I heart Palm Springs

Guys, did you know that it’s Modernism Week in Palm Springs?  M O D E R N I S M !  P A L M  S P R I N G S ! !

From February 13-23 this year, Palm Springs is celebrating all things Modernist. I can’t tell you how much I want to be a part of this. Palm Springs is way WAY up there on my list of places to go.  Just look at the scenery:


The Kauffman Desert House, by Richard Neutra [ image source ]

gas station

The Tramway Gas Station (now the Palm Springs Visitors Center), by Albert Frey and Robson Chambers

[ image source ]

Vista Las Palmas

A home in the Vista Las Palmas Neighborhood in Palm Springs

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It’s about this time every year I long for warmer weather and short sleeves.  Doesn’t this look like the perfect place to warm up in the winter?  I could totally be a snowbird here, friends.  Palm Springs has the largest concentration of mid-century design anywhere, all situated in the desert and hills of California, a little more than an hour and half southeast of Los Angeles.  Just about the best winter getaway I could ask for.

This map says it all:


Map of Palm Springs by Nat Reed from the LA Times Blog [ image source ]

If I were still a kid, this would be my Disney World.  Modernism Week consists of walking tours, bus tours, lectures, parties and probably a lot of fun.  I’d check out works by John Lautner, Richard Neutra, Albert Frey and Donald Wexler, and I’d want to stay at the Saguaro Palm Springs:


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For more images, check out the Modernism Week Instagram feed here.  I know I plan to live vicariously through those photos.

+ Thank you all for your feedback on books for kids from this post: The books arrived a day after Valentines and the kids are shouting “Again, again” after reading the first book, so I’d say these are a success! +


Move that House

I was flipping through a recent issue of Southern Living a few weeks ago (my mom gives me a subscription of this magazine since she knows I always devour it when I visit her house- I LOVE it) and starting reading an article about two houses in Florida moved from their original locations to new spots by their current owners.  The article was mostly about the logistics of moving a house and how these couples redesigned them in their new environments. The Before and After photos are impressive.

Reading more closely, I learned that one house was moved from a location in Florida which was slated to become a shopping center.  It is a cute, 1948 cottage and only moved 8 miles.  But one of the owners was the town architect of Seaside, Florida.  And they moved the house to Point Washington, Florida because they were “looking for something with more age and a little imperfection”.  I had to reread that sentence a few times in order to comprehend.  This couple moved a 65 year-old falling down house from one site to another in order to renovate and live in it, only to completely ignore the pseudo “vintage” town where one of them was Mayor?

Ummm, does that strike you as a little funny?  Hypocritical, even?  The town architect of Seaside doesn’t even want to live in one of the quaint, Seaside houses?  Wasn’t it designed to mimic these small, Florida town with their cottages and beach houses?  And not only does this couple not want to live in one of those houses, they are going to the trouble to move a house “with character” from one spot to another.  This seems like a gigantic #FAIL for Seaside to me.

(You know about Seaside, right?  It’s a New Urbanist development created in the 1980s by the architecture firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company and it’s been studied by architecture, history and planning students since then.  Many famous architects (Robert M. Stern, Machado and Silvetti Associates, Sam Mockbee, Steven Holl) have designed buildings there.  It’s where the movie The Truman Show was filmed.)

Apparently this lacks authenticity for the mayor.

I don’t know folks.  It leaves my mind spinning.

But I can’t dwell on it for too long.  We have our own house-hunting cross to bear.  And the idea of moving a house from one spot to another in order to get the house we want (in the school district we like, which, as parents, we are learning makes house-hunting very frustrating) sounds pretty good right about now.

Little Sister arrives!

We did it!  We had our second child just 10 days ago: Sawyer Jennifer DeBacker.  Here we are introducing Mark to his little sister.




Sawyer has been an incredible addition to our family and already I can’t imagine life without her. 

I know I haven’t posted much in the past few months.  Life has become ridiculously full and busy, but I still think blogging is a worthwhile pursuit. I hope to

be more consistent with it once we are more settled.  I did want to share one thing (in addition to the baby announcement!) that Dr. Jay showed me this morning.  He has become an avid (and talented) photographer over the last year or so, and has recently started posting more to Flickr.  Today, through Flickr, he found an interview Moby gave to 1883 digital magazine about his blog about L.A. Architecture.  Los Angeles has been on my list to visit for quite a while.  I’ve been to California three times, and only really to Northern California and I know Southern California is like an entirely different country.  Anyway, I just love hearing Moby talk architecture in Los Angeles. He travels quite a bit and has a very interesting take on what he finds to photograph in L.A. 

Gives me the itch to travel there.  But I’ve got enough travel on my plate for the summer.  We move in a few short weeks and even fewer boxes have yet been packed.  I hope to be able to blog, but know I haven’t forgotten about you.  I just have to figure out how to juggle.

Thanks for sticking with me.


Pope-Leighey House adventure

This morning Dr. Jay and I packed up the toddler and traveled a few miles south to a little architectural gem that’s been on our list to visit for a while, the Pope-Leighey House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  I realized once we were there that it was my first time in a FLW house- a big deal for me.


The house was originally built in 1940, commissioned by Loren Pope and his family.  It was first located in Falls Church, and the family lived there for about five years until they needed a larger home for their expanding brood (the house is only about 1200 square feet).  Mrs. Marjorie Leighey was the second owner and lived in the home until 1964 when it was condemned to be torn down by the oncoming expansion of Route 66.  Mrs. Leighey struck a deal with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the house was moved (sort of) to its current location in south Alexandria, the grounds of Woodlawn Plantation.  She was permitted to continue occupying the house and did so until her death in the early 1980s.  In 1996 the house was again moved, but just 60 feet from its previous spot so as to more accurately portray what the original site orientation would have been.

woodlawnplantation Woodlawn Plantation home

Our tour was given by C.J. Lamora, a local designer and devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright.  He stressed that the house is a prime example of FLW’s Usonian house ideal, the concept being that the house is modest in size so as to be affordable for American families, efficient in design and well-sited for the surrounding environment.  FLW relied on three major materials: brick, cypress wood and concrete.



He also used these geometric cut-out shapes as a motif throughout the house at the clerestory level, a theme fairly common in the Usonian houses.

We weren’t permitted to take photos inside (major bummer) but I’ll share some photos I took of the exterior and talk more about the interior with some images I’ve gathered from the world wide web.



You can see the deep overhangs, typical of a FLW design.  I was once told that these serve to limit the amount glare from the sun in that particular site line, so that you would have a more even view of the horizon.







Spring was out in bloom today.


I loved the use of built-in planters around the house.



As our tour guide mentioned, you can see the strong use of horizontals throughout the house.  This is part of Wright’s ideals of connection to the land.  There is a 6’8” datum line for most of the ceilings (doors reach this datum line as well) that serves to reinforce a human scale and make the spaces seem more intimate.  In this house, it is broken only in the living room, where the space expands and light from the south facing wall fills the room.

Photo of the living room found online:




Original drawing of the plan:


Here’s a link to more interior photos, which seem to be protected so that I can’t reproduce them here.

While flipping through one of my books on Frank Lloyd Wright, I found that there was an article written by Mr. Pope (a journalist in Washington D.C.)  in House Beautiful in which he praised Wright’s efficient design for the home.  Because this article was so well-written and widely read across the country, it served to catapult Wright’s popularity and gain him clients at the end of the WWII and into the 1950s. 

We enjoyed the short tour and ability to walk around the beautiful landscape in spring.  I definitely recommend a trip to the Pope-Leighey house if you are in the area and appreciate historic architecture or just want to be inspired by Wright’s work, as I was today.