There’s a twinkle in Azure Sky’s eye – this elegant yet informal escape is styled in the shadow of Palm Spring’s early-days A-list hideaways, and feels ripe for Hollywood-esque shenanigans. In that spirit, camera phones are best put away (after all, there are no other screens); instead join other guests poolside for sunset cocktails and carry the conversation on until the stars come out around the central fireplace. The revolutionary architectural thinking of the time presents the San Jacinto Mountains and their 300 annual days of sunshine as the omnipresent stage, with a recent design-charged refresh to the hotel and its furnishings, bringing the warm hues indoors while artfully skirting the kitsch – although we did spy some pool-float flamingoes, so it’s still a bit mischievous.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of sparkling wine, plus early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
Check-in is from 4pm, with early arrivals accommodated where possible. Be sure to have your bags packed for check-out by 11am.
Double rooms from £128.30 ($160), including tax at 12.695 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $45.08 per room per night on check-out.
Room rates include freshly brewed coffee, continental breakfast and snacks served in the lobby from 8am until 10am.
Designer Anne L’Esperance worked with the creatives at Lightning Bar Palm Springs to reinterpret Azure Sky’s classic mid-century style for modern luxury tastes. We’re obsessed with the way her entrance screen plays with shadow to cast bold strakes of dramatic light through the entire property.
At the hotel
Lobby bar and lounge area, outdoor terrace with a large hot-tub and fire pits, free use of hotel cruiser bikes, and free WiFi. In rooms: full kitchenettes, minibar with cocktail kit, free bottled water, kettle and teas, hammocks, and Lather bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The Agave Suite makes the most of that beautiful Californian light, but the Olive Rooms are best for entertaining guests.
After a long morning spent unearthing architectural cornerstones by the likes of Cody, Frey and Wexler in the hot sun, you’ll want to grab a drink from the lobby bar and dive into the pool at Azure Sky. Hidden inside a ficus-ringed terrace is a pool and Jacuzzi with unobstructed mountain views, and a sunlounger-to-guest ratio in excess of one-to-one means you’ll always find some space. Dry off when the sun dips below the peaks and head fireside to counter the nighttime desert chill. And yes, a pink inflatable flamingo is available on request.
Know your Eames from your van der Rohe: bring a copy of Mid-Century Modern Design: A Complete Sourcebook by Domenic Bradbury for a poolside refresher.
One of the Agave Suites is ADA-compliant, with a roll-in shower and shower bench.
There’s no restaurant at Azure Sky, but there’s plenty of exciting dining to be had nearby. Several great restaurants can be found just a short walk away, including Del Ray at sister property Villa Royale.
The lobby at Azure Sky is more like the living room of a good friend’s residence. Among the sofas you’ll find a bar stocked with wines, beers and pre-mixed artisanal cocktails from local producers, and in the evenings, it becomes the lively focal point of the property. When the sun is shining (which is always) there’s a staffed bar in the lobby facing the meadow courtyard. Watch the afternoon sun set the San Jacinto Mountains ablaze with a frozen Coffee Martini (Vodka, Mr Black Cold Brew liqueur, Later Days cold brew) in hand, an icy take on a cool classic for hot evenings by the pool.
Order in or seduce a companion with your culinary wizardry – the hotel doesn’t offer room service, but there are impressively equipped kitchenettes with induction stovetops and utensils in most rooms.
Azure Sky is tucked away in the stylish Deepwell Estates mid-century-modern residential neighbourhood, a five-minute drive south of central Palm Springs, California.
Do as the jet set did and land your Learjet 23 at Palm Springs International Airport, which is just seven minutes away by car. Those flying commercial will find over 30 direct connections touching down here from major hubs throughout North America.
Amtrak runs its Thruway service (a combination of bus and train) twice daily between Los Angeles Fullerton Station and Palm Springs Amtrak Station, which takes about an hour and a half. A bus connection links Downtown Los Angeles and LAX with Fullerton Station.
Azure Sky was among the very first ‘motor hotels’ and any West Coast road trip must surely include a stop in the desert. Palm Springs is about two hours inland from Los Angeles or San Diego, and there is ample free parking.
