Architectural Digest


Forget Palm Springs: This 

California Town Is the 

Midcentury Gem You Need 

to See 

Long overshadowed by its neighbor, Rancho Mirage has in recent years been coming into its own as an architectural destination 




JIM RICHE Posted July 9, 2018 

Desert Sun Oct. 20, 2018

Feature article on front page of the Saturday Desert Sun featuring a story on the book .

Front page article on Mod Mirage and the contributions of Melissa to the Rancho Mirage preservation community.

Palm Springs Life



OCTOBER 1, 2018

Midcentury architecture in Rancho Mirage has gone largely unnoticed, but a book by Melissa and Jim Riche is about to change that.

Dwell Online


11 Celebrity Homes That Showcase Desert Modernism in Rancho Mirage

Jennifer Baum Lagdameo

August 23, 2018

Luxe Magazine-Southern California Edition



Palm Springs may be the city everyone

knows, but that may change when the

new book Mod Mirage: The Midcentury

Architecture of Rancho Mirage hits

stands. It is the first to recount Rancho development, which began

with architect-designed, star-studded

communities like Tamarisk Country Club

and Thunderbird Heights and continued

with resort-style neighborhoods that

popped up around them. 

Traditional Home


Writer Melissa Riche and her photographer husband Jim Riche have teamed to create a comprehensive Visual study of midcentury architecture, devoted entirely to the city of Rancho Mirage, California. 

SRQ Mag - Living Pages


Living Pages




Mod Mirage: The Midcentury Architecture of Rancho Mirage– Melissa Riche & Jim Riche. Available August 7.  
Immerse yourself in architecturally innovative homes and communities that were built on and adjacent to the historic Thunderbird and Tamarisk Country Clubs from 1950 to 1970, in what is now the community of Rancho Mirage, California. No longer overshadowed by neighboring Palm Springs, Mod Mirage reveals in photos and stories the historic homes and social communities of Rancho Mirage that make up its significant midcentury heritage. 

Mod Mirage Book Launch


Contact: Melissa Riche

C: 323 632 9482



‘MOD MIRAGE – The Midcentury Architecture of Rancho Mirage’


Foreword by BRAD DUNNING

Publisher: Gibbs Smith – August 7th, 2018,

10” x 10”, 208 pages, Retail price: $45.00


On the cover: The Charney residence, 1957, Wexler & Harrison, Tamarisk Country Club. 

Recently restored by architect Steven Harris and interior designer Lucien Rees-Roberts. 

Landscape restoration and revision by David Kelly reflects original design by Garett Eckbo. 

(July 25th, 2018). Writer Melissa Riche and her photographer husband Jim Riche have teamed to create a comprehensive study of midcentury architecture, devoted entirely to the city of Rancho Mirage in California.  ‘Mod Mirage’ will be published by Gibbs Smith in August 2018.  (Price: $45 hardbound). This is the first publication to focus on the impressive architectural legacy of Rancho Mirage, the ‘other desert city’ a few miles east of Palm Springs that grew out of the success of Thunderbird and Tamarisk Country Clubs.  The city rivals Palm Springs for its sumptuous midcentury homes.  

As the rich and famous embraced a new style of desert living – on golf courses - the clubs became an oasis of influence: politicians, presidents, and titans of industry rubbed shoulders on and off the fairways with sporting champions and Hollywood stars. In due course the city earned the nickname, ‘Playground of Presidents’ – a phrase that was reinforced in recent years by President Obama’s regular visits to both Sunnylands and the home of his friends Michael S. Smith and Ambassador James Costos in Thunderbird Heights. 

Leading modernist architects designed stunning houses with panoramic views for clients with deep pockets. The results were some of the desert’s finest designs: the elegant Firestone Estate, designed for Leonard Firestone by William Pereira, the modernist Scandinavian-influenced home by E. Stewart Williams for rancher Bill Kenaston, numerous homes by William F. Cody for clients like steel magnate Earle M. Jorgensen, and of course Sunnylands by A. Quincy Jones for the Annenbergs.  

Uniquely, ‘Mod Mirage’ gives equal coverage to the midcentury resort-style communities that proliferated around the famed country clubs, contributing to the rapid growth that resulted in the city’s incorporation in 1973. These maintenance-free mini-resorts – starting with Bing Crosby’s ‘Blue Skies Trailer Village’ in the early 1950s – were also designed by leading desert architects including Cody, Krisel, and Powelson, and took the form of apartments or single family homes gathered around community gardens and pools. 


In 1950, the desert east of Palm Springs was barren except for a handful of ranches and a small community of pre-war homes. Entrepreneur, real estate man, and world-famous amateur golfer Johnny Dawson recognized the need for an 18-hole course in the desert and selected Thunderbird Ranch as the prize location. When Thunderbird Country Club opened in 1951, it heralded a new style of desert living: fairway lots that Dawson created to fund the club’s development sold like hot cakes.  Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Hoagy Carmichael, Phil Harris and Alice Faye, led the charge at Thunderbird. 

