Joan Crawford or Richard Neutra

Richard Neutra, Kaufmann House, Julius Shulman photographer

We recently decided to find a second house in Palm Springs. My mother would like to move there and escape the northern Nevada mountain weather. So it seemed like a good idea to find a place she could live in and the entire family could use. Years ago, I remember the Kaufmann House for sale. I seem to recall Barry Manilow owned it and it had been transformed from a gem of elegant forms to a dark Mediterranean monstrosity. At the time it was incredibly inexpensive. It's been beautifully restored by Marmol Radziner and Associates, but I don't have an extra $20 million in a shoe box.

I'd forgotten how depressing and, at the same time, exciting looking for a house could be. One house will look amazing outside, but the inside is terrifying. There are houses that have been horribly treated; flipped and filled with cheap fixtures and materials. Others that have the type of decor you can't believe exists. After one such house, after we left, I kept repeating, "I didn't know people like that really existed." I'm just not one for red velvet wall-coverings and oversized paintings of Joan Crawford.

But, on the other end of the spectrum, we found some well maintained and thoughtfully restored houses with beautiful views. I had hopes of finding an early California Cliff May ranch house, but the few we found were on the small side. I don't want to be that cliché and do the whole mid-century modern thing, but there's a whole lotta that in Palm Springs. And I have a rumpus room in LA filled with extra Saarinen chairs and tables. We're still looking, but I couldn't resist sharing some of the options. You can be the judge. There's something for everyone.

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/ He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

Not my Nuts!

Nut Tree Dining Room, Vacaville, California

There are times in history when all elements come together at a specific place to create something remarkable. Fallingwater, the Lever House, the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, and, yes, the Nut Tree in Vacaville, California. For most people growing up in northern California or Nevada, the Nut Tree was a ritual. Every trip we took between our ranch in the Sierras to San Francisco required a Nut Tree stop. I believe I have the Nut Tree to blame for my vocation. I was mesmerized by the packaging, signage, typography, and artwork. And I was 4. Much of the design was the creation of Don Birrell. He introduced high California modernism to the farming fields of central California. The Nut Tree had Eames chairs in the Toy Shop, and Dansk flatware in the Dining Room. The mix of folk art, hand-crafts, and minimal modernism predated Alexander Girard’s Textile & Objects shop by 8 years. There was a clear sense of joy, clarity, and quality that pervaded the atmosphere. And this was, basically, just a roadside store and restaurant, with a small local airport. If one of the tenants of modernism is to bring good design to the masses, the Nut Tree is a prime example and is long overdue for the recognition it deserves.

Sean (4) admiring letterforms on Nut Tree train
Sean (4) admiring letterforms on Nut Tree train

Nut Tree Train, Vacaville, California

Nut Tree Dining Room, Vacaville, California

The Nut Tree Shop

The Nut Tree Plaza

"Dendriform" by Jean Ray Laury at the Nut Tree, Vacaville, California, 1978
"Dendriform" by Jean Ray Laury at the Nut Tree, Vacaville, California, 1978

Charlotte Patera poster, 1975, Nut Tree

Lowell Herrero poster, 1970 at Nut Tree

Woodcarvings, Stan Dann, Nut Tree Poster 1977