Palm Springs Places: The Monkey Tree Hotel

This week on an unusually windy day, I had the pleasure of checking out another unique hotel.

I was told that the vista looks much more inviting when the umbrellas are opened up, however how lovely is this?  Photo: d. king

Kathy, the gracious owner, escorted me around her delightfully large one-acre property and filled me in on the history surrounding the private 16 room boutique hotel nestled against the backdrop of the dramatic San Jacinto Mountains.   After all, what’s a good hotel here without a story?

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king
A bathroom in one of the rooms. btw, all the rooms are different.   Photo: Jake Holt Photography

Originally designed by renowned modernist architect Albert Frey and built in 1960, the hotel re-opened in 2016, after a restoration by its current owners, Kathy and Gary Friedle, to its original mid-century modern design.  The space is very charming and makes you feel at home.  I think you might want to stay for more than one night. The outdoor space includes a lovely heated saltwater pool, the only Scandinavian Spa in the area including dry sauna, hot tub, seating areas and a Smeg retro fridge where guests are welcome to help themselves to the contents. A complimentary continental breakfast and sangria happy hour every day for guests.  What’s not to love?

Bonus: I love that Gary concocts his own teas which guests also have the privilege of sampling from the cart. There’s even a Palm Springs blend which smells heavenly.

Make your selection.  Just a few samples here.  All teas are carefully created in the property kitchen by Gary.  Photo: Jake Holt

The Monkey Tree is located less than a mile from the hustle and bustle Charlie Farrel’s famed Racquet Club. The hotel is a classic example of mid-century modern design and was a get-away for the celebrities who wanted to have some time away from the public.  Palm Springs lore has it that celebrity guests at The Monkey Tree Hotel have included: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Eric Clapton, Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder, and even a JFK and Marilyn visit (guarded at the private entrance of their suite by the secret service).

Entrance to the boutique.
Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

In 1995, Albert Frey contacted the then owners of the hotel to ask if he could come by for a visit.  At the time, Frey was 92 years old and said that he had not visited the property since it was built.  He rode his bike the four miles from Frey House II where he was living to the hotel in a white polyester pantsuit and burnt orange shirt, arriving dapper as always.  As he toured the property, he shared his inspiration for the layout and design of the hotel with the current owners.  Frey was fascinated by the San Jacinto Mountains and found great inspiration in them. He intended the dramatic slanting roof lines to be in harmony and pay homage to the mountains and the Indians.

Photo: Kathy Friedle

ABOUT THE OWNERS (Kathy & Gary):

After obtaining her Master of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis in 1992, Kathy began her architecture career in New York City.  She worked for Gensler for 20 years in both design and management roles.  Her clients in New York included many prestigious law firms, a well-known California based talent agency and numerous advertising agencies.

Gary has been in the field of financial management for 25 years. He started his career working on a trading desk in New York City then worked with private wealth clients and most recently was the Chief Operating  Officer of a private wealth management firm.  Gary has a passion for long distance running and has participated in several (100-mile) ultra-marathons.

In 2015 an opportunity arose to purchase a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, and the timing and career change seemed right for them and their two teenage sons to try a new adventure on the west coast.  After seeing the great architectural bones of The Monkey Tree hotel they dove in to the restoration of the mid-century modern property which had been largely closed to the public since 1988.  Their first decision was to re-establish the original 1960 name of the hotel and to re-brand, and re-invigorate the property.

Outside the entrance.  Photo: Kathy Friedle

They did just that. I would definitely recommend this hotel.

For bookings:

https://www.themonkeytreehotel.com/

 

Palm Springs Places: Del Marcos Hotel

This will be my last post regarding fabulous little Palm Springs places to stay until next season.

That’s because I’m headed home and taking a little break.  In the meantime here’s another mid-century modern gem of a place with a past (the best kind always do).

The Del Marcos Hotel (1947), designed by architect William F. Cody.

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From the website:

Originally designed for owners Samuel and Adele Marcus, the building is historically important because it was Cody™s first independent commission in Palm Springs, and launched his solo career in the desert. The 17-room modernist hotel is located at 225 West Baristo Road close to the downtown in the historic Tennis Club neighborhood. The hotel immediately became a popular destination and remains so to this day. Said to have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright™s Arizona architecture, the project won a creative design award for the architect from the Southern California chapter of the AIA as an example of cutting-edge resort hotel architecture. Built of native stone and redwood, surrounding a shimmering pool, architectural features include luxurious suites, an organic asymmetrical entrance doorway, and floor-to-ceiling glass. The two-story building (with a single-story shed roof section on the northeast corner) features a U-shaped plan centered on a courtyard, a design which encourages socializing among guests.

