Modernism Week Preview

A couple of weekends ago, I was joined by my lovely mother in Palm Springs for a tour of Modernism Week. We had selected a walking tour featuring Modern Commercial Structures of Fashion and Finance. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and we found the tour to be both interesting and informative. The tour was offered through Modernism Week but hosted by Palm Springs Historical Society. There were people from all over the country and even Canada that joined us to view some of the buildings that line Indian Canyon Road and Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.

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Side note: If you go down to P.S. on your own, make sure to hit the Palm Springs Visitors Center and pick up a handy $5 map of “Modern Palm Springs.” That handy little thing is like GOLD to you MCM nuts out there. It has a detailed map numbered with 82 different points of interest, both residential and commercial. Each of those 82 points are listed and have a small description featuring address, year built, and architect info. JACKPOT!!!!

 

 

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This Union Bank above doesn’t look like much from the outside, but when you get to the terra-cotta wall that faces the street (500 S. Palm Canyon) you’ll see a beautiful story in pictures of Palm Springs history from it’s very beginning to modern-day. This location was an excellent example of desert modernism, as the rock façade (not pictured) incorporates the use of desert elements.

 

 

 

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This Bank of America (formerly City National Bank) building is not what you’d typically expect in MCM architecture, but exhibits use of mid-century modern components. “Brise-soleil” (pronounced bree-soh-ley) is an architectural element popular at the time that shielded the building from direct sunlight, but still allowed filtered light to enter the space. The reflection you see in the windows on the above-right photo used to be covered by a geometrically patterned brise-soleil as seen below.

 

Brise-Soleil. J PEG

Both photos shamlessly scanned from my new "Palm Springs Holiday" book by Peter Moruzzi. You need to get one.
Both photos shamelessly scanned from my new “Palm Springs Holiday” book by Peter Moruzzi. You need to get one.

Palm Springs Holiday

Thanks, Ma!

 

 

Anyway….I’m skipping some…but saving the best two for last.

Palm Springs 012 Palm Springs 010

Coachella Valley Savings and Loan (now known as Chase Bank) and it’s parabolas blew me away….

blog.preservationnation.org IMG_0371

 

 

And the former Santa Fe Savings building was under renovation and will be unveiled soon and will serve as a museum. Can’t wait to get back and see it after completion.

 

 

If you’re into mid-century modern architecture, a visit to Palm Springs is an absolute must. There is such a large concentration of original buildings that have been lovingly preserved and thoughtfully restored. Hooray for preservation!

Albert Frey's star....Frey was considered the father of "desert modernism."
Albert Frey’s star….Frey was considered the father of “desert modernism.”

The next Modernism Week is the biggest as far as tourist turn-out and tour offerings. It is in February 2014 and features more tours than you can shake a stick at. If you’re into mid-century modernism, desert modernism, or celebrity playgrounds of yore, get your butt out to Palm Springs. Some of the tours are already sold out….so if you want to go, you must get your tickets asap! Go to Modernism Week 2014.

 

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Lackluster Landscape Update

September last year, I asked myself the question, “What does a mid-century modern landscape look like?” (Click here for the original post)

Being that a year has passed and there has been more money spent at Home Depot than I’d like to admit, let’s cut to the chase and talk results.

Before. Fail.
Before. Fail.
After 1 year of planting and watering....
After 1 year of planting and watering….

Um…. Yeah, so not remarkable success on the hill. As it turns out, all it took was water to bring the original ice plant back to life, and I planted some different variations in the bare spots. It’s amazing how ice plant can re-populate after being pretty much scorched to death by the sun. The weeds were also amazing, so we had to throw some cash at mulch. Nothing worse than paying for MULCH.

Landscape After (1 year) 005 Landscape After (1 year) 006 Landscape After (1 year) 007

The flowers and jasmine that you won’t see died. I had visions of jasmine vines growing like weeds, providing us with fine-smelling privacy from our neighbors, but the dying plants mock my best efforts. Maybe that’s why I don’t generally deal with flowers. It’s an “I’ll dump you before you dump me” sort of dynamic. I knew I’d kill them….or the soil would, or the sun would, and it happened. Even after adding Amend to the soil and watering like the dickens, they wilted away almost instantaneously.  I’m leaning towards more drought-tolerant succulents in the future.