The Studebaker Avanti, a midcentury Raymond Loewy masterpiece designed right here in a Palm Springs bungalow, is the ultimate way to arrive - if you can find one.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you’re visiting Palm Springs there’s a good chance that you’re either a design geek or you’re travelling with one; both sets are amply catered for. Azure Sky sits right in the heart of the photogenic Deepwell Estates residential neighbourhood, which is where you’ll find some of the very best mid-century design that Palm Springs has to offer. Grab your 35mm-film camera and a free cruiser bike from the hotel and take a slow pedal through these curated streets. Absorbing a self-guided architecture tour is always worthwhile, as is a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum where you’ll find works by modern icons Anish Kapoor, Andy Warhol, Diane Arbus and Ed Ruscha. The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance to the intriguing cactarium at the Moorten Botanical Garden, and Mr Smith is reliably informed that a drag show at Toucans Tiki Lounge is a requisite night out. The region has some of the darkest skies in California and is a protected Dark Sky Park – a night spent gazing into the celestial abyss from among the Joshua trees is unforgettable. Take a guided tour from the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory; even better if your visit coincides with one of their ‘swoon at the moon’ evenings. To appreciate the desert in the daytime, ride the impressive Palm Springs Aerial Tram up the rockface to the Mount San Jacinto State Park, high enough to be snowy during winter. There’s a café at the summit and several day hikes of varying lengths.
Ask any local where to dine and they’ll tell you to call in every favour you can to get a reservation at the Michelin-starred Bar Cecil. Never mind that it’s located in a mall of otherwise dull shops – once inside you’ll be stupefied by the glam-kitsch theme and the frankly fearsome menu. It’s all predictably fantastic but Mrs Smith can’t get past the Fifty Dollar Martini, a version of the old classic served with a caviar-topped devilled egg, a house pickled onion, and potato chips. And yes, it costs $50. Like a swirl of acrylic on an artist’s palette, Workshop Kitchen and Bar mixes French and Japanese gastronomic techniques and Med influences into something they call modern Californian, and we love it. You’ll stay for the architecture though – the 1920s former theatre in the Design District boasts a brutalist refresh by New York-based SOMA Architects that in 2015 earned a James Beard award for restaurant design. Just a short hop on foot from the hotel you’ll find laidback tapas at Del Ray, the restaurant at sister property Villa Royale. It has a weeklong buzz, which can be surprisingly difficult to find in Palm Springs.
The atrium style at Café La Jefa is a bright way to start the day, and the in-house roasted speciality coffee from the family-owned café simply serves to supplement the experience. For a no-nonsense brew head to Ernest Coffee, and to retreat into rural Provence put a morning aside for a lazy breakfast on the terrace at Farm.
Tailor Shop is a snug speakeasy-style whisky bar that is the personal project of award-winning sushi chef Engin Onural. You’ll need a booking, and you may struggle just to find it; like all the best bars it is poorly lit and entirely unsigned. As befitting of a Japanese government-certified chef who has represented America in the World Sushi Cup, there are spectacular small bites, but the focus here is on the booze. Onural is also an accredited sake sommelier, so you are unlikely to find your way out sober. For a more classic Palm Springs experience head for a dry Martini at Rat Pack hotspot Melvyn’s – table 13 was Sinatra’s.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this effortlessly cool hotel in California and unpacked their Wassily chairs and Arco lamps, a full account of their elegant break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Azure Sky in Palm Springs…
You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for something out of a Looney Tunes episode, but Acme Hospitality is actually a super-cool finger-on-the-pulse collective of local hoteliers, restaurateurs, and property developers in the Southern California boutique hospitality scene. The team is behind Santa Barbara Funk Zone luminaries the Lark and La Paloma Café, and their latest launch, Azure Sky, again demonstrates their nuanced approach of amplifying what’s good while not being afraid to bin anything tired.
Host Henry Courtemanche spent part of his childhood in Palm Springs and wanted to use Azure Sky to tell his story of growing up here – the Palm Springs that existed before selfies became normal, a time when the people who came here were truly looking for seclusion and quality leisure time with their friends. A time before the internet, in short.
The sole concession to the current day is good WiFi, but otherwise there is no unsolicited technology; guests are encouraged to mingle instead. There’s no reception either, just a lobby that becomes a natural meeting lounge for a pre-dinner cocktail. The outdoor spaces, hidden amid lush desert gardens of palms, agave, banana trees and birds of paradise, are carefully designed to encourage community to thrive. All and sundry naturally gravitate to the outdoor fireplace as the evening chill sets in, and you get the feeling that back in the 1960s this was exactly how many Hollywood relationships must have formed…
The building dates to 1959 and is thought to have been designed as a timeshare by noted Southern Californian modernist Howard Lapham, but was quickly converted as the wave of small, modern motels swept through, creating the legacy of Palm Springs in the process. The 1980s and 1990s were not kind to the structure, but a rebuild by design team Lightning Bar saw the ugly cladding consigned to the scrap-heap and the tired motel brought tastefully into line with modern luxury expectations.
The renovation included the commissioning of exquisite floating beds and nightstands and a muted colour palette that avoids tired mid-century tropes – a pink flamingo floating occasionally in the pool is the one delightful concession.
The result is a trad-style motel that fits seamlessly into its equally voguish neighbourhood, with sleepy streets that are just a few minutes away from Palm Springs’ beat.