the University of Oregon who wants to film a minidocumentary at the home. She hopes to interview a member of the Palm Springs Historical Society and local midcentury architect Hugh Kaptur, among others, before the home transfers owners. It is likely the gem’s last media hurrah in its present state.

“It’s been well-loved, well-lived in, and well cared for,” Score says. “When I’m here I feel my parents. When it’s gone, it will be a different chapter. But I feel it will go into good hands.”