"Green Apple" wins the award for "Best Grower in Caca Soil"
“Green Apple” wins the award for “Best Grower in Caca Soil”

I won’t entertain you with stories of my newly installed sprinklers rotating themselves to water my neighbors slope, and me, getting soaked in my pajamas at 6:30 a.m. trying to re-adjust the sprinkler heads. Three.Different.Times. Evil poltergeist sprinkler heads.

I will however, share with you an example of how when not aimed at  your neighbor’s yard, a little water can go a long way.

BEFORE: Favorite plant and ferns
BEFORE: Favorite plant and ferns
AFTER: Busting at the seams with tropical beauty.
AFTER: Bursting at the seams with tropical beauty.

 

The following section is still a work in progress. Meaning I started the work, but then lost interest in killing myself over the yard.

Before: Remember the ugly shrubs?
Before: Remember the ugly shrubs?

 

After: The ugly shrubs and I are 2 : 1. I replaced the unlucky guy with this plant. A philomenondenroaoamenopeana.
After: The ugly shrubs and I are 2 : 1. I replaced the unlucky guy with this plant. I think they call it philomenondenroaoamenopea.

Okay, technically, it’s a version of Philodendron (“big leaf” I think) and it’s doing quite well in the shade. I’m hoping it will grow tall and wide enough to disguise the rotting fence. One thing at a time, people.

(If you’re looking for ideas for your own yard, this month’s Sunset Magazine features a special “Water-Wise Design Guide” and offers great ideas for your fall planting.)

The lesson here is mid-century modern landscape means different things to different people, and certainly different plants for different soils. You have to work with what you’ve got. The mid-century modern movement aimed to create a seamless transition from the indoors to out. Nature, whether in the form of tropical or succulent, is to be enjoyed and appreciated. I’m hoping that at some point these beautiful plants will draw my visitors eyes, and butts, outside.

 

 

 

The Elusive Dorothy Thorpe

Let’s talk about mid-century name brands. Branding is important; Don Draper would be the first to tell you. So how do you determine if something is the real deal, or a reproduction? Does it matter? You can find many a heated discussion on the subject on mid-century modern blogs and Facebook Fan pages. I’m here to tell you, when it comes to Dorothy Thorpe, it’s really hard to know. You’ve seen Dorothy’s work…real or reproduction on Mad Men, and you’re probably starting to see it in your friends homes.

MadMenSeason3

According to the only seemingly reliable information I could track down, Dorothy Thorpe sold her interest in her company in 1953. At the time, she was well-known for her floral work and sand etching.

Here’s an excerpt:

Thorpe passed away September 4, 1989 in Carlsbad, California. Based on this revised information, it seems that Dorothy Thorpe only ever did floral and similar decorations which include the etched pieces such as coffee pots and trays that have lucite handles and bear the DTC logo. The company that purchased Dorothy C. Thorpe of California Inc., went on to produce Silver Band and other known pieces with the same attention to detail and quality as was the rule when Dorothy owned the studio herself. All of the floral and etched decorations are referenced as “Dorothy Thorpe Originals” and by the time of her retirement, she was famous for her floral decorated glassware that was owned and displayed by celebrities, galleries and museums.

The author goes on to surmise that the silver band “Mad Men” barware that we so often see labeled as “Dorothy Thorpe” is most likely the work of the company that purchased and took over the Dorothy Thorpe Company name after 1953, and further that these pieces were largely experimental. I’m thinking the gamble paid off. With the resurgence of interest in mid-century modern accessories, these glasses are a must-have for the true MCM enthusiast. If you’re hot for Thorpe or the “roly poly” barware, I’d like to share with you a few sellers who have something to offer.

