A New Book’s Palm Springs Still-Lifes — And Aging Female Models — Are the Epitome of Chic

The holidays may be coming up this weekend, but for our money, the best gift this season won’t be available until after Christmas — that’s when pre-orders start shipping for DUNES, a 96-page journal that serves as both a nostalgic love letter for and a thrift and vintage guide to Palm Springs, California. DUNES was conceived by photographer Lauren Coleman — who spent her childhood in an iconic Palm Springs house — and produced as a collaboration between Coleman, graphic designer Sarah Kissell, and stylist Tiff Horn. You’re likely familiar with all of their portfolios — Horn has styled for Kathleen Whitaker and Need Supply, among others; Coleman is potentially the design world’s favorite image-maker, having photographed collections for Lindsey Adelman, Kelly Behun, Bec Brittain, The Future Perfect, and more; and Kissell is the author of the most amazing (and only) wedding we’ve ever featured. Together, the three of them make magic.

Coleman says she intends for DUNES to be a series and as such, the first installment focuses on women’s fashion and vintage objects. Called On Femme, the book’s charms are twofold: The trio shot fashion primarily using older, exquisitely stylish local women as models, and the objects as still-lifes, full of artfully arranged, obscure gems like vintage Baccarat glass sculptures, Elsa Peretti candlesticks, opalescent glass ashtrays, iridescent oil lamps, and the prettiest Russel Wright asparagus dish we’ve ever seen. Interspersed are musings on beauty, power, style, aging, and dry cleaning as well as a guide to the city’s vintage and thrift stores: “In Palm Springs, I am home,” Coleman writes. “The warm-dry air, natural palette and the human artifacts of architecture and personal style, are uniquely found together along Highway 111. Dunes is my love note to Palm Springs and its stylish women—in both, I find exceptional quality and an ode to aging well. Dunes is also a guide to my favorite vintage shops and thrift stores that are endowed by the women I admire. Their cast offs, our treasure.” We recently spoke to Coleman about how it all came together — read on, follow Dunes on Instagram, and pre-order your copy now before they sell out!

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The models for DUNES have such an effortlessly chic look. Where did you find them? Were they women you already knew?

Shirley Claire is a legend in Palm Springs; she calls racy bingo at the Ace Hotel on Monday nights, she was on America’s Got Talent, and she is a show girl tried and true. A friend connected me with her for the shoot. Sandra is a friend of the same friend who connected me with Shirley. We thought she was so classically beautiful. She worked in the couture department at Saks forever, and she has a closet full of Lanvin.

Julie DeMoss was a surprise. She was at Shirley Claire’s house when we showed up for the fitting. She was a model before she met her husband, who she’d just lost (right after he re-did their house, squiggle carpet and all). There’s a shot of her on the bed that is so sad and beautiful. There’s also a shot of her wearing a beige outfit with a tie at the ankle. It was something she spotted in a store window in Malibu on her second date with her husband, and he bought it for her. She hadn’t seen it for 20 years before Tiff, our stylist, pulled it out of the back of her coat closet. We also spotted that yellow vacuum on a site visit to her house, then walked in and saw that carpet and we were like YES, YES! The beige floor and pink bath mat were just in her garage.

Karina Fontes, the young one, is an LA model. She’s very much into vintage and a good friend of our stylist Tiff. Oh, and I almost forgot about our ladies of Collectors Corner! This is a thrift store, quite large, owned by the Eisenhower Hospital and staffed mostly by volunteers. We had three volunteers model for us at the thrift store. Two Barbaras and a Jan. First thing in the morning we took them to get manicures as we wanted to focus on their hands, and two of them had NEVER had a manicure before in their life! Jan was not very happy about the yellow we chose for her. 

I have been trying to purchase the store’s pink bookshelves and blue sofa for years; they are store fixtures and they always tell me no. So we knew going in those would be great locations. 

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Did you grow up in this kind of environment — the nicely constructed tableaus, the elegant, put-together female role models?

Yes, my parents lived in the house Trina Turk currently has in Palm Springs. It’s called the Ship of the Desert, it’s pretty amazing. Growing up, my mom had it all Mauve and beige.

My dad lived in a very authentic Adobe, similar to the one we shot at. The smell of the mud house is very nostalgic for me, it smells like home.

My grandmothers were everything to me as a kid. One of them lived in Palm Springs and they were both so strong and elegant. I have an amazing mother and step mother as well. So yes, women in power!

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How did you source the objects for Dunes? Were they bought or borrowed? 

Ninety percent of these objects are owned by me and were thrifted in Palm Springs over the years. The remaining 10% were either borrowed from vintage stores or are family heirlooms.

Considering you grew up in Palm Springs, was there any need to do scouting trips?

Tiff and I scouted a little before Sarah arrived. I knew exactly where and what time of day to do it as I spend so much time in Palm Springs; this part was easy for me. The next issue is going to be called ON FORM and there is a good chance we’ll get to shoot at the Lautner cabin in Idyllwild, mostly focusing on MEN, furniture, and architecture.

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