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Frey House II: Home to the Father of Desert Modernism

Take a casual drive through Palm Springs, and you’re likely to spot at least one building designed by Swiss architect and modernist icon Albert Frey.

Throughout his entire residency in the desert, Frey designed over 200 buildings, both residential and commercial. His signature design style, called “desert modernism,” became synonymous with Palm Springs.

One of his most ambitious and creative projects is Frey House II, the architect’s second home. Perched on the desert hillside, the home was designed to minimize impact on the surrounding environment. Elements of this design mindset are best shown through the home’s 800 square-feet surface area, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and the large, natural boulder that serves as a divider between the living room and bedroom.

“Frey House II exemplifies the distinctive characteristics of Albert Frey’s approach to residential design in the desert,” says author and architectural historian Peter Moruzzi to Palm Springs Style.

Other details Frey used to integrate with the surrounding nature were aqua blue ceilings to resemble the sky, a concrete floor with a similar tint to the surrounding rocks, and yellow curtains that perfectly matched the area's abundance of Encelia flowers.

The Palm Springs Art Museum noted that at the time it was built, Frey House II was at the highest elevation of any residence in the city. They stated Frey took five years to select the site and a year to measure the movement of the sun using a 10-foot pole.

A private tour of this historical home is one of the many highlights ticket holders can access during the Weekend of Architecture and Design at the Palm Springs Art Museum on Oct. 8-11.

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