A Steal or Just Plain Steel?

Designed and expanded by Donald Wexler— his former Palm Springs home has no offers
Fridays On the Homefront
Desert modern architect Donald Wexler's former family home (pictured here) in Palm Springs is still looking for a new owner. Photos: courtesy Rick Grahn
Fridays On the Homefront
Fridays On the Homefront
Donald Wexler in recent years. Photo: Larry Merkle

Few if any cities wear their commitment to modern design more proudly than Palm Springs, and the man sometimes called the father of Palm Springs Modernism, architect Donald Wexler, had a lot to do with that.

Wexler, who died in June 2015, began his career working for Richard Neutra, where he also picked up the modernist master's affinity for steel construction. While Neutra dabbled in steel, Wexler was even more committed to the material. He showed that commitment when he built his own Palm Springs home out of steel, and now this landmark property is for sale for $1.75 million.

Rick Grahn, the Beverly Hills-based realtor who listed the property late last month, minced no words about the significance of the house at 1272 East Verbena Drive.

“It’s probably the most important listing in the desert, other than maybe the Lautner,” he said with reference to the Bob Hope residence, which is asking more than a dozen times the price of the Wexler house.

While some architects limited their use of steel to the framing, Wexler was so dedicated to all-steel construction that he built this one for his family, who lived there for 38 years after its debut in 1955. The post-and-beam house in the East Movie Colony neighborhood called Snow Creek was designed with future expansion in mind at only 1,200 square feet with no pool. Wexler expanded the home to four bedrooms and three baths in 1960.

“Steel, concrete, and glass are ideal materials for any building in the desert,” Wexler once told Eichler Network features editor Dave Weinstein. “They are inorganic, and they don’t deteriorate in the extreme heat we have.”

By the early 1960s, Wexler had designed an entire neighborhood of 38 steel homes for developers George and Robert Alexander. Seven of the homes were built and still stand today, about three miles from Wexler’s former family home.

The now three-bedroom, two-bath home has steel beams, glass walls, and terrazzo floors and is an L-shaped, 2,424-square-foot floor plan. It sits on a 12,632-square-foot lot with a saltwater pool and surrounded by a privacy wall.

Grahn has sold several Wexlers before and sold this house in 2007 for a reported $915,000 to Daniel Giles and Alice Alioto, two San Francisco-based retail and cosmetics executives. Giles hired Wexler and fellow modernist architect Lance O’Connell to restore it in 2008.