If you’re like most travelers, you plan vacations around a destination city, with the hotel as a secondary concern. It's a sensible approach, especially if you’ve got an action-packed itinerary and don't need more from a hotel than a place to rest your head for a few hours every night. But it ignores one of the greatest joys of travel—those holidays where the hotel is the destination.
Staying at the Hotel Lautner in Desert Palm Springs, Calif., is one of those holidays. That's not to say that Desert Hot Springs isn't a destination in itself—located about 10 miles north of Palm Springs, it has attracted tourists with its naturally occurring hot springs (and the spa hotels built around them) since the 1950s. It's more to say that the Hotel Lautner is so unique that you'd want to say here regardless of where it was.
Designed in 1947 by the iconic modernist architect John Lautner (you'll undoubtedly recognize his Elrod House, which was featured in the 1971 James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever), the hotel was built as a prototype for a community of more than 100 buildings, storefronts, and pools planned for Desert Hot Springs. But the plan never went further than the four-unit prototype, which became a hideaway for Hollywood starlets and then individual apartments until 2008, when it was purchased by interior designer Tracy Beckmann and furniture designer Ryan Trowbridge.
After a 3.5-year renovation, which restored and highlighted the four primary elements Lautner used in his design—concrete, steel, redwood, and glass—Beckmann and Trowbridge reopened the property as the Hotel Lautner, a one-of-a-kind desert oasis, where stays cost $225-$295 per night. It's atypical in a number of ways other than its origin—there's no room service or front-desk clerk (you'll need to make pre-arrangements to pick up your keys for check in)—but that's part of what makes the hotel such a standout. Although the units share a common area—including a wading pool, grill, fire pit, and desert garden—each room is so secluded (by nature of construction and design) that you'll barely even realize you have neighbors. There's so much privacy, in fact, that you won’t feel a hint of embarrassment when the desert sunlight, crashing through the giant-paned windows and against the tastefully mirrored wall, inspires you to turn your iPhone on yourself to take one or two new Facebook profile pics.
Despite its notorious natural hot springs, Desert Hot Springs leaves a little to be desired. You'll want to take advantage of the hotel's in-room kichenettes or drive into Palm Springs for meals. But aside from getting food, there's really no reason to leave this place. And once you're here, you won’t want to.