Until 1951 when the Thunderbird Country Club opened its doors in Rancho Mirage, California, the sleepy desert town a few miles east of Palm Springs had been pretty much barren desert. However, the arrival of the first 18-hole golf course in the desert would bring major changes—and herald in an era of new, luxurious living for the town.
Soon, Rancho Mirage was forever changed, with properties selling to stars such as Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz—and even Frank Sinatra, who relocated to Rancho Mirage from Palm Springs in 1954. The legendary Marx Brothers cofounded Tamarisk Country Club, and the midcentury modern vacation homes that lined the fairways became a glimpse into the "good life"—and a sumptuous slice of American resort style.
Simultaneously, midcentury modernism was reaching the height of its popularity, and since most of these desert homes were second or seasonal, it was only natural that the architecture leaned towards the more decadent. Leading modernist architects such as A. Quincy Jones, Wexler & Harrison, E. Stewart William, William Pereira, William F. Cody, and Wallace Neff all designed lavish homes for clients with deep pockets—many of them celebrities—and the resulting residences were some of the desert's finest.
Mod Mirage, a new book by Melissa Riche, lovingly details the rich history of Rancho Mirage, and takes a look at its fabulous architecture. Here we have chosen some of our favorite homes with an all-star pedigree.
Sunnylands, the Annenberg Estate by A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons
The Maranz Residence by Val Powelson
The Charney Residence by Wexler & Harrison Architects
The Firestone Residence by William Pereira
The Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Residence by Paul R. Williams