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  • Writer's pictureDann Foley

Making Modern out of Vintage: How Palm Springs Changed the World of Design

Updated: Aug 22, 2023


Once again, another Modernism Week has passed with great fanfare and aplomb. This year in particular, Palm Springs saw record crowds of attendees. Even the unusually cold and wet weather couldn’t stop the parties, tours and open-air bus junkets to see the best of midcentury modern architecture and products.


We here at Foley & Stinnette Interior Design just happen to be in the midst of 2 separate midcentury home design projects. Each home is noteworthy and, in both cases, the entire house is being renovated and updated. This combination of projects and exposure to ideas, theories and products, both new and old midcentury, got me thinking about making old new again.


The truth is, this idea of creating something new and fresh, that still pays homage to the original architecture is what we do every day as a design firm. So, you ask, what is our approach? How do we make the old, new again? No matter the style or age of a home, I believe firmly in, living with the past, not in it. The way forward is not necessarily looking back but, understanding where we came from to be able to make choices today for better living.


In the case of midcentury design, we do not do “kitch”. In my opinion, It is the death knell of good and lasting design. I will always avoid the obvious, in favor of the personal and unique. One can still be true to a specific design style, without having to live in a bubble of dated design.


When considering the updating and modernization of midcentury design, I begin with specifying the very best in technology. The good news is that those elements are easily hidden. You can have that strong Wi-Fi and you can have heating and cooling that are both highly effective and efficient. You can have windows and doors that are strong, beautiful, safe and energy efficient. A new roof, new windows/doors, new insulation, new water lines and wiring are paramount, if not mandatory for these homes to ensure another generation of life. Convenience, efficiency and safety are the first priority to renovating midcentury design in the desert.


You must realize that, in the case of the desert midcentury house, they were designed as secondary homes. The materials and construction standards of that time are not appropriate for today. To truly renovate and restore a midcentury here in the Valley, you must start from scratch, or at least from the frame. You will find, as many have, repeatedly, that half-efforts in this realm of renovation and design will not spell success.


How do you begin? Where do you start? The answer is not all that difficult but, as with all successful design, it is imperative that you begin with a clear plan. A plan based in reality first, with desires second is the way to ensure a meaningful conclusion.


I have a simple budget check list you can apply to this situation, and it works equally well for any type of architecture and design style. A fool-proof plan does not exist but, a well thought out scheme will greatly mitigate those costly surprises that will undoubtedly crop up.


· The first reality is true for all clients; there is never enough money on the table for everything you want. It is simply a fact of life. Be clear on what you want to achieve and what you must address, first.

· Any plan you create can be executed in as many phases as you and your pocketbook require. Planning is the key to moving forward.

· When creating a plan for your project, we divide the budget into 2 parts; the decorative budget and the renovation budget. it is important to separate the two because, when considering your investment and resale, the decorative items are those things you can take with you, while the renovation items are those things attached to the property and cannot be separated from the house.

· During the creation of the decorative portion of the budget, be careful to list all items separately. For example, window treatments are multi-layered. There is fabric, construction, hardware, trim and installation involved in the total cost of those items. Leaving any piece off will cause financial strain overall.

· When creating a renovation budget don’t forget to list tasks, such as demolition and removal of debris, separately. Gone are the days of you or your contractors going to your local dump to discard material. Our Valley municipalities charge by volume and/or weight of refuse. That additional cost can easily be overlooked… until you get the bill!

· Of course, I recommend using a professional design firm, like ours to avoid costly mistakes and missteps.


Overall, it is important to take your time and to think through both your desires and your requirements. Putting that information on paper creates a record to review and refer to throughout the process and also keeps everyone, from client to contractor to delivery person, on the same page.


Creating a home is more than just shopping for pretty things… though we all love that! Building a home that speaks to who you are, soothes your soul and inspires a life well-lived is as much about fantasy, as it is reality. Living well is personal, it takes thought and effort but, what else in your world could be more important than creating your own place of refuge, pleasure, comfort and pride?


Live Well,


Designer Dann

Foley & Stinnette Interior Design


Designer Dann: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest & Houzz



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