Soon Tamarisk followed, founded by the Marx Brothers and other entertainment industry members of the Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles. The Marx Brothers with developer Lou Halper gathered a group that included comedians, filmmakers, musicians, and businessmen. When Frank Sinatra relocated there from downtown Palm Springs in 1954, Tamarisk took off.  President Eisenhower’s 1954 golfing visit, followed by the Ryder Cup in 1955 at Thunderbird helped to seal the popularity of desert golf and the area became known as ‘The Winter Golf Capital of the World’.  The two courses became so popular that by the early 1960s, the Annenbergs decided to build their own estate and golf course nearby: the now-legendary Sunnylands.  Visits by U.S. Presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan, Kennedy to Obama, and Gerald Ford’s eventual retirement to Thunderbird gave Rancho Mirage its moniker: ‘the Playground of Presidents.’

‘Mod Mirage’ is a thoroughly researched account of some of the area’s most important midcentury homes and communities, many previously undocumented. Designer Brad Dunning, who has worked on several of the architectural masterpieces in Rancho Mirage, has contributed an incisive foreword to the book, describing the city’s legacy as a “three-dimensional glimpse into the definition of the “good life” – midcentury resort American style.”

About Melissa and Jim Riche

Melissa Riche is a local historian, writer and researcher. She and her photographer husband Jim Riche bought their 1958 Krisel home at Tamarisk Ranchos in 2012 when ‘Sunnylands’ opened to the public, prompting them to search for a midcentury home in Rancho Mirage. While researching their community and writing historic nominations for the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, Melissa realized that no book examined the architectural legacy of Thunderbird and Tamarisk Country Clubs. Melissa Riche is president of a growing non-profit preservation group, ‘Preservation Mirage.’ She leads regular walking tours of her Tamarisk neighborhood, and gave a standing-room-only talk during Modernism Week 2018,  “If You Build It They Will Come,” on the impact of the country clubs.

Jim Riche graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA in Fine Art Photography.  Since then he has worked in visual effects for film and TV while pursuing his love for photography. His photographs have won numerous awards and are regularly featured in juried shows and international publications. His work graces the cover of the book ‘Desert Modernists,’ and is represented by Coda Gallery in Palm Desert.

Brad Dunning is a writer, preservationist, and designer based in Southern California.

About Gibbs Smith (

For more than 40 years, Gibbs Smith has been specializing in beautifully illustrated lifestyle books covering topics such as interior design, architecture, cooking, children’s activity, green/sustainable and many more. The company was started in 1969, when Gibbs and Catherine Smith published four college textbooks out of their studio apartment in Santa Barbara.

In 1973, the Company was relocated to Utah where Gibbs and Catherine converted an old barn on the family farm into offices. During that summer they also managed to publish a new textbook, Utah’s Heritage. This proved to be a very wise decision, as the Company’s textbook division provided financial stability during the early years and continues to be successful. 

Today, many of the employees of Gibbs M. Smith, Inc. continue to work in the small but rustic and charming barn; and thankfully, the cows are long gone, but there are still sheep and cats. 

Gibbs passed away on October 27, 2017. His legacy lives on in Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., not in name only but also in his and Cathy’s desire to convert the Company into an employee-owned entity, enabling it to maintain “business as usual”.

Mod Mirage Walking Tours



Melissa Riche

C: 323 632 9482





(Rancho Mirage, CA. May 1st, 2018). Discover the hidden midcentury architectural gems of Rancho Mirage on a ‘Mod Mirage’ walking tour led by local historian and author, Melissa Riche.  Rancho Mirage – just a few miles from Palm Springs – is also a treasure trove of midcentury architecture. But unlike its neighboring city, many of the midcentury homes are hidden away. The ‘Mod Mirage’ walking tour takes you on quiet, public streets behind Tamarisk Country Club. The tour highlights significant, historic midcentury homes (exteriors only) designed by famed desert modernist architects including Hugh Kaptur, William F. Cody, Donald Wexler, William Krisel, and Val Powelson’s iconic gull-wing Maranz House, as well as homes for celebrities like Gummo and Groucho Marx.  Discover how Tamarisk Country Club came to be in the early 1950s and who lived there: Frank Sinatra, and the Marx Brothers among the early homeowners. 

Learn about the development of nearby resort communities by Cody and Krisel: Cody Court, Valley of the Sun, and Tamarisk Ranchos where the tour ends in the gardens. Cody Court and Tamarisk Ranchos are the city’s first two designated historic districts.  Tours can be booked via email:, or call 323 632 9482. Prices range from $30-$50 per person, depending on the size of the group, with discounts available for groups of six or more.

Writer, local historian and preservationist Melissa Riche leads the tours.  Her latest book ‘Mod Mirage’ will be published by Gibbs Smith this August 2018.  It is a comprehensive architectural and social history of the city, focusing on its evolution from the success of Thunderbird and Tamarisk Country Clubs. The hardcover book features hundreds of contemporary images by award-winning photographer Jim Riche as well as numerous historic illustrations.

Walks are approximately 1.5 miles total on quiet, flat public roads, and take two hours. Suitable for fit and healthy walkers, but wheelchairs are welcome. Leashed, well-behaved dogs are allowed. No children under 10 years old, please. Suitable footwear, sunglasses, hats and sunscreen are recommended. A percentage of funds raised go towards Preservation Mirage, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the community and help preserve the architectural legacy of the City of Rancho Mirage.