The Parker Palm Springs is proof-positive that luxury need not be somber and gilt-edged, and eclectic can be just as high-end as elegance.
This is a luxury property with a focus on fun that’s apparent in every aspect of its operation from the riotous mix of its accessories throughout the property and its 144 rooms—including 12, 1-bedroom villas and a 2,800-sq-ft. private residence, each one accented with a different set of kitschy, albeit chic accessories—to a tangerine-colored entryway where guests are greeted by a sword-wielding set of armor guarding the door.
The theme is meant to be ‘50s and ‘60s with the accent on nonpretentious and the service and accommodations on luxury. Its decor is definitely a salute to its history, which began as Palm Springs’ first Holiday Inn, then morphed into Gene Autry’s Ocatillo—the current private residence on site was once his home and it is preserved as it was when he lived there—a kind of Melody Ranch that doubled as a spring training camp for his California Angels baseball team and a hideaway for the Hollywood elite. Next, Merv Griffin took it over and changed it into a California-style Versailles, with trimmed hedges, statues and cupids throughout the grounds. About five years ago, the Jack Parker Corporation bought it, let it run for about a year while they decided what to do with it, then closed it down for a few months while they completely recreated it into what it is today. It reopened on Oct. 1, 2004.
“What we tried to do is really look at luxury in a different light—pretty much redefining luxury as you find it today,” explains Thomas Meding, general manager. “We really looked at it from the perspective that we are in the desert, so we made the garden very desert-like, very lush as the desert can be and bringing all the elements into it. We purposefully did not create a [traditional] hotel feel, but looked at it from the perspective of a private estate—a place where you can come with friends and make new friends. It’s like coming to your great aunt’s estate to spend a couple of days of R&R.”
Indeed, this truly is a place where there’s a surprise around every corner and absolutely filled with variety, from its dining options to its activities, including two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, red European clay tennis courts, an exercise facility, three jacuzzis, steam and sauna rooms, and tai chi, Pilates and yoga classes. Also available are bocce/petanque courts and a croquet lawn.
“It’s very, very un-hotel like—more like a Bohemian, eclectic setting. For example, usually in hotels, the bath amenities all come from the same producer. Producer A, they do soap, shampoo and everything else. But at home, you have different kinds of hair conditioners, shampoo, body wash, soap and so forth—usually not from the same manufacturer. We do the same principal here—we took what we think is the best of each, whether it’s Hermes soap or L’Occitane, and then we use Morton Brown for the body wash because we think it’s the best,” Meding explains. “So it’s a very, very different philosophy that we have and that holds true throughout the estate. In the rooms, you have different books, different pictures. The rooms do have the same features, like the four-poster beds and the bedding, but each room is slightly different in regard to the accessories.”
Accommodations include deluxe rooms and deluxe patio kings, which have a private hammock in the back and a huge sand box. These are oversized rooms that lead to a very private outdoor patio surrounded by hedges. Guests can go through an entryway cut into the hedges to a gigantic sand box and their own private hammock. The lanai rooms are the same-size rooms and they’re just steps away from the pool so guests can go from their patio to the pool. “And then we have jr. suites in the south buildings,” Meding says, “which are oversized suites with two bathrooms, one of which has what we call a party shower—it’s a huge shower that people absolutely love. It’s really fun.”