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May 23, 2024

The Abernathy House in Palm Springs Hits the Market for $12.9 Million

With the largest concentration of preserved midcentury-modern structures in the world, Palm Springs is synonymous with midcentury-modern architecture. The resort town, about 100 miles east of L.A., is also the birthplace of desert modernism, a branch of midcentury architecture with innovative elements specifically suited to the arid desert lifestyle, like expansive walls of glass protected by deep overhangs that maximize natural light while thwarting the harsh, direct rays of the sun.

The pioneers who shaped Palm Springs architecture, as well as the legacy of midcentury-modern design, include Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, Frank Lloyd Wright, and William F. Cody, among others. Cody was one of the most influential architects of this genre during its peak, and his work is often celebrated through design shows and tours.

Recently, one of his most famed homes—the Abernathy Residence—hit the market for $12.9 million and is listed for the first time since it became a Class 1-designated landmark in 2012 by the City of Palm Springs, the most prestigious designation that protects the integrity of the original architecture. Not only that, the Abernathy Residence is among the most-visited residences during Palm Springs Modernism Week and has also been the setting for ad campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Herman Miller, Disney, and Mercedes-Benz. 

The Abernathy Residence was first built in 1962.

Patrick Ketchum

Smack dab in the middle of the sought-after Movie Colony neighborhood, the Abernathy Residence was completed in 1962 and commissioned by James L. Abernathy, a wealthy La Jolla-based businessman whose family made a fortune in the furniture business in the Midwest. Abernathy’s desert getaway, considered one of the city’s finest examples of midcentury-modern architecture in Palm Springs, has a geometric floor plan with five pyramid-roofed pavilions arranged in a pinwheel that creates L-shaped wings. There are five bedrooms and seven bathrooms throughout its 4,680 square feet.

Seller Eric Ellenbogen has painstakingly researched Cody’s work to restore the home to its former glory with modern updates. The effort was worth the result. Several of the original rooms were repurposed; for example, the current home office was once the formal dining room, while the guest suite was once an art studio. The imposing living room is housed within a 26-foot-high pavilion that connects to the backyard pool area via half a dozen floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. The home’s walls and ceilings are clad in sandblasted Douglas Fir, giving it an earthy, neutral feel, while the light shines off the terrazzo floors. Floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate each room of the house with natural light throughout the day.

Abernathy Residence Palm Springs California

The living room features 26-foot-high ceilings and an easy flow to the backyard and swimming pool.

Patrick Ketchum

One of Cody’s signature design features are clerestory windows that reside under a thin roofline, and they are a key element of this home, too. The pristine property also effectively marries the old and new; there’s a brand-new kitchen with Poggenpohl system cabinetry and Gaggenau appliances. The sleek space faces a mature cactus garden. Another of the home’s appealing features is the primary suite, which features retractable glass doors, a sunken indoor terrazzo tub, and a private patio.

The resort-style backyard is ideal for relaxed entertaining, containing a pool and spa, pool deck, a manicured lawn space, and pristine landscaping. In total, there are 10,000 square feet of covered living spaces, if you include the many outdoor pergola spaces. One outdoor living space in particular is located under a vaulted pavilion with a fireplace backed by a rich, green mural from American ceramicist Stan Bitters. 

Abernathy Residence Palm Springs California

The brand-new kitchen includes a multifunctional island and a textured backsplash.

Patrick Ketchum

“Those who appreciate the style and form of midcentury modern architecture will likely recognize Cody’s signature design elements, which create an unparalleled environment for easy living and entertaining,” says Stewart Smith, of the PS Properties tem at Bennion Deville Homes/Luxury Portfolio International. “This incredibly elegant home includes the very finest calling cards from that era, and they’re all done with perfect intention.”

The home is located within The Movie Colony, a neighborhood that got its name from the former Hollywood stars who once called Palm Springs or frequented the glamorous, vintage hotels in the area thanks to the two-hour rule, which meant that Hollywood’s biggest stars were contractually obligated to remain within a two-hour distance to set during production. Naturally, Palm Springs became a close yet glamorous getaway for Hollywood’s elite. And it still is today.

Click here for more photos of the Abernathy Residence.

Abernathy Residence Palm Springs California

Patrick Ketchum

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