Hotel Lautner (Desert Hot Springs, CA)
With the ubiquity of design-centric Taschen coffee-table books and the recent ascent of architectural fandom, the late midcentury modern architect John Lautner and his futuristic homes have become the stuff of modernist dreams. Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs, California, banks on the fervor of such architecture-fetishism, but it also serves as a uniquely peaceful shelter option for genuinely passionate desert-ers. The Lautner is a hands-off hybrid: a cross between a rental vacation home and a design hotel, set in a remote, tranquil section of the Coachella Valley's Desert Hot Springs.
The property contains four connected but separate living units, each uniquely decorated with period furniture, on a terrarium-styled property with a saline spa pool surrounded by pebbles; stone outdoor-fire-pit seating area; and a stainless-steel infrared grill on which you can cook your own food under the unusually bright stars. At this hotel, the slightly askew marriage of angled wood and glass walls, as well skylights, plays with light in haunting ways; you feel almost as if you're the resident of a work of art. This is hardly an original observation, but it's as if Lautner designed a steel-beam version of the desert tent he lived in when he was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West.
A good example of this design is how the patio of Unit 3 is actually set more than a few steps below ground level so that you feel set deep in a outdoor bunker, protected by design. The space also boasts a tubular chrome couch and mirrored cocktail table as well as a hidden flatscreen television placed behind an oil painting – sardonic touches of spydom if ever we saw such examples in a "hotel." This is not your traditional Palm Springs design resort, or the design hotel as hipster party central – one comes here for residential decompression and silence. That's also the most consistent and special aspect of the Palm Springs area, anyway – unless, of course, you've also come to take in the healing waters, which are a quick ride from the hotel. Whatever your rationale, we cant't think of a more introspective and truthfully organic-to-the-landscape built environment in which to enjoy the region's virtues. The sad part is that you eventually have to leave. [Rooms from $225; hotellautner.com]