Desert HOA Communities February 27, 2024

Modernism Tour: The Ocotillo Lodge – Palmer & Krisel’s Vision of Midcentury Vacation Glamour


Palm Springs, CA

Walking into the lobby of the Ocotillo Lodge is like walking into history. Originally opened in 1957, the Ocotillo Lodge was developed by Palmer and Krisel of the Alexander Company as a premier hotel for guests visiting the Twin Palms neighborhood. It’s since been turned into a private condo community. The layout is comprised of a two-story edifice facing E. Palm Canyon Drive and single-story bungalows encircling the champagne cork shaped pool, catering to full time homeowners and guests.

(View of the Champagne Cork Shaped Pool At The Ocotillo Lodge)

According to the organizers of the Modernism tour, “The Ocotillo Lodge – Palmer & Krisel’s Vision of Midcentury Vacation Glamour, each unit has a kitchenette and originally featured thoughtful design touches such as skylights in the bathrooms, jalousie windows to provide venting in kitchens, clerestory windows with palm tree and mountain views, and deep overhanging eaves for shade from the intense desert sun. Rooms were either 525 or 590 square feet, and all feature private or semi-private outdoor space in addition to the gorgeous shared grounds, originally designed by internationally acclaimed landscape architect, Garrett Eckbo. “

It is one of the few HOA developments in Palm Springs that allows short term rentals, with condos at the Ocotillo Lodge currently listed on the market in the upper 300s to lower 400s.

(Bedroom On the Ocotillo Lodge Modernism Tour)

The allure of the Ocotillo Lodge is what brought Todd Verwers, a local architect and homeowner at Ocotillo Lodge to the development. Verwers recently answered a few questions from the Palm Springs Tribune about his reasons for purchasing at the Ocotillo Lodge. Here is the interview:

What attracted you to purchasing a condo in the Ocotillo Lodge? While living in San Francisco years ago, my wife and I rented at Ocotillo Lodge on two occasions prior to purchasing our own unit, sight unseen, after relocating to Copenhagen, Denmark.  At that time, the units were relatively inexpensive, and Ocotillo Lodge suited our need for an architecturally significant desert getaway from the dreary Danish winters.  The complex has a poetic simplicity and intimacy, and the small bungalows are incredibly utilitarian and efficient, which appealed to our Nordic sensibilities.  I think a a lot of people romanticize the midcentury era in southern California, and I confess to a certain sentimentality toward the positivity and aesthetic of the post-war design culture.

What is your work background and how has that helped you redesign your space at the Ocotillo Lodge? As a Danish-American architect with a strong interest in the desert modernism, I appreciate the beauty and rigor of the post and beam architecture of our Ocotillo Lodge bungalow.  With renovation projects, my design strategy is based on a desire to reinforce the inherent qualities and integrity of a space, while avoiding historical kitsch.  I like to further refine the original architect’s intentions, in this case William Krisel’s vision, while adding a degree of sophistication rooted in our time and culture.  I suppose many would classify my approach as being minimalist, where I prefer there term “reductivist”.  I see our bungalow as a calming receptor, from which the surrounding mountains and palm tree crowns are the focus.

Todd Verwers, Ocotillo Lodge Homeowner and Local Palm Springs Architect

How would you describe the community within the Ocotillo Lodge complex? Ocotillo Lodge was initially run as a hotel, then later converted to condominiums.  Early owners were not necessarily midcentury modern devotees, but rather people interested in a small, affordable condominium space in Palm Springs.   The community has evolved, partly due to the success of Modernism Week, into a more cohesive group of owners who are very interested in preserving the midcentury modern qualities of this unique development.  I serve on the Architectural Committee at Ocotillo Lodge, and we have drafted new design standards for owners wishing to make modifications to their units, with the hope of preserving and the integrity of the complex and even restoring specific design components back to William Krisel’s original design and vision.  We have also applied for historical district designation of Ocotillo Lodge with the City of Palm Springs.

Why do you love greater Palm Springs? Palm Springs is a vibrant community with a truly unique desert setting, and having a rich architectural history with international influences.  The challenge of course is to balance preservation with change and growth of the communities of the Coachella Valley.  Palm Springs is a dynamic community, and not a static, open-air museum.  I often speak with other local architects about the need to take the qualities of midcentury modern design to the next level, using new technologies to develop new desert typologies evoking the zeitgeist of our time.  


Modernism Tour Goers Enjoying The Outdoor Original Bar

For more information on Modernism Week, click here.