With an extensive renovation, a 1960 Albert Frey hotel gets an age-appropriate facelift with lots of vintage appeal.
It had been nearly 30 years since the Monkey Tree Hotel had welcomed its last guest when New Yorkers Kathy and Gary Friedle fell in love with the getaway.
Designed by Albert Frey, one of the fathers of desert modernism, the Monkey Tree was a popular destination for celebrities including Bob Hope, JFK and Marilyn Monroe, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz when it opened in 1960. The Palm Springs hideaway shuttered in 1988, and was rebranded under a series of different names. When Kathy and Gary found it for sale in 2015 and made the move to the California desert, they decided to restore the hotel to it original midcentury glamour—and its original name.
To recreate that 1960s flair Kathy, a designer, spent four months scouring for vintage treasures. "Because we were buying a Palm Springs midcentury modern hotel, I wanted to furnish it with pieces that made sense and were true to that time period," Kathy says. "That said, I wasn't too strict." That means guests may find an '80s chrome coffee table or Jonathan Adler seconds alongside macrame wall hangings and Gainey pots.
The hotel is filled with a mix of vintage pieces from different eras, many sourced from the Perez Design District in Cathedral City and Etsy. The Antiques Gallery of Palm Springs in Sunny Dunes was a favorite source for "smalls," the quirky midcentury accessories like resin grapes or gravel art that can be found throughout the hotel. "Buying this type of furniture, you can't agonize over it," Kathy says. "If you think about it too long and wait, it may be gone."
The Jungle bathroom at the Monkey Tree hotel in Palm Springs. Accessories and art like the roadrunner needlepoint wall hanging were largely "made by regular people and found in vintage stores," Kathy says.
The new hotel's Jungle bedroom, stocked with finds from places like The Estate Sale Company, where it's not unusual to find treasures from the Parker Palm Springs, located just across the street. Other scores came from the now-shuttered Lot 58 auction house.
The original Jungle bedroom that inspired it.
The refurbished interiors are light and cheery, an interpretation of the 1960s seen through a playfully kitschy lens. "I like midcentury accessories that our guests remember from their grandmother's house," Kathy says of the hook-rug wall hangings and velvet paintings that fill the space. "I gravitate to the old-school and the handmade."
The new pool area.