R & R for A+R

Rose Apodaca and Andy Griffith at the Ace Palm Springs Jan. 1, 2010

A happy new year and new decade to you!
We are finally feeling human again following a wildly wonderful holiday season–and a week's respite in nearby Palm Springs. We usually jump on a plane to the UK on Boxing Day (December 26) to see friends in London and Andy's family in the north and east. But this time we decided to delay those visits a bit. As the weeks sped up into a dizzying madness of wrapping hundreds of customer gifts, processing thousands of web orders, and zigzagging around as is the way in December, we also decided not to jet off to Miami to see the new A+R Mini (more on that later!), or to Brazil to stay at the new beach cottages by our pal Kenny Scharf (although that is still on our to-do list).
Instead, Andy and I spent Boxing evening at a high-rise spa in L.A.'s Koreatown undergoing a thorough kneading of shiatsu and other treatments (those tiny women worked their fingers off!). The next day, we took the 90-minute drive to the desert and a week at one of our favorite new hotels: The Ace Palm Springs.

We meant to share with you our first visit here in November, not to mention our stay at the Ace New York last early June. We're definitely smitten with this fledgling chain, and are even looking forward to popping up to Portland soon, in part because of the original Ace there.
The 180-room Palm Springs site is surrounded by burnt sienna mountains and sky-high, wiry palm trees, providing one of those magical, vintage California postcard settings for lazy hours lapped up in one of the two pools or steaming hot tub or on a balcony sofa with a book.

Andy in nirvana.

Of course, it's what's inside that counts, especially given all the fabulously designed hotels that have materialized in these parts in recent years. The Ace stands apart because of its easy, organic blending of its inherited mid-century blueprint with an updated, homegrown aesthetic of design and decor.
Los Angeles design collective Commune transformed the property into an old school summer camp club–Left Coast style, mind you–with Mongolian yurt treatment rooms tipped by pointed neon-colored roofs; well-worn vintage bicycles for guest use; and room interiors evoking tents with heavy canvas draping the walls (this also serves as a sound buffer). Each room comes with such camping-themed amenities, in fact, as a tall, knotty walking stick and fringed blanket, a sturdy metal folding table and chairs, and even an army green folder labeled "Survival Guide" that contains menus for room service, the spa and 24-hour gym, along with tips to endure an earthquake.

Inside Room 312, a.k.a. Home Sweet Home for the week.
Surprise above our bed: Bill Claxton and Peggy Moffit torn from an old mag.

The region's indoor-outdoor lifestyle is emphasized with several living room-like areas around the property, replete with a sofa and a couple of chairs and (the pièce de résistance) a fireplace with a towering chimney tiled by legendary ceramicist Stan Bitters. (These are works of art, folks, so enjoy them.) The gravel gardens are impeccably raked throughout the day, and a soundtrack of everything from The Undertones to Johnny Cash to a Bollywood hit blasts around the main pool area between the civilized hours of 9ish to early evening.

Ace Perks: These super-soft, pinstriped djellabas.

Stan's collaborator Scott Nadeau of Ten10 in Silverlake also provided the iron and leather stools in all the rooms, among other touches. These kind of locally hand-crafted features are integral to the overall look and sensibility of the Ace. Adam Silverman's volcanic ceramic pendant lights hang in the restaurant; Alma Allen's turnings of desert ironwood sit at the check-in counter and his stools serve as nightstands in each room; and Commune's very own wood and brass crates make a convertible coffee table expanse in the lobby lounge, where guests can play one of several board games offered on the nearby bookshelf.

Dusk at the Ace: View from our balcony.

As we walked into the check-in lobby our first night, with its window "curtains" of sea knot ropes by none other than Michael Schmidt, we spotted Jen Meyer coming out of the arcade photo booth with her child in tow. Husband Tobey Maguire hung back with friends in the adjoining King’s Highway diner. The restaurant is like a community center at the Ace, and the next morning over chilaquiles, Kimberly Brooks dropped into our booth. There with hubby Albert and sons, she enthusiastically updated us on her upcoming exhibitions in New York and L.A. of stylemaker portraits. The collection now includes Vogue's Grace Coddington and "Mad Men" costume designer Janie Bryant. I thanked her again for making me her first in the series (I'm pictured in my Magda Ber
liner wedding dress against a fiery red background, and I can't wait to share it!).

The goal this week was R & R, as in restoration and repair of our crickety, stiff bodies. So we limited our activities to sleeping, soaking, sunning and one off-campus outing daily. Because Andy was convinced as of December 29 he was the only one on Planet Earth yet to see "Avatar," we spent the evening in adjacent Cathedral City, nestled in the comfy IMAX Theater seats, sporting ridiculously oversized 3-D glasses.

The next afternoon, we ventured into Tahquitz Canyon, relishing every step of the two-mile hike to the 60-foot waterfall and its powder-white rocks. We accidentally timed the walk to sunset, and the serenity of this former home of the peaceful Agua Caliente Cahuilla tribe still radiated from every hunk of granite and chuparosa bush.

On New Year's Eve afternoon, we took the Ace bicycles around the neighborhood to check out the mid-century homes. Only blocks from the Ace, we happened on the most marvelous sanctuary, an acre-sized private property that had decades ago been turned into a botanical garden dedicated to cacti and succulents. The family-owned and operated Moorten "Desertland" is incredible (more on it later). We returned on our final day in town and filled up the trunk with unusual finds from their adjacent nursery.

A sight in "Desertland."

Back at the pool that afternoon, a new wave of familiar faces swarmed in from Los Angeles: Roman Alonso and Steven Johanknecht from Commune; Cat Doran; Lisa Eisner and husband Eric and the sons; Gia Coppola (there to also celebrate her birthday that evening at uncle Roman's nearby); stylist Michael Cioffoletti. There was even a troop of Gregorian singers! We were all surprised to spot standing next to a chocolate vintage Benz Roadster none other than German actor Udo Kier, he of the piercing blue eyes and mostly known among the cast of characters who appeared in Madonna's Sex book. Go figure.

J.C. Obando and Rose on the balcony of Room 318. Dreamy view.

On his way to collect ice for our evening G&Ts, Andy discovered J.C. Obando staying down the row of rooms from us. We joined him and his other half for a cocktail and chat about his runway presentation in New York next month.
Then we set off to dinner, a four-course affair organized by the Ace's culture director Jason Harler. His twin Jared was there, too, ensuring everything ran smoothly throughout the candle-lit New Year's Eve dinner, including the motley crew of live folky acts (the Gregorian singers to boot!).

Lisa and Eric Eisner
One of the many cooky fun acts during the New Year's Eve dinner.

At the helm of one of the two long tables was Ace head Alex Calderwood, who before long lead us all out to a raging bonfire to burn the slips of paper scrawled with our 2010 hopes and dreams.

Jason Harler gets us and our 2010 hopes and dreams fired up!

The night itself was a dream of sorts, between the Burning Man-looking hippies banging drums outside, the Gin Rose cocktails (gin and pink grapefruit), and the invasion of revelers of every age who poured into the hall once the tables were removed. We disco'd into the new year to the deft stylings at the turntables by Lisa's son Charlie. Then cabaret drag star Jer Ber Jones began counting down the changing of time.
Ok, so the night, our week's stay, was, well, aces. Pun, and fun, intended.

Jer Ber Jones counts down and Jared Lovejoy keeps watch.
An night with no limits, age or otherwise.
Enough said.

Top Photo: Roman Alonso with Rose's Leica.
Photos with Rose: Andy Griffith

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