This most exemplary set of 6 are offered on Etsy.com Search "RustBeltThreads"Photo Credit: RustBeltThreads
This most exemplary set of 6 are offered on Etsy.com Search “RustBeltThreads”
Photo Credit: RustBeltThreads
Set of 8 with caddy again offered by RustBeltThreads on Etsy.com Photo Credit: RustBeltThreads
Set of 8 with caddy again offered by RustBeltThreads on Etsy.com
Photo Credit: RustBeltThreads

 

Don't like the silver-band? Check out awesome Etsy seller WestTexasVintage. This set of 7 is only $28! Photo Credit: WestTexasVintage
Don’t like the silver-band? Check out awesome Etsy seller WestTexasVintage. This set of 7 is only $28!
Photo Credit: WestTexasVintage
Silver-Banned Cocktail or Juice Glasses again by WestTexasVintage. Photo Credit: WestTexasVintage
Silver-Banned Cocktail or Juice Glasses again by WestTexasVintage. Photo Credit: WestTexasVintage

 

Authentic Dorothy Thorpe or not, these roly poly glasses are HOT and they’re everywhere, and I must say that I really want a set for my wannabe Mad Men bar.  There is nothing yummier than seeing Don Draper sip from one of those roly poly glasses; personally, I don’t care who made it. Until the final season of Mad Men is released, I’ll have to get my hands on some “Dorothys” and settle for a drink alone.

Better than Booze: Don Draper
Better than Booze: Don Draper

The Elusive Dorothy Thorpe

Let’s talk about mid-century name brands. Branding is important; Don Draper would be the first to tell you. So how do you determine if something is the real deal, or a reproduction? Does it matter? You can find many a heated discussion on the subject on mid-century modern blogs and Facebook Fan pages.  I’m here to tell you, when it comes to Dorothy Thorpe, it’s really hard to know. You’ve seen Dorothy’s work…real or reproduction on Mad Men, and you’re probably starting to see it at your friends bars.

MadMenSeason3

According to the only seemingly reliable information I could track down, Dorothy Thorpe sold her interest in her company in 1953. At the time, she was well-known for her floral work and sand etching.

Here’s an excerpt:

Thorpe passed away September 4, 1989 in Carlsbad, California.  Based on this revised information, it seems that Dorothy Thorpe only ever did floral and similar decorations which include the etched pieces such as coffee pots and trays that have lucite handles and bear the DTC logo. The company that purchased Dorothy C. Thorpe of California Inc., went on to produce Silver Band and other known pieces with the same attention to detail and quality as was the rule when Dorothy owned the studio herself.  All of the floral and etched decorations are referenced as “Dorothy Thorpe Originals” and by the time of her retirement, she was famous for her floral decorated glassware that was owned and displayed by celebrities, galleries and museums.

The author goes on to surmise that the silver band “Mad Men” barware that we so often see labeled as “Dorothy Thorpe” is most likely the work of the company that purchased and took over the Dorothy Thorpe Company name after 1953, and further that these pieces were largely experimental. I’m thinking the gamble paid off. With the resurgence of interest in mid-century modern accessories, these glasses are a must-have for the true MCM enthusiast. If you’re hot for Thorpe or the “roly poly” barware, I’d like to share with you a few sellers who have something to offer.

This most exemplary set of 6 are offered on Etsy.com Search "RustBeltThreads"
This most exemplary set of 6 are offered on Etsy.com Search “RustBeltThreads”
Photo Credit: RustBeltThreads
set of 8 with caddy again offered by RustBeltThreads on Etsy.com Photo Credit: RustBeltThreads
Set of 8 with caddy again offered by RustBeltThreads on Etsy.com
Photo Credit: RustBeltThreads
Don't like the silver-band? Check out awesome Etsy seller WestTexasVintage. This set of 7 is only $28!
Don’t like the silver-band? Check out awesome Etsy seller WestTexasVintage. This set of 7 is only $28!
Photo credit: WestTexasVintage
Silver-Banned Cocktail or Juice Glasses again by WestTexasVintage.  Photo Credit: WestTexasVintage
Silver-Banned Cocktail or Juice Glasses again by WestTexasVintage.
Photo Credit: WestTexasVintage

Dorothy Thorpe or not, these roly poly glasses are HOT and they’re everywhere, and I must say that I really want some for my wannabe Mad Men bar. There is nothing yummier than seeing Don Draper sip from one of those roly poly glasses.

Better than booze: Don Draper
Better than booze: Don Draper