Modernism Week is currently in full swing in Palm Springs! The incongruously-named design festival actually comprises 11 days’ worth of activities showcasing all things mid-century, including informational lectures, vintage car shows, swanky soirees and, most importantly, tours of famous local homes. As executive director Lisa Vossler Smith explains to Architectural Digest, “Modernism Week celebrates the unique aspects of the tremendous architectural heritage in Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley. Through our tours, talks, and other compelling programs, we help educate people about the essential role that design plays in our daily lives.” Initially established in 2006, the affair has grown to become the largest of its kind worldwide, attracting upwards of 160,000 attendees annually. Though it was canceled in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is back with fervor this year, offering over 350 retro-inspired events.
Unfortunately, the Elrod House, arguably the city’s most famous mid-century property, is not available for tours this time around – nor is its location publicly accessible. The iconic structure, which a former real estate listing describes as “literally one of THE most architecturally significant homes in all the world,” sits tucked behind a manned gate at 2175 Southridge Dr. in Palm Springs’ Southridge community. (Please remember this is a private dwelling. Do not trespass or bother the residents or the property in any way.) The exclusive and fiercely private enclave – which boasts signs out front ominously warning, “Cameras, Guards, Gates Ahead – Trespassers will be photographed and may be prosecuted” – consists of a handful of large-scale estates that have been home to such stars as Ali MacGraw, Joan Collins, William Holden, Steve McQueen and Stefanie Powers at different points in time. The Elrod House, though, is, by far, the neighborhood’s most famous property, thanks to both its innovative architecture and its appearance in the 1971 James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever.”
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé John Lautner in 1968, the monolith structure is one of the landmark architect’s most preeminent creations, a symphony of glass and poured concrete that reads more like a work of art than a residence. Featuring five bedrooms and six baths spread throughout a massive 8,901 square feet, the dwelling was commissioned by Arthur Elrod, a prominent interior designer who studied at Chouinard Art Institute and whose work Palm Springs Life notes “permanently reshaped the design aesthetic of the desert.”