Real Estate

In certain movies, the background becomes a character. More than a backdrop, the environment in which the central characters live, work or interact with each other makes the place where the story happens as important a part of the story as the plot. An example is the 1998 film The Truman Show, in which Jim Carrey plays the part of a man who, unknown to him, lives in a TV set. The picture-perfect homes of his filmed neighborhood are actually in Seaside, a famed master-planned community located in the Florida panhandle.

Today’s version is Don’t Worry Darling, the psychological thriller set in a 1950s company town; it began to make headlines before the film’s release. Like the sweet houses of The Truman Show, the current film relies on a real neighborhood for its convincing period atmosphere.

Canyon View Estates is one of the developments that made Palm Springs, California famous for its mid-century modern architecture. Developed by Roy Fey, a Palm Springs real estate and tribal land-lease pioneer, Canyon View Estates was California’s first vacation home community. Begun in 1962, it was constructed in six phases and completed in 1965 with about 160 homes. They were constructed in two sizes, a two-bedroom 1150 square foot version, and a larger one measuring 1,700 to 1,800 square feet. Each of the six phases clustered a group of houses around a swimming pool.

Real estate agent Eric Lavey of Sotheby’s International Realty – Beverly Hills Brokerage bought one of the larger homes at Canyon View Estates ten years ago.

“It had, like a lot of the original houses, been added to. I took off a lot of accretions to bring it back to its original appearance,” he says. “Today, that mid-century modern style is valued in a way it was not during the 1980s and 90s. The local homeowner’s association has enacted a number of guidelines to protect the historic style of these houses. It has been very effective: if you drive down the street, it still looks like the 1960s.”

That is, of course, the reason the neighborhood was chosen as the set for the movie.

When Canyon View Estates was first constructed, it was to serve as a community of second homes. Many were purchased by doctors in the Chicago area.

“Today, a few of these houses serve as primary homes,” Lavey says. “Many are second or third homes. Many serve as vacation homes for owners who have multi-million dollar primary homes elsewhere.

“This is a place where those kinds of differences don’t matter. We all live in an equalized neighborhood.”

Lavey has sold 14 Canyon View Estates houses.

“Now, none are available,” he says. “They have become prized and are very much in demand. The last time I sold one of the larger models, it sold for $850,000. Soon, prices will rise to $1 million.”

But it will still look like 1962.