February 15th, 2023 at 11:00 am

Aerial photo of desert home with title "Frank Sinatra’s Villa Maggio Palm Desert Hideaway Opens to Public for First Time During Modernism Week"

For the first time in its storied history, Frank Sinatra’s secluded Mid-Century Modern retreat above Palm Desert opens for public tours on February 17 and 18, as a residential highlight of Palm Springs Modernism Week.

The tour sold out in less than 25 minutes to Mid-Century Modern-style aficionados eager to tour the very private chalet-like estate known as Villa Maggio. It is still, however, possible for motivated potential owners to visit: It is on the market for $4.25 million.

Cool, groovy, and hip as ever, the grand Villa with a European flair was designed as a “sexy man cave” by Ross Patten of La Quinta, the architect/builder of many custom homes in the desert. Patten was highly influential in the transformation of the city of Palm Desert and other communities. He also designed and built homes on Southridge, where Bob Hope’s iconic home is located.

“Villa Maggio is one of the most fabulous, one-of-a-kind properties we have had the pleasure of representing. It has undergone a significant renovation over the past few years, and will be showing its best for prospective buyers who want to own an iconic desert residence,” said exclusive listing agent Markus Canter with our Beverly Hills office. Intimately familiar with the property, Markus and his wife, Christie St. James, have long had a second home in Palm Springs, also a Mid-Century Modern.

Owner is a comedy legend’s widow

Current owner Naomi Ritz is the widow of Harry Ritz of the Ritz Brothers, a highly regarded in the industry and well-known comedy act. Their history runs from vaudeville to 20th Century Fox, and just about every famous and known stage from the Pantages in Los Angeles, to Broadway, and other nightclubs like the Copacabana in New York City. “Harry and the boys were very friendly with Frank over the years and as a kid, my folks would always make it a point to see him when he came to the desert,” said Janna Taninbaum, Naomi and Harry’s daughter.

More than 20 years ago, Markus said, Mrs. Ritz looked at the property on a whim, with no intention of buying it. But when she saw it, she fell in love. Since then, she has considered herself Frank Sinatra‘s custodian for this home. She has lovingly cared for it and kept it as much as possible in its complete original condition.

Mrs. Ritz has kept the property very pure to Frank’s vision. In many areas of the home and grounds, the tiles and wallpaper that Sinatra chose remain. It has undergone a very respectful renovation and restoration, with the intent of maintaining the house as close as can be to the time Frank occupied it. The original bath fixtures of agate, brass and crystal are by Sheryl Wagner, tiles are by Pacific Tile and Porcelain, and the kitchen includes the original restaurant-grade appliances that Frank himself cooked on. Forms+Surfaces design studio did the front doors and primary-bedroom fireplace surround, and some hardware, as in the pool house, which still has the original Ackerman knobs. The sunken “Roman baths” in primary bedroom have been described as Japanese-style, and feature blissful valley views. Dressing rooms off the primary bedroom are “stage-like” with large mirrors surrounded by multiple lights.

Music lovers will appreciate the stereo system, an original Macintosh with built-in speakers. Mrs. Ritz even kept the original telephones until she could not use them anymore.

One of Frank’s favorite personal residences, it is mentioned many times in Barbara Sinatra’s book “Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank.” Villa Maggio sits on the highest peak facing east and west, offering stunning sunrises and spectacular sunsets with a true getaway feel. The surrounding 360-degree views provide a timeless, surreal backdrop of the Santa Rosa, San Joaquin, and San Bernardino mountains, as well as views of the Salton Sea from areas of the property.

When the crooner wanted to get away from it all, he often took a helicopter to this private hideaway. The singer/actor personally helped design and build the estate, which encompasses 6,428 square feet of interior space. Panoramic views of the mountains and valleys are on full display throughout the hidden escape, which includes three buildings, a resort-style pool, a lighted tennis court and helipad, parking for 30 cars, and approximately 7.5 acres of land. 

Pure Sinatra, the grand scope and vision of the estate reflect his focus on “doing things his way.” Affectionately named for a character that earned him an Oscar in 1953’s “From Here to Eternity,” Villa Maggio was a personal residence for Sinatra for many years: a treasured retreat he built with the aim of providing his friends and family an otherworldly, private escape for fun, relaxation, and of course, epic parties. It was visited by all members of the “Rat Pack,” Hollywood A-listers, dignitaries, royalty, and politicians, for exclusive, out-of-the-paparazzi-eye celebrations.

A blend of classic and modern

The compound at the end of a gated drive features a five-bedroom main house with five and a half bathrooms; a guest home with three bedrooms and five and a half bathrooms; a one-bedroom pool house that was ahead of its time in its planning, design, and execution; and a separate generator and water tower. The dining room is laid out so guests can enjoy films from a carefully positioned projector while having a delicious meal.

