A Study in Modernism

Built using corrugated metal, with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, and even incorporating a massive desert boulder into the design, the home is absolutely breathtaking.

Frey II House

Palm Springs is a modernist architectural paradise, and amazing examples of desert modernism are easy to see in almost any neighborhood.

While the hugely popular Modernism Week each February is a massive draw for house porn-lovers and architecture buffs, there’s another 51 weeks of the year when you might want to visit. Fortunately, there’s plenty of homes you can see yourself from the side of the road and the comfort of your car. But to truly get to know how the modernists live, nothing beats getting inside.

Tour Frey II House — Palm Springs Art Museum

Visitors who’ve done even cursory reading on Palm Springs and modernism are likely familiar with the name Albert Frey.

This ‘starchitect’ was and still is well known for his use of minimalism in his designs. He created private homes, churches, hospitals and offices. But perhaps one of his most famous works is one of the two homes he chose to design, build and live in himself.

Sitting proudly on a cliff overlooking downtown Palm Springs, and vith views to the Palm Springs Art Museum is Frey II House, his 800 square foot open concept home.

Frey II House — A study in modernism

built using corrugated metal, with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, and even incorporating a massive desert boulder into the design, the home is absolutely breathtaking.

While passerby can barely get a peek at it from the museum parking lot, the best way to experience this architectural gem is to get up close and personal. Too bad that only a private gated road leads directly to the house, and general public access is off limits.

Private tours for students & professionals

Architecture students and some professionals are able to ask about private tours through the Palm Springs Art Museum, thanks to a provision in his will where Frey stipulated his home should be accessible to those seeking architectural and design knowledge, and place for reflection and study.

What you’ll see at Frey II House in Palm Springs

Arriving at the driveway or carport level you won’t have much of a sense of what you’re about to see. But climbing the curved staircase to the house and pool level, you’ll see what a breathtaking home you’re about to experience. (For a hint, watch my video tour, guided by the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Centre’s Brooke Hodge.)

Frey designed his home with the pool on the south side of the home’s mountainside property, so it could be naturally warmed by the sun’s rays. The patio is edged by a low stone wall that casts interesting rectangular shadows around the patio area, there’s lots to take in before you even walk inside. From the expansive views over the Coachella Valley, to the built-in concrete lounge chairs with custom made cushions that bridge the area between the pool and the home’s many windows it’s architectural eye candy.

Stepping through a rather ordinary door you’ll find yourself in a small hallway where a drafting table Frey worked at still sits.

The narrow galley kitchen is definitely made for a single bachelor, with just the basic amenities and limited storage a bachelor special, but Frey’s use of corrugated fibreglass as cupboard doors, (and to keep dishes organized inside) shows the architect’s mind at work. A set of dishware gifted to Frey by a local artisan ceramic artist is still on display.

The small kitchen has a window overlooking the dazzling pool, but it’s once you step through the kitchen and into the large living room/dining room/bedroom that you really see what the home is truly about.

A massive boulder that seems to rip through the floor and attempt to punch through the ceiling divides the bedroom from the main living room.

Step back in time at Frey II House

All the original fixtures, furniture and design elements are still intact in this room, including the golden yellow curtains, as well as an original stereo system, and hanging globe.

Perched a couple steps above the main living room is a long table and some woven rope chairs. It’s easy to picture Frey sitting here overlooking his uncluttered modernist home and looking out over the desert valley below while dreaming up new designs.

The Frey II Home is an icon of modernism and a true gem in the Palm Springs area. If you are able to get tickets to view it during Modernism Week, make sure you do.For a guided view of the home’s interior, watch the video above.