Neighborhood Profile: Twin Palms

BY: PAULINE O'CONNOR JUNE 21ST, 2017

Though many celebrated architects have plied their trade in Palm Springs, it’s safe to say the town would not have become the mecca of mid-century architecture it is today were it not for William Krisel. Working for the Alexander Construction Company, Krisel designed over 2,500 single family residences in Palm Springs, including the desert community’s first modernist tract, Twin Palms. By the end of his long career, Krisel's designs had been turned into over 40,000 American homes.

William Krisel, ca. 1970s

Developed between 1956 and ’59 on a parcel south of E. Palm Canyon Drive, Twin Palms was named for the signature set of trees that graced every home’s front landscaping. While nearly all of the 90 residences in the development shared the same footprint and floor plan, by giving them different orientations, setbacks, and embellishments, Krisel ingeniously made the tract look like a collection of custom-built properties.


One of Krisel's lively sketches for a Palm Springs home

Notable design elements of Twin Palm’s post-and-beam homes include butterfly roofs, decorative concrete block breezeways, clerestory windows, atriums, and sliding glass doors—features geared to maximize natural light, mountain views, and the connection to the outdoors.


Palm Springs home demonstrating Krisel's use of pop-up & clerestory windows

Geared toward middle-income buyers, the development was an immediate success. Six decades later, Twin Palms is once again red-hot. Though a not-insignificant number of the original 90 residences have been bulldozed or altered beyond recognition, happily, the mid-century modernism revival movement that began in the late 90s has helped save many of them. Depending on their condition, Twin Palms properties now fetch anywhere between $700,000 to just under a million. “Homes that are well-preserved and respectfully updated are commanding premium prices, and they are selling quickly,” says Michael Slate, an agent with the Paul Kaplan Group.


A Krisel design showing a modernist typology he was famous for using but never claimed was his own, the butterfly roof.

Slate’s latest Twin Palms listing, built by the Alexander Corporation in 1957, hit the market May 20 with an asking price of $899,000. Its features include extra-high ceilings, double-paned clerestory windows, terrazzo floors, a stone fireplace, updated kitchen and bathrooms, a new HVAC system, a tankless water heater, and a swimming pool. Less than a week after being listed, it’s already received multiple bids.

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