Inside a Palm Springs Airbnb

Go back in time at a completely renovated Palm Springs vacation rental.

  • Category
    Architecture, Art, Stays
  • Written by
    Jennie Nunn
  • Photos by
    James Butchart


  • Above
    Graphic orange wallpaper and a "Tappo" sofa by John Mascheroni complete the living room at The Retro Palm Springs rental.

In its heydey, Palm Springs was known for luring the elite Hollywood set and legends including Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra. Today, the desert oasis, just two hours from Los Angeles, is a hotbed for vintage and midcentury design enthusiasts, outdoor adventure (think hiking at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and nearby Joshua Tree National Park), and renowned hotels and resorts.

Thanks to property owners and longtime friends Nathan Wilson Matt Garbauskas, of The Retro Palm Springs, overnight visitors can relive the past and channel the 1960s and 1970s. “The home was built in 1959 and is one of the famous Alexander Homes,” of the 2,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bath residence replete with a heated outdoor swimming pool, fire pit, and hot tub. “The Alexander Construction Company [founded by architect George Alexander and his son Robert] built more than 2,200 homes in the Coachella Valley. They’re so iconic and reflective of the midcentury modern feel. The home had undergone some unfortunate renovations over the years. Fortunately, it ended up in the perfect hands in 2016.”

Wilson takes us inside this one-of-a-kind vintage hideaway in Racquet Club Estates (noting some of the unexpected accessories and design features along the way), and why it shouldn’t be overlooked for an upcoming summer escape.

Above: The outdoor pool and lounge area.

Tell us about the property and why you bought it.

We bought the home in April of this year. We’d considered buying in Palm Springs at some point in the future and would look at listings from time to time. But one day we were on a flight, came across this listing, and knew it had the potential to be an amazing purchase. We’re currently splitting our time between Seattle and Palm Springs. It’s the perfect getaway spot when we have the time or need to escape to a warmer climate. But we’re still planning to rent out the home out when we’re not there. This is not the kind of home that should just sit empty. You can see it was made for entertaining. We think it’s fun to share it with people from all over the country and all over the world who want to visit Palm Springs and have a unique experience. It’s part of the reason we gave the home a name and its own Instagram account.

Above: The exterior of The Retro Palm Springs.

Wow-factor?

Every room has its own unique character and feel but all come together to fit that fun, vintage vibe. I love the bed in the casita bedroom. The former owners actually bought it from a vintage shop in Los Angeles. It was in pretty rough shape, but was reupholstered with black naugahyde vinyl and the side tables were restored. There’s even a working 8-track player in the headboard.

The orange sofa in the casita living room is entirely original and was purchased from a seller on eBay. This “Tappo” sofa by Vecta Contract and designed by John Mascheroni is pretty hard to find in this type of condition. Most likely it was barely used in some type of waiting room at a business. The end unit has a built-in magazine storage and ashtray. It’s the perfect piece for the casita [which is made for cocktail hour.]

On top of that, the wallpaper throughout the home is incredible. It’s a mix of authentic 1970s wallpaper and some that was specially produced to look vintage.

Above  |  Large image: Gold fever inside the main living room at The Retro Palm Springs.
Small images: A bedroom and headboard with a built-in 8-track player; Relive the past at The Retro Palm Springs.

Tell us about the renovation and interiors.

The house in its current state was designed and renovated by Karena Dawn, co-founder of Tone It Up and Bobby Goldstein. They did an amazing job curating all the unique pieces. We’ve definitely added some of our own touches, like a Pierre Paulin chair which was originally designed for the airport waiting area for the Concorde flights in the 1960s. We also added some color and flair to the pool area, and fun small pieces throughout the home. The most important thing to us is that any piece we add needs to match Karena and Bobby’s impeccable work.

Above: The Master bedroom is outfitted with a canopy bed and an outdoor bathtub and shower.

Why is it significant to you?

The thing we love most about this home is just how unique it is. Everywhere you turn you find something new to appreciate: the tile work, the wallpapers, the lighting fixtures. The casita is perfect for entertaining, the living room is not only fun and funky, but also just right for lounging around. You’d think in a home filled with vintage furniture that it would start to feel a bit like a museum. But that’s not the case at all. Every piece in the house is extremely comfortable and easy to relax in.

Above: The living room at The Retro Palm Springs.

Any booking advice?

This is our first rental property, so we’re learning as we go. We usually only keep three months open at a time, but are always willing to consider opening up dates if there’s a specific time someone wants to come that’s not open yet. It’s important for us to be good hosts and make each stay an amazing experience for our guests.

Above: Relax poolside at The Retro Palm Springs.

What’s the future of this house?

For now, we’re going to keep doing a mix of rentals and staying there ourselves. No matter what, we’ll make sure to keep the house exactly how it is, and the style, the feel, the vibe will always be retro. If someone stays with us next week, we want them to have the same experience (or an even better experience) when they come back in 3 years.

Gold tile walls in the Master bathroom.

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