Modernist Garden Elements – Palm Springs Modernism Week

Palm Springs is home to many sleek, modern houses built in the 1950’s and 60’s. Designed to embrace the desert environment and dramatic landscape of the Coachella Valley these mid-century modern homes offer the perfect balance and seamless transition of indoor and outdoor living spaces.

Designing an outdoor living space that is conducive to entertaining in the Winter yet able to withstand temperatures of over 100 degrees fahrenheit in the Summer is no small feat. Lets take a look at some of the key elements of Desert Modernism gardens that we spotted during the Modern Garden Tour, at this years annual Palm Springs Modernism Week*.


Concrete slab floors extend from the inside to the outside living areas of the home expanding the overall visual footprint of the home.


The high garden walls give the outdoor space a room like quality, further emphasizing the integration of indoor and outdoor living.


Art and sculpture plays a significant role in the decoration of outdoor living spaces due to limited plants species that can survive the harsh weather conditions. We love the idea of these hanging chairs that are both practical for taking in the surrounding view, but also look like striking pieces of modern sculpture.



Plants are chosen for their drought resistant and architectural qualities.  Image Source: Justina Blakeney



Many of the modern homes feature atriums with open air roofs and glass doors leading into the homes. This is the perfect place to bring the outdoors in, and low maintenance plants like cactus work well.  Image source: photography James Haefner architect Michael Johnston via Plastolux



Indoor and outdoor spaces are often separated with nothing but walls of full height glass; visually expanding the living spaces. Image Source: Photographer James Haefner 



Pools are as much a part of the Palm Springs landscape as the palm trees.  We love the mix of tall and skinny Mexican fan palms  ‘washingtonia robusta’  which can be seen from any location due to their immense height and the shorter California fan palms or ‘washingtonia filifera’.



Pops of saturated colors are used in exciting ways in the outdoor spaces – in this case, to draw your eye towards the spectacular view. Outdoor fireplaces are also used to enhance outdoor seating / entertaining areas. Image Source: Photography by Raimund Koch for House & Garden Magazine.



The linear steps to the pool are a visual extension of the simple linear lines of this house. Image Source: Kaufmann House, Palm Springs Richard Neutra 1947 via No Ordinary Homes



Circular shaped plants and art are chosen for their sculptural quality and ability to stand up to the harsh desert conditions.



Square concrete pavers can be found in many gardens and are often surrounded with gray or white pebbles.



Water features gives you a place to visually cool down during the scorching Summer.



Whilst we now have the luxury of air conditioning, we still love the retro patterns and appeal of the pierced decorative concrete blocks know as “screen block” or “breeze blocks”. Not only do they look great (like an external wallpaper) they also have a cooling effect on the homes. A popular building material in the late 1950s through the 1960s, there were more than 250 different screen block patterns produced in the USA and Palm Springs has at least 54 of those patterns documented within its city limits. Maybe it’s time to bring back the Breeze Block? Image Source:


February 24, 2014

Outdoor fireplaces create a living room feel to the outdoors and are the perfect place to gather around during a Winter’s evening.

There is much to love and learn from the design of these Desert Modernist homes of Palm Springs: the low maintenance gardens; the full height walls of glass to optimize the view; the sculptural garden art; the outdoor fireplaces that encourage socialization; the colorful pops of saturated color that contrast against the vivid blue sky; and the high garden walls that give privacy yet visually expand the footprint of the house and most importantly the seamless flow of indoor to outdoor spaces. These homes evoke a lifestyle of simple elegance and informality yet encourage socialization. It’s no wonder people flock in the tens of thousands each year to Palm Springs Modernism Week to get a chance to take a peek inside these beautiful homes.

*Palm Springs Modernism Week is a celebration of mid-century modern design, architecture and culture in the Palm Springs.

Image credit: All images unless otherwise noted were taken by Ann Maurice on behalf of Design Lovers Blog during Palm Springs Modernism Week 2014. Please credit the relevant party accordingly.

Want more ?  Read A Peek inside Liberace’s Home, Palm Springs and Minimalist Modern Retreat in Palm Springs.

Jill Brandenburg is a Freelance Interiors Writer & Stylist and Co-Editor of Design Lovers Blog.
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One Response to “Modernist Garden Elements – Palm Springs Modernism Week”
  1.' andrew joseph says:

    I love blue its so tranquil and adds suck a chic and soft color pop. Thanks for this

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