Modernism Week and the Frey House
I am planning a trip later this month to California to speak about my book, "The Finest Rooms in America," and show some of my own work. While I am excited to do that, I am also looking forward to making a side trip to Palm Springs for Modernism Week. There will be two highlights to that trip. One will be hearing my friend Trina Turk speak about how the local Desert Modernism influenced her own work and seeing her husband, Jonathan Skow, a talented photographer who once took the most flattering photograph of me early in my career. The second will be seeing the Albert Frey house, one of my favorite houses in America, which is rarely open to the public.
Albert Frey built this landmark house for himself in 1963 on the craggy rocks of the San Jacinto mountains overlooking Palm Springs. It took five years of careful measuring and observation to come up with the site for his house. The spot he finally decided upon aligns the house with the mountain surface so the house almost appears to grow from it, and positions the roof line parallel to the slope of the mountain. He also took into consideration various environmental factors so the house would be comfortable all year round, such as placing a wide overhanging aluminum roof to keep the house cool when the sun is high in the summer and positioning the large windows to draw warmth from the sun in the winter when it sits lower.
The house is only 800 square feet (with a small 300-square-foot guest room added in 1967), but is very efficiently planned within its narrow footprint. The furniture, workspaces and storage are built in, with its genius detail being the giant boulder that juts into the house, helping to separate the living and sleeping space. The house also maximizes its views from all angles--you wouldn't need a TV or any other distraction here because your eyes would be drawn to the beauty around you.
For me the Frey house is analogous in the best way to a tent in the desert, or perhaps a tent by an oasis since it has a pool. Generally, I like interiors with at least some old furniture, but here this role is filled with that ancient rock protruding into the house.
The house will be open for tours, with the last tour of the day ending with cocktails. You have to love western hospitality.