Palm Springs is hotter than ever - both figuratively and literally. In Hollywood's desert playground, Sparrows Lodge is a former actor's home that has been transformed into a rustic, cabin-style boutique hotel.
There's no denying the pull of Palm Springs, with its year-round sun, proximity to the mountains and time capsule of mid-20th-century architecture. Known as a magnet for Hollywood's actors confined to stay within a two-hour drive from their studios, Palm Springs is an oasis in the otherwise very hot, very dry Californian desert. It has been a literal and figurative hotspot since the days it played playground to the likes of Cary Grant, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, and today Palm Springs is enjoying a resurgence. A fresh appreciation for its modern architecture and cultural events has spurred new construction, restaurant openings and drawn increasingly trendy crowds.
Yet Sparrows Lodge, one of Palm Springs most appealing places to stay, is an original. First opened in 1952 under the auspices of "Castle's Red Barn" by Hollywood actor Don Castle and his wife Zetta, Sparrows Lodge underwent a total renovation and reopened in 2013 as a chainless boutique hotel rooted in the past as much as it nods to the future. An adults-only property tucked away from town and shaded by olive and lemon trees, Sparrows Lodge is as much a destination as it is a place to hide away.
Sparrows Lodge's 20 rooms are styled in minimalist-meets-western decor, without the kitsch so ubiquitous in Palm Springs. The beds are large and low, and comfortable leather chairs and western textiles add warmth to otherwise cool design. Works by artists including Ed Ruscha hang strikingly on the dark wood-clad walls. Horse-trough soaking tubs and rainwater showers stand at the ready to cool you down from the heat. Some of the rooms lead directly to the pool while others feature private backyard courtyards. With some shade from olive trees. Two larger rooms - The Cabin and The Owner's Suite - provide more apartment-like stays. Completely free of TVs, phones and electric clocks, these rooms are made for a personal reset.
What's for breakfast?
Breakfast is reminiscent of that from a small European hotel - a spread of coffee, juices, yogurt and granola, eggs and bread. Fill a plate and dine behind the barn on the country-casual seating or at the long farm table stretching under a grove of olive and lemon trees.
How about lunch and dinner?
Lunch and dinner are served in The Barn Kitchen, Sparrows Lodge's renovated, airy barn that doubles as the hotel lounge and check-in desk. Lunch is served daily as is an array of light bites until 6pm each evening. Dinner, an event in itself, is served at the communal table under the stars, twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, although in the full heat of summer when temperatures can stretch to 50°C, dinner is forsaken entirely. The Barn Kitchen's menu nods to Palm Springs' steak-and-potatoes past but is rooted firmly in health-conscious southern California. Little gem lettuces are grilled and dipped into green goddess dressing; burrata is paired with seasonal fruit; the ham and mustard melt is served with almond butter on sprouted bread.
Is there a bar?
Of course, but you won't find martinis here. California beers and wines as well as summery cocktails are served round the clock.
The heart of Sparrows Lodge, like so much of Palm Springs, is the pool, perfectly placed in the front courtyard and ringed by a dozen or so lounge beds. Here is a place to read, take in the views of the San Bernardino Mountains and find respite from the heat. A massage tent at the back of the property is open by appointment. The back courtyard is complete with a fire pit and s'mores materials are on hand each night. For those feeling more inclined to explore, bikes are available.
Things you should know
Palm Springs is hot, really hot. Many restaurants and shops close for the summer as temperatures climb. The high season arrives earlier in the spring when the town overflows with crowds and parties from the nearby Coachella festival.
Within a short walk you'll find…
You're in the middle of the desert and have gorgeous view of (and access to hiking trails through) the San Bernardino Mountains. Up the road you'll find more dining options including King's Highway, Ace Hotel's hipster-meets-cowboy roadside diner that's not to be missed.