These days, Palm Springs is predominantly associated with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which happens nearby in Indio, and which kicked off today. But many crop top-clad festival attendees may be unaware of the area’s rich heritage, particularly related to real estate from the mid-20th century.
The homes in Palm Springs are known for their retro style—these luxury Desert Modern homes feature open-design plans, wall-to-wall carpeting, swimming pools to cool off from the desert heat, and floor-to-ceiling windows. This look later became synonymous with the Palm Springs lifestyle of sipping on martinis after a day of golf at the local country club. Even today, the area feels like a blast from the past, and it’s easy to imagine celebrities like Frank Sinatra or Marilyn Monroe spending their vacations there.
In the area’s heyday Hollywood’s elite would come to Palm Springs as an escape from the movie business, and the Coachella Valley became a place to be seen, to party, to spread gossip, and to live in leisure.
New developments in the Palm Springs area are equally as grandiose and chic, but for different reasons. Two of the homes on our list are worth over $9 million each, and have become architectural stars in their own right.
- Twin Palms Estate: Frank Sinatra and Nancy Barbato’s home from 1947-1953 was designed by Stewart Williams. The estate boasts his famous grand piano-shaped swimming pool, four bedrooms, and a pool house. The home still includes his original sound and recording system, and small mementos like a crack in Sinatra’s sink from a champagne-tossing brawl between him and his wife.
- Bing Crosby’s Estate: Bing Crosby was an avid golf player, and helped establish the Thunderbird Country Club before selling his golf course lot in 1952 to buy this estate with his first wife Dixie Lee.
The luxury home is located on a hillside in the star-studded neighborhood of Thunderbird Heights. To get a sense of the place, the 7,000 square-foot lot was often dubbed “The Playground of Presidents.”
- Steve McQueen’s House: In 1963, Steve McQueen bought a home with Neile Adams in Southridge, later living there with his second wife, Ali MacGraw.
In 1971, Sports Illustrated featured the home, describing it as “some decorator’s dream come surrealistically true. There are kongoni skulls and zebra skin pillows, the mounted head of a Boone and Crockett-class bighorn sheep, a gold-plated Winchester .30-30 ‘presentation model’ hanging on one wall.”
- The Elrod House: Also located in prestigious Southridge, this property is currently for sale at $9.5 million, and became famous after hosting the filming of the James Bond classic, “Diamonds Are Forever.”
The five bed and six bath home took seven years to build out of 700 tons of hand-cut Idaho quartz stone.
- Sonny Bono’s Estate: After his famous duets like “I Got You Babe” with then-wife Cher, Sonny Bono became the mayor of Palm Springs from 1988-1992.
While living in Palm Springs with his wife Mary, they owned a three-house property that hit the market in 2011 for $3,995,000. The estate includes three homes: a 6,648 square-foot main house, a two bed and bath guest house, and a 740 square foot third guesthouse. The property built in 1940 features a large pool, an outdoor barbecue area, a full tennis court, and a four car garage.
- Elvis’ Honeymoon House: In 1966, Elvis Presley leased this home with his new wife Priscilla. The couple spent a year here.
Robert and Helene Alexander rented the home from 1960-1965, throwing infamously lavish parties. While living in Palm Springs, Look Magazine came to take pictures of the socialites, who were friends with many local celebrities.
- Kaufmann Desert House: This home is one of the most famous pieces of real estate in Palm Springs. The Richard Neutra-designed home was built in 1946 and purchased by Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann as a vacation home.
The home boasts five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a pool, a pool house with a viewing pavilion, and a tennis court that all sit on 2.5 acres.
- Marilyn Monroe’s Home: The actress resided in this 1950s bungalow-style Las Palmas home for a year in 1960. Features include a lush garden featuring wildflowers, evergreens, and palm trees.
Norma Jean (who later became Marilyn of course) was discovered by Johnny Hyde in Palm Springs while playing by the pool at the historic Racquet Club. A 26-foot statue of the late actress was erected in her honor by Johnson & Johnson heir Seward Johnson.
- The Kennedy/Lawford Home: Originally built for Peter Lawford and his wife Patricia Kennedy, the Alexander Construction butterfly-shaped home is among the most well known homes in the Las Palmas area.
During President Kennedy’s visit to Palm Springs, he stayed at this home instead of Sinatra’s, which caused a scandal at the time.
- Dean Martin’s Home: The legendary Rat Pack member lived in an Alexander Construction home that he bought with his second wife Jeanne for $56,000 in the 1960s.
- Las Palomas: Cary Grant and his wife Betsey Drake bought their home in Palm Springs in 1954, which was built in 1927 as an exact copy of a 19th century Andalusian Spanish farmhouse. The 6,000 square foot Spanish-style home has six bedrooms and five and a half bathrooms. Although the couple later divorced, Grant lived at estate until 1972.
- Ann Miller’s Home: The late actress’ Spanish-style house was built in 1928. It includes a swimming pool, a large yard, and remains one of the expansive lots in the famed Los Palmas neighborhood. The current owners of Ann Miller’s old home are Toni Holt Kramer and her husband, Robert Kramer.
- Piazza de Liberace: Liberace was well-known for his opulence, and the Palm Springs home that he lived in from 1968-1972 definitely reflect his style. Details include musical notes on the garden fencing and Roman statues of men and lions sitting in front. The mailbox is even shaped like a grand piano.
- Patricia Gucci’s Mountain Center Estate: The grand-daughter of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, Patricia Gucci, purchased a home in Palm Desert on 23 acres in 1993. She completely transformed it into an expansive compound, complete with a 11,000 square-foot 10 bedroom home, guesthouses, a movie theater, spas, and a tennis court.