Artwork: Nat Reed.  https://natreed.com/
Photo: d. king
from the room you can see the outdoor tub. d. king
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https://delmarcoshotel.com/

Palm Springs Places: Holiday House

It’s great when you feel like you’re on holiday in a place where you’re really not...only because it has become your second home.

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Palm Springs snowbird season is coming to a close.  As a result I’m coming close to the end of my quest for discovering and sharing the cool, the eclectic and the fabulous little boutique hotels, inns and places to take you away from the norm.  I’m sharing places I’ve either stayed at or at least visited and spent some time in hanging around where they’ve almost had to kick me out.

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More places are on my list but it will have to wait until next season.The places I’ve blogged about are the inconspicuous little gems that you may not otherwise ever know about unless by word of mouth or you find by accident or through research.  Take for instance the latest – a 28-room boutique hotel located downtown Palm Springs called

Holiday House

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I love this place.  Holiday House is exactly what it sounds like. I also like that in order to create a communal environment, Holiday House does not have televisions in any of the rooms.  Personally speaking if I’m on a ‘real’ holiday I don’t want to watch TV.  I would relax and then hang out at the very friendly bar and order food from the pleasing restaurant menu.  I was just there on Tuesday for Taco Tuesday and it was excellent.  It’s very comfortable. They also have a fried chicken Friday but you must reserve in advance.  I hear it’s fabulous and I hope to find out soon – possibly even next Friday – just before I leave.

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lobster tostada starter. d. king
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This hotel was originally built in 1951 ​and was a project of​ mid-century architectural designer Herbert W. Burns. Burns was one of the most important figures in helping to define Palm Springs modernist style, or what has now become mid-century modern.

From the website:

When it first opened, the Holiday House was billed as the newest “luxury hotel” in Palm Springs, and catered to what they referred to as “exclusive select clientele”.  For years, the Holiday House ranked as one of the top hotels in Palm Springs. Since its inception, the hotel has changed hands and has garnered many different names and identities. Most recently it operated as The Chase Hotel.​ In 2017, Holiday House re-open​ed​ with its original name and spirit.

Tammy

The design centers around Gio Ponti inspired tile-work in the bar and artwork throughout the property including pieces by David Hockney, Roy Liechtenstein, Herb Ritts, Alex Katz and Mr. Brainwash, with a garden sculpture by Donald Sultan.

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Guests must be 21 and over to check-in.

https://holidayhouseps.com/

 

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Palm Springs Places: La Sarena Villas

The Getaway.  A serene escape in the center of town with a stunning mountain backdrop.  C’mon…can it get much better?

Photo: d. king

This is the second in my series of desirable places to stay, eat, drink and unwind in and around the Palm Springs area.

La Sarena Villas is an adult only, dog friendly, luxury boutique resort smack in the heart of Palm Springs. With only 18 secluded guest villas each with their own private patio, complete with a romantic claw foot tub, fire pit, and built in benches…it’s pretty much perfect.

Photo: d. king

Redeveloped as a luxury hotel in 2016 by award winning architect, May Sung, with all the modern amenities of a 5 star hotel.   Each piece of furniture, all materials and finishes have been carefully hand picked by interior design group, Avenue Interior Design.

I really love the Happy Hour at Sugar High, a special root top deck.  The bartenders know what they’re doing mixing up amazing cocktails.  Appies are good too.

Then there’s the restaurant Azucar which is dedicated to excellence, serving up modern contemporary cuisine with local ingredients.

Photo: d. king
Unique finds in the fetching little boutique. I can endure this. Photo: d.king

Let’s not forget Whispers Spa: A place of tranquil serenity to unwind and let go of the pressures from everyday life!  There’s also a lovely boutique with great finds.

They have bikes too. Photo: d. king

Yup; I’m hooked!

Available for private parties.  Check them out at:

https://laserenavillas.com/

 

Ahhhhh the life!  If you go please mention where you heard of this little gem.