Warmed by a massive stone fireplace, the pool house includes two saunas, a kitchenette, and a built-in fire pit with a large zone for entertaining. Commercial-grade appliances in the main home’s two full kitchens make it more than ready for guests and the demands of modern life.

Each of the guest suites (three in the guest building, and the pool house) have a kitchenette, and dual bathrooms in two of the suites, one for the upstairs room. The main house offers four and a half bathrooms and three stone fireplaces. The attached guest house, built for Frank’s mother, has a bed/bath and loft, plus a wood-burning stove. The pool house has two steam/dry saunas. Outdoors is a stone fireplace and fire pit/barbecue, and a large deck with dancefloor ideal for epic weddings and parties.

Sinatra had a dual purpose in the design of the estate: a desire to escape the sometimes oppressive heat of the desert valley below, and a need to provide his friends with the ultimate in luxury, comfort, and the utmost in privacy and security. The 4,300-foot elevation provides a more comfortable and temperate climate than the Coachella Valley beyond, and the skies are cloudless most days. As a result, the surrounding mountainsides, national monuments, and cityscapes offer unobstructed viewing pleasure.

Far from prying eyes, the property could be ideal for up-and-coming entertainers and musicians to practice their craft in a serene, elevated setting where temperatures are usually 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the desert floor. New air conditioning and heating systems have been installed in all buildings.

Locally sourced materials

With an extensive use of locally sourced materials, including natural stone and hardwoods, the residence adds beauty to the surrounding environment. Wide overhanging leaves provide shade and reduce the ecological footprint. Hardwood floors of tongue-and-groove solid fumed oak, numerous fireplaces, and vaulted ceilings with exposed wood beams give the estate an understated and relaxing, down-to-earth ambiance. The commercial-grade appliances in the main home’s two full kitchens make it enjoyable for guests and the demands of modern life. The multiple chimneys were built by famed local rock artist El Greco.

Recognized as the quintessential entertainer, Sinatra ensured the guest house was on par with the resorts and luxury hotels where his friends were accustomed to staying. The two-story guest home offers three guest suites, each with a private view deck, stone fireplace, kitchenette, and bathroom.

If the walls could talk, a likely topic of conversation would be about who traveled in the secret passage between two of the guest house bedrooms. According to Janna’s parents, Sinatra wooed and crooned Barbara when she and her then-husband, Zeppo Marx visited. She would put him to bed in the lower left guest suite, walk through the slider door closet into another secret door to the next closet area next door, and voila! There’s Frank waiting for her arrival.

“Frank and his pals came from the streets of New Jersey and New York, and for them, this place was living large,” Janna said. “The estate still has the cool vibe that Frank was known and beloved for.”

Still so nice to come home to

The same qualities that Sinatra sought to incorporate in the original design still resonate with modern celebrities and power players: ease of access, security, privacy, resort-style amenities for entertaining, and space from the neighbors.

“This is a quiet area of homes that blend into the desert landscape,” Markus said. “The area includes people who typically want to experience a getaway, yet desire the safety and fun of what is below in the valley.”

Since the home was designed by Sinatra himself, who chose much of his character with the architect, it remains an intact creation done by Frank. There are still original details like the orange-tile backsplash and counters in the kitchen, the color he liked best.

A deep cleaning has been performed, which includes refurbishing, wood, paneling, and details, and even cleaning the stone indoors. Renovations included refurbishing the pool and tennis court with pickleball and regulation basketball outlines. The lighted helipad and the lights leading to it remain in their original design. The adjacent property with windsock could be purchased to expand the retreat even further.

Set on a secluded lot at the end of a gated, private drive, the estate is located within 20 minutes of the heart of Palm Desert, with its high-end boutique shopping and many fine-dining options on El Paseo. Palm Springs International Airport is just 26 miles away, a short jaunt by helicopter. A breathtaking venue for events such as fundraisers, guests can be transported to the Villa via valet and shuttle.

To learn more about the opportunity to own one of the Coachella Valley’s most desirable celebrity homes, contact Markus Canter.

About Markus Canter

Luxury Properties Director Markus Canter is one of the top producing agents at the Beverly Hills branch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. He frequently represents high-profile and celebrity clients. He has been featured multiple times in one season on Bravo network’s “Million Dollar Listing” series, and is regularly quoted by leading news organizations such as The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, CNBC and Forbes.

 St. James + Canter + Associates is a modern real estate agency that provides clients an unparalleled full-service environment to suit the needs of their individual lifestyles. The company specializes in offering global sales, marketing and design solutions for buyers, sellers, developers, and investors.

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