Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills pose with the Mayor of Palm Springs. Where’s Kim?
OK, I confess. I watch Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Blame my daughter Elisabeth for this gem, she got me hooked on it last season. The show actually revolves around these rich ladies’ beautiful and not so beautiful houses and the fancy trips they take every few weeks for the camera. I enjoy the eye candy – especially Lisa and Yolanda’s gorgeous homes. And then there is the drama. Each week there is a dinner party where, without fail, the ladies all start yelling and screaming and crying and that’s the funny part.
Last week the girls went to nearby Palm Springs for the weekend. They stayed at a guest house compound called Colony 29 – a beautiful vacation spot built right into the side of the San Jacinto Mountains.
Sound familiar? It did to me – I kept thinking of blonde actress and that very well preserved Suzanne Somers’ house, Les Baux de Palm Springs, that is also built into the mountain side.
While most properties in Palm Springs are contemporary and mid century modern such as this house above, these two properties – Colony 29 and Les Baux de Palm Springs - are anything but slick, and they both seem more like a European village than something Frank Sinatra might have lived in. In fact, Suzanne Somers’ estate was modeled and named after the Provencal village, Les Baux.
The place where the Beverly Hills Housewives stayed, Colony 29, is set on seven acres and it consists of six separate houses that were built from 1929 to 1937. The houses were recently restored and modernized and are now available for vacation rentals and weddings and parties. The compound is located where Palm Springs began when it was more a European artist commune than a modern, hip place that is today.
The famous interior designer Nate Berkus recently visited Colony 29. I can only assume he didn’t get drunk and scream and yell at the other guests like the Beverly Hills Housewives did!
Aerial view of Colony 29 shows the main house at the very left. Surrounding it are the other cottages.
And here, a bigger view shows the green lawns used for weddings and parties. The main house is seen at the upper left. The other houses are along the street that leads to the main house. Combined, there are 13 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, 6 kitchens, 7 spas, and 2 pools between the various houses.
The main house – where the terrace is over the garage. This house has fabulous views through the large windows.
The night view at the main house. The lower terrace is where the pool is.
The Main House – on the middle terrace – set for a party. Notice the original flagstone on the floor.
Notice the original tile murals of parrots set into the brick walls.
Surrounding the main house are stairs and balconies and terraces. It’s all very lush and green, not at all like being in the middle of the desert.
Inside the main house – with the large windows that overlook the property. Unfortunately – the house is decorated in a mass of light oak furniture (my least favorite of all) based on a combination of Stickley and western styles. It’s awful and such a shame. Someone needs to redecorate this house!! The room could be so stunning with this fabulous wood ceiling and wonderful windows.
The main living room was the scene of the fateful dinner party for the housewives. Don’t ask!
The breakfast room – looks a lot better.
This bedroom is cute with the wood balcony doors.
The original tile, preserved.
And this is even better. Love the French doors and the corner fireplace.
This bedroom was built right into the rock which is seen through the plaster walls.
Beautiful fireplace and ceiling. The details in house are wonderful. A little extra care in decorating would help immensely to bring out these details.
The bathroom has original fixtures. Notice the ceiling tiles and chandelier.
House #143 has a salt water pool.
And House #143 during the day.
Architectural writer and actress Diane Keaton stopped by Colony 29 to visit.
Love the cactus and love the green and pink houses next to each other. This is really reminiscent of the artist colony this once was in the 1920s.
The three houses are on the street that leads to the Main House. To the right is House #137. Just so charming. And also, the San Jacinto Mountains loom in the background.
Bougainvillea climbs up the sign for House #137.
House #137 is a one bedroom cottage with its own spa on the porch.
The outdoor spa – against the mountain rocks.
Inside #137 –with its carved wood staircase and whimsical furnishings.
The lone bedroom in House 137. The porch with the spa is right out the door.
The entrance to #141 – the pink house.
Love the outside stairs and Juliet balconies.
Another view of the pink 141. I think this is my favorite one.
Inside the pink house – notice the original fireplace !!
