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Monday, November 19, 2012

Star style: Frank Sinatra's Twin Palms

In May of 1947, Frank Sinatra walked into the office of E. Stewart Williams and told him he wanted a Georgian-style estate built in Palm Springs, California, by Christmas, when he and his first wife Nancy Barbato planned to host a party.

Horrified at the prospect of having to build a Georgian-style mansion in the middle of the desert, Williams nevertheless drew the plans, but he drew a second set of plans for a modern home. Fortunately, Sinatra loved the modern design, and construction began around the clock in an effort to meet Sinatra's deadline. The four-bedroom, five-bathroom, 4,500-square-foot fully air-conditioned estate was completed in time for the Sinatras to host a New Year's party.

Sinatra immediately dubbed the estate Twin Palms for the poolside twin palm trees, the tallest in the valley at that time. The residence, with its piano-shaped pool, was the site of some of the most glamorous parties of the era, hosting Hollywood's brightest stars.

Sinatra and his first wife divorced soon after the home was built, and his mistress and future wife Ava Gardner moved in. Of her time in the house, Gardner said, “It was the site of probably the most spectacular fight of our young married life, and, honey, don’t think I don’t know that’s really saying something...Frank’s establishment in Palm Springs, the only house we really could ever call our own, has seen some pretty amazing occurrences.”

Indeed, one of the sinks in the master bathroom bears a crack from a champagne bottle that Sinatra threw at Gardner during one of their legendary brawls. Sinatra also reportedly once threw all of Ava’s belongings into the driveway of the home after an argument over his infidelities with Lana Turner.

In 1957, after filing for divorce from Ava, Frank sold the property and moved to a new home in nearby Rancho Mirage. The estate is now available to rent for special occasions.


Twin Palms (photograph by Julius Shulman)

Front elevation

Original landscaping

Seating area in original master bedroom, overlooking the pool

Pool, with twin palms

The infamous cracked sink (though, honestly, I think it's hard to see the crack)

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  1. Beautiful, I'm quite taken with the garden landscape, all dots and stone!

  2. Thanks for sharing. This is an amazing house. Thank god he didn't go with the Georgian!

    1. Roger Williams, the architectural partner and brother of E. Stewart Williams, was later quoted as saying, "We'd have been ruined if we'd been forced to build Georgian in the desert." What an eyesore that would have been!

  3. Wow - what a great home. I really like the lounge/fireplace looking out to the pool. Love the story too. I'm a huge fan of old Hollywood and movie musicals.x

    1. I wonder how many fireplaces are in the house. I've seen several fabulous photos. You and my daughter would have a lot in common. She's a big fan of old Hollywood movies too.

  4. Really swell house! I bet it costs a small fortune to rent out for a party. Glad it's at least still intact...

    1. I bet it's out of my price range for my next birthday party. :) That's a good thing, though, because if they're making a fortune renting it out, they will keep it in good repair.