THE LAUTNER EXPERIENCE
Photography by Bethany Nauert
Just outside of Palm Springs proper in the city of Desert Hot Springs sits a special little gem called Hotel Lautner. Originally designed by John Lautner, one of the most revered and influential modernist architects, the property was built in 1947 as part of a master planned community of over 100 buildings, storefronts and pools on 600 acres. The project was commissioned by movie director Lucien Hubbard, the winner of the very first “Best Picture” Oscar for the movie “Wings.” The first four units were built as a prototype, but the project came to a halt and no additional units were completed. The four units were used by Hubbard and his movie star friends as a getaway from Los Angeles, but eventually the property fell into disrepair and remained vacant for almost twenty years.
Following Hubbard’s death in 1972, the property passed through the hands of various owners over the years, and in 2008 it was purchased by the current owners, Tracy Beckmann and Ryan Trowbridge. Beckmann, an interior designer, and Trowbridge, a furniture designer, spent nearly four years painstakingly renovating the property, with a focus on paying homage to Lautner’s architecture and the original material elements of concrete, redwood, glass and steel, while also paying attention to the needs of modern travelers. “I left the construction up to my partner [Trowbridge] and focused on the beauty elements,” says Beckmann. “I didn’t want to create a cliché midcentury modern hotel complete with the stereotypical furniture from the 50s. Instead, it was more about creating a mood, something I call ‘Desert Chic.’ Together we created a stunning modern day oasis. Not to mention it’s the only John Lautner residence open to the public. Unless you have a friend that owns a Lautner, you can’t sleep in one. Consider us that friend!”
Beckmann and Trowbridge’s efforts won the approval of the Lautner Foundation, which sanctioned the renaming of the property as Hotel Lautner in honor its original designer. Hotel Lautner opened for business in September 2011 as a boutique hotel with four guest rooms, each featuring unique furnishings. Beckmann and Trowbridge were awarded the 2011 Award for Best Commercial Renovation by the Palm Springs Modern Committee. A 10,000 square foot outdoor event space was recently added adjacent to the original property, serving as a perfect spot for weddings and large parties.
While the renovation may be complete, the work continues. “Taking care of a property nearly 70 years old requires daily maintenance and a lot of patience,” says Trowbridge, but the duo is up for the challenge and constantly inspired by Lautner’s design, and in particular his talent for space planning. “I love Lautner’s amazing use of space,” says Trowbridge, “and the concept of designing from the ‘inside out’ rather than the ‘outside in.’”
“Lautner was a genius at space planning,” says Beckmann. “How is it possible that he could transform a 600 square foot studio into an impressive sunken-like bunker that seems to have no spatial limitations at all? There are no right angles, no predictable box-like rooms. Just amazing shapes, intersecting lines and geometry. I love the light pouring into the space with his thoughtful use of glass and playful shadows dancing on the walls at dusk.”
Photography by Bethany Nauert for Palm Springs Style; may not be used without express permission.