Video tour of Frey II House in Palm Springs

We recently had a chance for a rare private tour of the iconic Frey II House in Palm Springs. Take a look inside with us and the experts in architecture and design from the Palm Springs Art Museum. You can also look at other amazing and much easier to view and access architecture by taking a self driving architecture tour with Modern Tours Palm Springs.

Watch the video below for more detail on the home and what makes it an icon of American architecture.

Frey II house is the second house that Albert Frey, the architect built for himself in Palm Springs, and it dates from 1963-64 and it’s sited right in the side of the San Jacinto Mountains and has a really dramatic view over Palm Springs. When you’re up at the house you can see almost a 360 view of the city, so it’s really pretty spectacular, and when he first built it, it was the highest site in the city until Bob Hope built his home about five or ten years later.

Frey built this relatively small house for himself. It’s about 800 square feet and he lived here by himself and it was very self-contained. He liked to take advantage of all the privacy that he had up here and swim in the nude.

He was from Switzerland and there are a number of touches that reminded him of Switzerland that he brought like a copper bell. He always wanted his visitors to ring the cowbell when they were approaching so he would know to put on his swim trunks before they got up to the house.

The main part of the house is really oriented east so that the front of the house, the sun rises at the front of the house. It sets pretty early in the winter behind the mountains and the pool is on the south side. Frey would get maximum advantage of the sun and I since the pool is un-heated he would ensure it’s heated naturally by the sun. Alongside, he built in concrete seats that are have cushions on them.

The roof is this corrugated steel, and then the windows are glass sliders and the home has all the original hardware and everything that was here when he lived here. But one really key point about the house is that he wanted to integrate the natural landscape with it as much as he could.

So it’s built right into the mountain side and when we go inside you’ll see that not only are these boulders really prominent at the front, but then there’s a giant boulder that the house kind of surrounds. It’s believed Fray was thinking that the boulder would retain a lot of heat from the sun and that would help  keep the house warm in the winter, but we don’t know if that’s really true or not. The smaller stones making the outline for the pool is a kind of nice touch and they would have been likely kind of gathered from somewhere here in Palm Springs.

Frey really tried to take advantage of much possible of the natural landscape and he loved being outdoors. The kitchen is pretty intact like all the appliances, except for the fridge, and all the dishware was here when he was here. Corrugated fiberglass for the covers and also inside for the shelf so that there was he could just stand the dishes up inside these shallow cupboards.

Midcentury dishware by Eva Zeisel

You can stand the plates up and these are dishes by Eva Ziesel. She gave him this set of dishes so it’s really nice that we still have them here before. Frey made provisions to leave the house to the museum and today it’s considered to be part of the collection and the Museum wanted to treat it as carefully as we would treat a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois or Donald Judd or or any other masterwork in our collection. And so it also is a big responsibility because, of course, it’s a house and it has systems connected to it like plumbing and lighting and everything. And it is, you know, exposed to the environment in nature and climate and all of that.

It is an ongoing kind of preservation project, and as part of his will Frey made the provision that he wanted the house to be accessible to students of architecture and architects and researchers.

The museum does offer tours now and then where the general public can come and visit the house. It’s a very special privilege the Palm Springs Art Museum was given by Albert Frey to be able to be the custodians of his amazing house. You can also look at other amazing and much easier to view and access architecture by taking a self driving architecture tour with Modern Tours Palm Springs.

Palm Springs Traveller Staff