“I was working on a Sunday, and Frank Sinatra just walked in the door. He had a little white sailor hat on, and he had an ice cream cone in his hand. He said ‘I want to build a house. My only requirement is I want to be in by Christmas’ “. That was in May 1947. And so it came about that Midcentury Modern master architect, E. Stewart Wiliams, placed three construction crews on a 24-hours a day schedule. Williams couldn’t quite make Sinatra’s Christmas deadline, but he did complete the Twin Palms Estate in time for its inaugural New Year’s Eve party.
At that time, Twin Palms, sat in the middle of any empty desert, and helped put Hollywood’s original Palm Springs enclave, The Movie Colony neighbourhood, on the map. With much reluctance, Williams dutifully followed the 31-year-old singer’s request for designs on a Georgian-style mansion (fearful that a red-brick columned monstrosity sitting in the middle of a desert landscape really could spell the end of his career as a respected architect). Fortunately for all concerned, Sinatra agreed to a second set of drawings resulting in a true architectural beauty.
Twin Palms derived its name from the two humongous palms which stand at the front of the property. Every day, Sinatra would use the trees to hoist his Jack Daniel flag to announce cocktail hour to his neighbours.
The 4,500 square foot estate which has four bedrooms, and seven bathrooms, is a low slung, full air-conditioned redwood-clad design which served as Sinatra’s primary residence from 1948 to 1957. He paid $150,000 for his new home.
The estate’s pool is shaped like a baby grand piano, and as the light shines through the slats on the walkway to the house, it casts shadows on the floor which look like keys on a piano However, Williams states that none of this was intentional during the design process.
The house saw the end of Sinatra’s first marriage to Nancy, and the arrival of a new wife in the shape of Ava Gardner. It was both the site of sparkling parties, and spectacular private brawls (the champagne bottle Ava threw at Frank’s head upon learning of his fair with Lana Turner is immortalised by the crack still visible on the master bathroom’s sink unit). In retaliation, Sinatra threw all of Gardner’s possessions out onto the driveway.
In 2011, the Palm Springs city council voted to designate Twin Palms a Class 1 Historic Site.
Capitol Records installed a wall-sized recording unit for the singer’s use which remains exactly as it was in Sinatra’s day.
The master bedroom decorated in Sinatra’s favourite colour: orange.
The current owners have done a remarkable job in restoring the home to as close as possible to its original state, and Twin Palms can now be rented out for vacations, commercial photo and media shoots, dinner parties, corporate retreats or wedding receptions.
All images by CELLOPHANELAND*.
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Beau Monde Villas.