Dynamic Duo Couples - Part 1 - Visit Palm Springs tag-img

Dynamic Duo Couples – Part 1

Lars and Kelly Viklund at La Serena Villas

Palm Springs Couples in Life and Business

 By Barbara Beckley

It’s no secret Palm Springs is perfect for couples. Cozy-chic inns. Poolside cocktails. Romantic dining. Exquisite shopping.

But did you know? Many of the attractions we know and love are owned and operated by dynamic duo couples. Terrific twosomes, who from Manhattan to France, vacationed here and loved the lifestyle so much – they moved in permanently!  Living their dreams for the benefit of us all!

Follow Your Heart – Buy a Hotel! 

Dynamic Duo Couple 1: Lars and Kelly Viklund

“Owning a hotel was the farthest thing from our minds,” recall Lars and Kelly, when they began vacationing in Palm Springs from their careers in Los Angeles’ fashion district. Now they own three hotels and an acclaimed restaurant!

“We liked to dabble in real estate,” admits Lars, so when the Del Marcos Hotel , a 17-room, mid-century classic came on the market nearly 20 years ago, they bought it! Followed a few years later by adjacent La Serena Villas, an 18-bungalow, 1930s Mediterranean-garden style complex. And The Three Fifty Hotel, a minimalist-style mid-century inn with 10 poolside rooms directly across the street, in 2017.

The Three Fifty Pool

The Viklunds were novice hoteliers. But very experienced travelers. “We know what makes us happy when we travel. So we put a lot of thought into giving our guests little touches that make a difference,” says Kelly. The result is three picture-perfect adult-only choices. “We made La Serena for couples who want a luxury property, but the intimate feel of a boutique hotel,” says Kelly.

Each bungalow has a private patio with an outdoor claw-foot tub and a fire pit; at check-in guests receive the “Frida,” a small bottle of tequila, two glasses, lime and salt and a personal note from Kelly and Lars; a daily “breakfast basket,” filled with fresh-squeezed orange juice, hard boiled eggs, house-made granola and house-made yogurt, delivered to guests’ rooms or poolside; and the one-suite Whispers Spa, with full-service pampering for guests of all three properties. The Del Marcos features nightly happy hour, with comp specialty cocktails and snacks.

Lars and Kelly Viklund at Del Marcos Hotel
Credit: James Schnepf

They weren’t restauranteurs either. But when they decided to add food at La Serena Villas – they were good at that, too. Opening the acclaimed Azucar Restaurant and Bar featuring modern, contemporary cuisine, and Sugar High, a BoHo chic rooftop deck, ideal for drinks and nibbles overlooking the San Jacinto Mountains for all to enjoy.

Azucar

Dynamic Duo Couple 2: Nelson Cooley and Ramon Bautista  

“Accidental hoteliers” describes Nelson Cooley and Ramon Bautista, the proud owners of Amin Casa , a 1928 Spanish Mediterranean charmer once the estate of silver screen star Gloria Swanson. “All we wanted was a house in Palm Springs,” Cooley, who hails from Massachusetts, says with a laugh. They did buy a house.

amin casa

But then Bautista’s sister’s mother-in-law’s best friend inherited a seven-cottage inn in Palm Springs. “Can you help her out, since you live in Palm Springs?” the sister’s mother-in-law asked. “Sure,” they replied. More than helping out – “we thought it might be fun to own a hotel,” Cooley recalls. He was newly retired from 30 years in high tech and had the time.

Nelson Cooley and Ramon Bautista of Amin Casa
Credit: Preferred Small Hotels

And so it is. “Running the hotel is even better than we expected,” says Cooley. While the pair had no hotel experience – they’d been guests at five-star hotels around the world for years and knew what they liked. “We incorporated everything we liked about five star properties: friendly staff, top level service, lovely surroundings. And eliminated everything we didn’t – such as hidden fees. Our rate is the rate. There are no parking or other hidden fees,” Cooley emphasizes.

amin casa pool

The twosome renamed it Amin Casa, in honor of Bautista’s Philippine heritage by way of Los Angeles, and reimagined it into a lux, club-like adult-only home-away-from home. Guests choose among four one-bedroom bungalows with kitchens; a pool studio suite, and Gloria Swanson’s original residence, with two-bedrooms, two baths and a grand living space. Five-star perks include a concierge to make dining and entertainment arrangements, in-residence gourmet meal delivery, in-suite spa services and a private trainer.

“Our guests are like family,” enthuse Cooley and Bautista. The feeling is mutual with guests. One couple is booked through 2025!

If You Can’t Find It – Create It! 

Dynamic Duo Couple 3: Jeffrey Bernstein and Oscar Chamudes 

Two visits! That’s all it took for Jeffrey Bernstein and Oscar Chamudes to abandon their Manhattan loft — with views including the Statue of Liberty – and relocate to Palm Springs! But when it came time to send gifts back home that showcased Palm Springs’ mid-mod lifestyle, “there was nothing to buy,” lamented Bernstein.

Jeffrey Bernstein and Oscar Chamudes 

Well…With a lifetime of marketing and entrepreneurship – including in TV and movies; owning a restaurant and nightclub in the Hamptons, and as a successful dealer of movie memorabilia, antiques, fashions and lingerie – Bernstein decided to create his own. And open a boutique to sell them!

Thus was born Destination PSP in 2012, today’s go-to for “celebrating Palm Springs’ lifestyle in merchandise,” says Bernstein. While things were sizzling inside Raymond-Lawrence (they opened as an instore pop-up and sold out in five weeks!), the pair attended the Palm Springs International Film Festival. They noticed the festival’s souvenirs were only sold during its two-week run. Bernstein quickly added festival merchandise selling it year-round; followed by mementos for Modernism Week, Comic Con Palm Springs, Desert AIDS Project, Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Palm Springs Art Museum and more.

Destination PSP

In 2014, they opened the Destination PSP flagship boutique – and the rest is history. “We’re creating tangible Palm Springs memories. A retail experience that reflects the PS lifestyle,” Bernstein says. From home décor to swimwear (for men, women and children) and barware. What’s the favorite? The “Twin Palms” tissue-box cover in the shape of Palm Springs’ classic “butterfly-style” house. Pure genius!

Spotlight on Destination PSP

Dynamic Duo Couple 4: Brandon Hoskins and Stephen Wilson  

Brandon Hoskins and Stephen Wilson

Brandon Hoskins, a hairdresser from LA, and Stephen Wilson, a graphic designer from Virginia, didn’t expect to live in Palm Springs when they arrived in 2007 to restore a mid-century William Krisel-designed home. Yet, here they are – “men about town,” as Hoskins says. The owners of Towne Palm Springs , one of the city’s premiere interior décor shops and men’s resort wear from St. Barts and France.

“We quickly became part of the architectural restoration community and made so many like-minded friends we’ve never left,” explains Hoskins. The twosome had met when Wilson moved to California to work for Disney. As a hobby, the duo began buying, restoring and selling homes with architectural pedigrees – like the Palm Springs’ Krisel. “This morphed into being interior designers. And as time progressed we ended up with a warehouse of furniture. So it was a natural progression to put it all for sale in a shop,” continues Hoskins.

Towne Palm Springs

What else? They bought a mid-century pedigree building and opened Towne Palm Springs in 2014. And filled it with a mix of mid-century furniture and other periods and styles that pair well with mid-century from farmhouse tables to iron lamps that were once hitching posts.

“The thing I love most about owning Towne are the people coming in to shop – from all over the U.S., Canada and the world,” says Hoskins. “It’s like a party here all the time!”

Part 2

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