A Peek inside Liberace’s Home, Palm Springs

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Over the top glamour, chintz and bling – that’s what I expected to see inside the former home of Liberace, (the highest paid entertainer in the world during the 1950s–1970s). But when the doors of ‘Piazza de Liberace’ opened to the public for the first time during this year’s Palm Springs Modernism Week,  I was surprised to see a mostly modern home with just a hint of its former flamboyant owner. (Liberace was as well known for his excess of furs, cars, jewels and candelabras as he was for his piano playing).

Elizabeth Smalley and her husband Garth Gilpin who purchased the property in May 2010 said “When we moved in and started the remodel, the challenge was how to honor and respect Liberace’s original vision without, you know, recreating it – how to make it feel Liberace without looking Liberace.”

It appears that they, with the help of their Interior Designer, Christopher Kennedy, have achieved just that – a modern home with a touch of Liberace flamboyance.

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Image Credit: J. Rockwell Seebach

From the piano shaped mail box to the piano notes decorating the front gate, it is clear someone of musical merit once lived here.

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Image Credit: My Desert

In the entrance lobby hangs a large portrait of Liberace posing with his elegant Afghan hounds. Two vintage candelabras flank this picture. A lover of dogs – Liberace had more than 25 dogs when he died in 1987.

“I was speechless,” says Christopher Kennedy of walking into the house for the first time. “I saw the enormous potential to create something modern, but quietly inspired by the great artist who once lived there.”

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Image Credit: Ann Maurice for Design Lovers Blog and (Right) J. Rockwell Seebach

7,000 green painted bricks were discovered beneath the flooring in the living area (turns out this was a former outdoor patio area). The green hue of the bricks was used as inspiration for accents throughout the house. “We call it ‘Liberace green,’” Kennedy says.

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Image Credit:  J. Rockwell Seebach

Kennedy uses his ‘David chairs‘ and hassocks to flank a mid-century bench-as-coffee table. “I also created a salon-style installation of 1960s paintings by the homeowner’s aunt,” says Kennedy. “Grouping collections always enhances impact.”

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Image Credit:  J. Rockwell Seebach

Christopher Kennedy’s love of the past translates to his eclectic interiors; he’s fond of combining modern and vintage elements. He mixes one of his own mid century inspired furniture pieces ‘Franklin Credenza’ with a vintage lamp and vases.  “Pieces from the past give a home patina and make it feel truly done — not like you just shopped and decorated yesterday,” says Kennedy.Liberace_home_bathroom

Image Credit: Ann Maurice for Design Lovers Blog.

Liberace embraced a lifestyle of flamboyant excess both on and off the stage so it should come as no surprise that these bath faucets, which the current owners suspected were brass, turned out to be gold plated.

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Image Credit: Ann Maurice for Design Lovers Blog

This home had changed hands once before, since Liberace died. As a gift, the prior owners gave the new owners several black and white photos of Liberace.  They are now displayed in a dozen gold gilt frames in the powder room. “It’s a little over-the-top,” Kennedy said. “But there had to be one room dedicated completely to Liberace.”

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This iron gate featuring piano notes was bought over from Liberace’s other Palm Springs home ‘The Cloisters’. Image Credit: Mid Century Remodel

 

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Image Credit:  J. Rockwell Seebach

A fun twist on a crystal chandelier in the kitchen is “a respectful nod to the illustrious former homeowner,” says Christopher Kennedy.

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Image Credit: Ann Maurice for Design Lovers Blog

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‘Piazza de Liberace’ may appear rather modest for someone known as ‘Mr Showmanship’, but it was one of many homes belonging to Liberace. He lived here from 1968 to 1972. Others homes included the Cloisters’ in Palm Springs (an eight bedroom home which he lived in after this one), an ostentatious twenty-room Las Vegas mansion, another in South Lake Tahoe, a penthouse in Los Angeles and one in Malibu.

Sadly, Liberace passed away in February 1987, but his legendary piano playing and showmanship will be remembered forever. And thankfully, this home is another subtle reminder of a man who will be missed, but not forgotten.

 

Want more? See our post Minimalist Modern Retreat in Palm Springs

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Comments
8 Responses to “A Peek inside Liberace’s Home, Palm Springs”
  1. Sadie says:

    In an ideal world more houses would have a picture of Liberace in the entryway. Architect Tampa

    • Jill says:

      Thanks. I can’t get the youtube link to work but I believe I have seen it before – aout the terrible state of his main residence in Palm Springs? Thanks for the links to the other articles. Interesting!

  2. Sherrie says:

    I LOVE THIS!! thanks so much for sharing. I love looking at all Liberace’s homes. I wish I could buy one and restore to original stature. enjoyed this.

  3. Pam says:

    I had the fabulous opportunity to visit his Palm Springs Home back in the mid 1990′s. I’ll never forget those “gold plated (?) Swan Faucets! It was a truly magical home! I could still feel his presence! :-)

    • Jill says:

      Lucky you! Those swan faucets are so iconic aren’t they? He certainly lived a flamboyant life that most people can only dream about.

  4. Alex Ellsworth says:

    The swan faucets are Sherle Wagner. You find them in relatively a lot of high-end homes of the era, and you can still buy them new – or used ones/Chinese knockoffs on ebay. Too bad a lot of owners doing renovations don’t realize how valuable Sherle Wagner hardware is (can be $1,000+ for a faucet set); they think it’s just old and gaudy and throw it away. Similarly, I went into an open house in suburban Boston and was told by the real estate agent, “Unfortunately, the kitchen is dated, so you’d have to gut.” My God, it was a rare vintage Poggenpohl kitchen, probably worth a fortune to the collector with all its unique features and contraptions.

    That brings me to another point: I look at this house’s “fabulous new modern interior,” and I just see a bunch of cliche look-of-the-minute stuff that has already started to date, like glass mosaic tile and black glass pendants on the chandeliers and sconces. For crying out loud, I live in South Korea, and I’ve seen cheap Chinese knockoffs of the long chandelier fixture that “adds some glitz to the kitchen” in every lighting store; I Google “modern chandelier bar light” and find one on Overstock.com for $295. Meanwhile, the original elements of the house which they removed or demolished to make way for all this generically trendy stuff – well, they’re irreplaceable and lost forever.

    Friends, I want to make one comment regarding design. If you want truly good design that stands the test of time, DON’T be tempted to follow mass-market trends. A simple experiment: look at back issues of Architectural Digest from the 70′s and 80′s and note how well those interiors stand up to today’s scrutiny. Color, balance, form, texture, etc. Now look at issues of House Beautiful or catalogs or TV shows from the same era and notice how those DON’T stand the test of time. Today’s vessel sink and glass mosaic tile will be tomorrow’s 80′s dusty rose jacuzzi with brass jets or 70′s avocado refrigerator. Veer away from what everybody’s doing and what’s in all the stores and try to chart your own course. Color, balance, form, texture. Look to the higher-end for inspiration, but don’t be slavish. And don’t gratuitously rip things out and discard them!!! LOOK at them first with unbiased eyes. Don’t just reflexively say, “Oh, this house has brass or chrome faucets; we need to change them to oil-rubbed bronze or brushed nickel.” Look at the lines of the faucet and its inherent quality. For example, a lot of Kohler hardware has real style or design to it, even if it’s not the trend of the moment. Such things end up being appreciated in the long run because trends are cyclical and few people have the foresight not to discard them when they initially pass out of fancy.

    So it’s good that the Liberace house’s owners at LEAST kept the Sherle Wagner faucets. Even if they stuck them on a cheap and incongruous new acrylic tub (ayyyyyy)…

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