Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ace Hotel: Back to the Future

Palm Springs, CA – It’s always a good luck sign for me when a Neil Young song plays in an unexpected place—kind of like finding a penny heads up on the ground. Alabama, the song Neil wrote that Lynyrd Skynard retaliated with the hugely popular Sweet Home Alabama, is apropos for the hip and edgy Ace Hotel community pool where I’m lounging in the 80-degree afternoon sun. I’m in Palm Springs to experience Modernism Week, a nine-day celebration of mid-century modern design, architecture and culture.

The 180-room Ace Hotel & Swim Club is on the grounds of a former Ho-Jo’s, part of the architectural trend that renovates mid-century modern motels and turns them into eclectic, one-of-a-kind retreats. “We wanted to create a community place where people could come together,” said front desk agent Joe Faron. Communal activities like Game night, mix cocktails and bingo—Craft night, held once a month, brings guests together by making paper plate face masks and friendship bracelets.

Rooms are shabby chic, invoking a cross between a college dorm room and a beach house complete with magazine clipping style art, a steamer trunk for storage, sheep skin rugs and the requisite full bar. The eight fireplaces sprinkled throughout the property bring the indoor/outdoor Palm Springs lifestyle alive, giving my neighbors a warm place to convene until the 2 a.m. curfew. Oh well, this not your grandpa’s Howard Johnson’s—more like your lively uncle who took you for your first drink at 21. Fun. Retro. Trendy. Welcome to the new Palm Springs.