Get the mid-century modern look, without going retro

Since its post-war heyday, the Palm Springs “look” has been a mainstay of contemporary kitchen design. However, not until present day has interest in its basic design principles been in such high demand. Homeowners and interior designers are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate its simple flair and function in ways that are decidedly modern – not retro.

The first thing to note about the Palm Springs design style is that it is driven by indoor-outdoor living, which isn’t at all surprising considering the hot climate in which it originated. Any contemporary kitchen that wants to showcase its Palm Spring design credentials should have a clear link to an outdoor entertaining area. In a true Palm Springs home this would manifest itself in a glass wall with doors to the outside. In homes where that set-up is not possible, a large and unadorned window should let in plenty of light and afford an unobstructed view of your surroundings.


Let in plenty of light for unobstructed views of your surroundings. © Michal Utterback

Contemporary kitchens with Palm Springs origins also are open concept. As the home of the original Rat Pack you can imagine that life in Palm Springs revolved around parties and entertaining. That is most certainly reflected in current layouts. An L-shape or U-shape kitchen layout in particular allows for lavish, but laidback, parties in which the hosts and guests can mingle freely.

The colour palate of the new Palm Springs kitchen is quite akin to that of the Scandinavian design style. Overall, walls, ceilings, worktops and floors are light and fresh – often in varying shades of white. Where the Palm Springs style deviates from the mid-century modern designs of Scandinavia is in its usage of warm wooden accents. The cabinets of the Palm Spring kitchen in particular are often made of warm-coloured woods like beech and then lacquered so the natural graining shines through.

Finally, the overall “sleekness” of a contemporary kitchen can be linked to the Palm Springs style. Cabinets either have integrated hardware, or no hardware at all. Appliances are quite often stainless steel and integrated. The flooring, which can range from tiles to terrazzo are buffed to a reflective shine.


Cabinets of the Palm Spring kitchen are often made of warm-coloured woods. © Craftsman Design and Renovation

Could this riff on California living be right for you?