One of the housewives stayed in this room. I’m not seeing it on the web site – but it looks nice and less kitchy than the other bedrooms. The owners have missed a huge opportunity with the décor of the houses. I can’t understand why they went with this decoration – western and Stickley? The interiors could and should be stunners, but instead they seem all wrong. Still the property is charming and the landscaping and architecture more than make up for the choice of furniture.
For more information on planning a vacation at Colony 29, go to their web site HERE.
Both estates, Colony 29 and Suzanne Somer’s house are located in the area where Palm Springs began – right at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. Through the years, Palm Springs grew and now covers the entire valley.
While I was watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I kept thinking that they were staying at actress Suzanne Somer’s estate also located in Palm Springs. The two places seemed to similar that for a while I was convinced they were the same place. And no wonder I thought that – as you can see above, the two estates, Colony 29 and Les Baux de Palm Springs are just two miles from each other and both are at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains – and both are actually carved out of the rock. Both were built in the 1920s when Palm Springs was still a hideout for movie stars. Suzanne’s estate is quite a bit higher up the mountain than Colony 29 and it is reached by a funicular, or a tram, not a car!
Les Baux has been for sale for years now and it was recently reduced by half, $14.5 million down from $35 million – the original asking price. I love the estate, the setting, the interiors and the exteriors – it is charming and cozy and fun. The estate is 73 acres – and is quite a spread. It is truly an oasis of greenery and flowers in the middle of the desert. The bright yellow spot at the very top is actually a small carousel for Suzanne’s grandchildren!
There are five structures here – with a total of 10 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms and over 10,000 sq ft of living space. There is a house for the kitchen and living room and another house for the master bedroom and two guest rooms below. One house holds the dining room and a guest room. One other structure is the guest house. Original to the property, the guest house was built in 1920 – the same time period of Colony 29 – and it is made up entirely of rocks from the estate.
Suzanne on the funicular – going up the mountain to Les Baux.
To reach Les Baux- you have your choice of the funicular, a golf cart, or the 75 step stone staircase. There is a two room kitchen with a wine cellar and there is an amphitheater with room to seat 50 people. There is a pool, a hot tub, a waterfall, hiking trails and a dance floor – you would never need to leave once you arrive!
When Suzanne and her husband Alan Hamel first bought the place, it had only 4 acres – the additional 69 were added over the years. There are conflicting accounts of why they are selling. One story says, they are building another house in Palm Springs on 500 acres while another says they are downsizing to a place with much less acreage. Even though she looks incredible well, Suzanne is still nearly 70 years old and all that desert acreage may be just a bit much too handle. Still, the estate seems like paradise – a bit of Provence and the Biblical desert all rolled into one.
Here is a look at the Master Bedroom House above and the Dining Room house below. At the very bottom is the garage. From there – you take the funicular – the open air cable car seen at the right of the photograph.
Here Suzanne talks about the first time she saw the house: “The late designer, Steve Chase, told us about an old 1920s house on the hill just put on the market. He warned us that we would either love it or hate it. By the time we got to the property and rode up the slope in a funicular railway carriage to the house, I could not contain my excitement. ‘Oh my god, it’s like being in France. Oh my god, it is so romantic.’”
A view of Palm Springs from Les Baux.
The estate has quite a history. In the 1920, Wright Ludington,a wealthy artist and art collector, bought the estate where he began to build a European styled village – similar to the artist’s compound at Colony 29. In order to build the small village, burros were used to haul materials up the steep mountain trail. Ludington lived on the property for over 20 years before he moved to Santa Barbara where he founded the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The owners of Almaden Vineyards in the Napa Valley bought the estate, which they held onto until Suzanne and Hamel bought it the year they married in 1977.
The Hamels lived for 10 years in the two original houses, but later added on the kitchen and wine cellar to the main house.
Les Baux in Provence. The town that Suzanne and her husband love to travel to and what they named their estate after because the terrain seemed so similar.
The houses look like they are hanging off the rocks, which they really are.
Through a stone archway is a spa, set inside the rocks at the original stone guest house.
And here is a waterfall created in the mountain. Yellow wildflowers line the falls.
