Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mid-Century Swimming Pools - California Style

Swimming pools are part of Southern California's identity and are a particular stalwart in mid century architecture, you'll find the most attractive pools you've ever laid your eyes on just flicking through architectual pages of, in particular, Palm Springs.

Post war America and in particular California embraced relaxed living and of course, in a hot climate, what better place to do it than outside and under the shade of a tree overlooking a nice cool pool. Hollywood portrayed pools to be something of a status symbol and so the backyard pool became the thing to have.

"Around the Swimming Pool" by John Gannam  (1907-1965
How often do people have elegant pool parties these days? Yet the 50s and 60s in Califiornia, and without a doubt across the Australian continent as well, were riddled with life around the pool.

Before the pool fence restrictions (and i am unsure if they even exist in CA) the ability to flow out from a property and literally mingle around a pool was quite seamless. Majority of properties in Palm Springs were built around the pool design.  It's still doable to an extent here in Aus with the use of frameless glass. But not to the extent of some of these below. Take a look.

Starting with my favourite. The Loewy House, Palm Springs.
Built in 1946 and designed by Architect Albert Frey for Raymond Loewy. It was originally built as a Bachelors pad for Loewy and was later expanded when he was married. (the pictures look very bachelory below ...)

There's a door that closes over the top of the pool which floats into the lounge. You'll see that they've integrated the boulders into the design too.

I wish this was me below. That's the exact look i would have on my face if i were her! Bliss. 1950 in Palm Springs. Click on this link to read more
Twin Palms. Designed by E. Stewart Williams for Frank Sinatra and wife Nancy. This pool is super fab. Sinatra had it designed to look like a piano. Note the shape of the pool itself and the light that the patio throws onto the concrete to look like piano keys. Click on this link to read a great article on this residence. Just think for a second how outrageous the parties would have been there.

Another favourite is the Elrod House. By John Lautner for Arthur Elrod in 1968. This house was in the 'Diamonds are Forever' James Bond movie. Lautner was a protegee of Frank Lloyd Wright and has the same organic philosophy of blending buildings with their natural environment.  See more amazing shots of this home here

I think i'd just snuggle up to that wall and watch the sun go down every night. Mmmm beautiful.

And then there's the Kaufmann House. This pool is just a rectangle i know but doesn't it just make the house? It's all so inviting and resort style. Gosh why is it not 'then' now? I'd be much more at home in heels a hat and cocktails mid afternoon.

And we have The Fox residence pool in chatsworth which is super iconic because it's pool hosted the very last photo shoot of Marilyn Monroe. This property was also leased by old Frank for nearly a decade. It was built in 1951 by Pereira & Luckman. It went up for sale in 2011 for a cool $12m.

Lawrence Schiller, Marilyn Monroe, 1962/printed 2011
This is the Edris House built in 1954, this home was designed for Marjorie and William Edris by the prominent Palm Springs architect, E. Stewart Williams. Check out the view.
Bill Anderson, Edris House, ca. 1954

Collection Palm Springs Art Museum © Palm Springs Art Museum
If you do a general real estate stalk of palm springs. Every house has a pool. Here's a few random shots.

And I had to include this candid picture I came across. It's from one of Franks houses but i'm not sure which? I'm thinking Fox Residence because of that brickwork in the background.
Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe with Peter Lawford. Photograph: Ted Allan


  1. A fascinating post! So many fabulous houses here...before we even talk about the pools and the glamour...the door sliding over the pool into the house?? Oh too brilliant. Like something from The Party movie.

    And yes, I can just imagine the kind of parties...something quite outrageous, but all so elegant at the same time.

  2. I'd love to know what they're looking at in that bottom photo? JFK used to meet up with Marilyn at one of Frank's Palm Springs houses, but I'm not sure which one.

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  4. What a great post! I adore mid-century architecture, I can only imagine what sort of parties they had there!

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