In the middle of this month, people from all over the world will descend on the desert town of Palm Springs, CA for Modernism Week, a 10-day salute to Mid-Century design. I, on the other hand, beat the crowds and headed there last weekend to celebrate one of my best friend’s birthdays. While visiting I not only fell in love with Palm Springs’ laid-back vibe, but I learned the ins and outs of a city oftentimes taken at face value.
The city rose to popularity in the golden age of cinema when studios instituted the “Two Hour Rule.” It stated that no star under contract was to be more than two hours away from set in case they needed to come back and do publicity or reshoots for a film. The rule also helped ensure actors wouldn’t get into trouble (or perform without their manager’s permission) in Las Vegas, that well-known city of temptation outside the two-hour radius. Because of this, stars such as Marilyn Monroe (who was discovered at a beauty pageant in Palm Springs) and Ann Miller unwound there, away from the glare of tinsel town.
The area’s concentration of wealth paired with its famous residents’ desire for anonymity gave birth to interesting laws and instilled in Palm Springs a dedication to preserving its historic past. Keeping the city’s Mid-Century roots intact is taken so seriously, in fact, that in order to do construction on a home built before 1969 you need special permission from the City’s Historic Site Preservation Board. If you were to get permission to build or renovate, don’t try adding a second story. To maintain the privacy of its well-known homeowners, you cannot put up a structure that looks down into your neighbor’s yard.
All in all, I had a fantastic time antiquing and soaking up the city’s ties to old Hollywood. It was a trip I won’t soon forget and a place I plan to revisit next time the snow starts falling here in Chicago. Until then, I’ve rounded up a few decorations that will help us all bring the sunshiny vibe of Palm Springs into our own homes. Enjoy!—
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