Outdoor dining near the amphitheatre. The colors in the house are white, brown and lime green – which Suzanne has continued outside.
Another eating area under a pergola overlooks the valley of Palm Springs.
The lap pool – love the large clam shells.
The family room opens up to the pool.
Throughout the property are antique and vintage iron gates which add so much French charm. Most of the gates were salvaged from Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous stripper, whose house the Hamels once owned. They used to have houses in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Malibu, and Palm Springs. Eventually they downsized to Malibu and Palm Springs. Recently the Malibu house burned down in a wildfire and the Hamels have decided that desert living is all they want.
Dried flowers on the terrace off the Family Room house.
The living room as it is designed today. Suzanne moved some of the furniture from the dining room into this room and vice versa. Through the curtains is a porch and the lap pool.
Before the room redecorated, it was more masculine with all leather furniture.
The dining room is Suzanne’s favorite room. She can seat 30 around the table when it fully opened. The floor is the flagstone found throughout and the walls are stucco. Notice the mantel and the tiny antique door. This room is so gorgeous. The bar is at the left with the bright lime green wall. Here, the couple meet for dates a few times a week and share Patron shots.
The other side of the dining room is used as a sitting area – photograph before when this furniture was moved to the living room.
And today – with the leather furniture in the sitting area.
On the floor below the dining room is this guest room, with white bedding and lime green silk curtains. Notice the stone fireplace mantel. I love the flag floors and the beams.
The view out towards the porch off the guest room in the dining room house.
A vignette with antique table and silk curtains. Suzanne lined the green silk with blue fabric.
And there is this fabulous bath – with a claw foot tub, tile counters, chandelier, and the lime green silk curtains.
And a look from the opposite side.
The powder room – with a sink made out of the mountain stone.
Outside the Dining Room house – is this patio off the guest room.
And another view from the Dining Room patio with views of the mountain.
The kitchen is in main house and was built after the Hamels had lived here for over ten years.
A butlers pantry filled with appliances and plates.
Alan designed this wine room off the kitchen.
The Master Bedroom House – with his and hers studies and two guest rooms.
The front hall in the Master Bedroom house with its barrel stone ceiling and built in shelves. There is more flagstone floor in this building. Porteries hang across the front door.
And looking the other way toward the master bedroom.
The master bedroom has a large canopy bed in with zebra rugs, stone walls and flagstone floors. Sue Balmforth from Bountiful Home in Venice helped Suzanne with the interiors.
And past the bed are the windows that look out toward the mountains.
Suzanne’s closet is incredible. Love the curtains over the arch again and the closet doors.
Through gorgeous French wood doors is Suzanne’s bathroom. There is a marble tub in the middle of the room and a fireplace is built into the stone wall.
Night view out the French view of the mountains.
Another view of the fireplace and beautiful steel doors. Notice the stone sink.
The guest room has pink stone walls and wood ceiling.
And looking at the other direction.
And this bathroom – with the pink walls.
And a huge surprise - a bed on the other side of the bathroom. Wow! So cool!
And another bathroom with a stone sink, antique mirror and sconces.
Or you can take a bath outside!!
Another guest room – here the floor is tiled. This must be in an older building. Cute green door!
And another bathroom (remember there are 11!) – with a claw foot tub.
On the property is the original stone house – built in the early 1920s.
Stairs led up to the building.
The house was built with stone found on the estate.
There is a spa at the stone house.
Inside there is a bedroom with a claw foot bathtub and a fireplace.
And looking out the windows. Just so pretty!!!
One of the bathrooms with stone sinks and concrete counters.
Most interesting is the stone house was hit by lightning and burned. Their neighbor, Sonny Bono who of course was still alive back then – rushed to their house and put the fire out with water from their swimming pool. Singer Barry Manilow lives right next door.
Somers says that they spend most of their time outside on the terraces and gardens and courtyards since going from the kitchen to the bedroom to the dining room are all in different houses. She says sometimes she doesn’t go inside all day long!
It will be interesting to see their new house when it is built and what directions she goes with the interiors.
To visit the real estate site, go HERE.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season !!
Can’t wait for the new year – I have a really fabulous giveaway planned.