Uptown Design District, the new heart of Palm Springs


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Modernism Week fans wondering if Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District could hold on through the recession get their answer as soon as they roll into town and see the new store 5001 Home Collection, stocked with Italian housewares. Or the signs announcing the expansion by fashion designer Trina Turk, who in April is expected to open an annex — her second — for her home collection and men’s clothing. Or contemporary furniture store Insolito Home, which has doubled in size since last year’s Modernism Week.

The Uptown Design District, running along North Palm Canyon Drive from about Hermosa Place to Alejo Road, is bustling — and with more than Midcentury. Earlier this week at the newly expanded A La Mod, owners James Claude and Miguel Linares were busily prepping their showroom, which is five times the size of a space they used to have down the street. Their showstopper was a chaise, at right, designed by Massimo Iosa Ghini for Moroso that was so thoroughly 1980s in style, you could practically hear early Duran Duran playing in the background — hardly the epitome of the “Mad Men” style that has propelled Palm Springs back into travel magazines.


Tony Larcombe of Dwight Polen, which has been selling fine Chinese antiques in the area for more than a dozen years, said the Uptown Design District is thriving with a mix that goes beyond Midcentury Modern. So after shoppers at Christopher Anthony Ltd. swoon over the Ib Kofod-Larson armchairs -- a 1950 design with barrel backs in stained beech and white vinyl seats, at right -- they can fly across the street to Insolito Home and perch on a folded felt Peacock chair, below right, designed by Dror Benshetrit for Cappellini just three years ago.

As part of the L.A. at Home crew’s desert reconnaissance this month -- scouting that included the Palm Springs Art Museum’s exhibit on pool photography and an installation of LivingHomes’ new C6 prefab house -- we asked Times photographer Irfan Khan to capture the mix on Palm Canyon.

Outside the store Interior Illusions, pictured at the top of the post, Khan found much amusement by the parade of reactions to a chair that the store calls the Majesty. (The seamless polyethylene indoor-outdoor chair is sold elsewhere as the Queen of Love.)

To see more of Khan’s shoot and a sampling of Uptown Design District shops, keep reading ...

Keith Lewis, right, shops with his dog, Saydee, at Boulevard. Clay Kline, left, owns the store with Jay Hart. ‘It’s definitely a destination now,’ Kline said of the Uptown Design District.

The Jensen table lamp sits atop olive ash burl nesting tables at Boulevard, where the vintage pieces are mixed with ‘one-of-a-kind new,’ said Kline, whose store opened slightly more than a year ago.


Next door at Christopher Anthony Ltd., the door opens to another interesting mix, including a riff on the Hollywood sign inhabited by the little metal Bio-Mod sci-fi sculptures of artist Rik Phillips. But step deeper back into the space and you find ...

... vintage vignettes such as the one pictured here. The walnut chest is Paul McCobb, topped with vintage lamps and ceramics.

Detail of the ceramics, most $120 to $180.

The newest store in the Uptown Design District is 5001 Home Collection, which Peter Daltorio opened about four months ago at 673 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The mix of contemporary housewares includes cheese spears perfect for a desert rat as well as acrylic and porcelain tableware from the Italian housewares firm Guzzini.

If you haven’t been in town for a few years, compare lower Palm Canyon Drive -- with its T-shirt shops, ice cream counters and still-empty Desert Fashion Plaza storefronts -- with the Uptown Design District, and it’s hard not to think the center of town has made a marked shift north.


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-- Craig Nakano