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Publication Date: 2014-02-10


Christopher Kennedy Leads the Modernism Week Palm Springs Show House 2014

Christopher Kennedy decided that Palm Springs needed a Show House to celebrate the unique architecture, design and talent of the area, so he set out to put one together. Here, we sit down with the designer to get the scoop about the first-ever Christopher Kennedy Compound Show House, which opens next week.


Spearheaded by designer Christopher Kennedy and presented by Luxe Interiors + Design, the Modernism Week Show House celebrates the Palm Springs legacy of mid-century modern architecture and jet-set American style.

Q: Congratulations on The Christopher Kennedy Compound Show House launching February 15 during Palm Springs Modernism Week! This is quite an ambitious project. What was your motivation for spearheading an entire show house?

A: I've always thought that Palm Springs should have a proper Designer Show House – like Pasadena or Kips Bay. It’s such fertile ground. We have great architecture, fantastic design enthusiasts and wonderful charities. And last year 40,000 people from 20 countries attended Modernism Week, And, in the words of one of my favorite quotes, “If not you, who? If not now, when?” So The Christopher Kennedy Compound was born! I would be remiss if I did not give a shout-out to Windsor Smith. She created the inspiring House of Windsor, with VERANDA Magazine, a couple years ago. To my recollection, she was the first interior designer to spearhead her own Show House – and she showed me what was possible.

Q: You have assembled a roster of some of the most amazing talent on the West Coast to participate in the Show House – many of them Dering Hall members. Can you tell us a little about assembling such a stellar design dream team?

A: It was very important to me that all the participants in the Show House – not just the designers but also the Brand Partners – are companies and people that I know and admire. I have a philosophy that life is too short not to work with people that you don’t like. So, to be perfectly honest, I reached out first to my friends and I was pleasantly surprised that they all said yes! I was thrilled when my friend Celerie Kemble from New York and Palm Beach, agreed to lend her amazing talent to the Master Bedroom.

Q: How did you choose who got which room? Was it a collaborative effort?

A: It was more organic than collaborative. When I was with Celerie at High Point and saw her amazing new products for Henredon, I knew that I wanted her to design a sumptuous Master suite. Ron Woodson and Jaime Rummerfield are famous for creating glamorous but livable interiors for today’s most high-profile celebrities, so I knew that I wanted their special touch in the Living Room. Of course, Southern California fashion designer Trina Turk, with her colorful outdoor fabric line for Schumacher, would be perfect to create the pool patio.

Q: In some show houses we’ve been to, the style can vary wildly from room to room. Was your panel of designers collaborative in effort to create a seamless living environment or does each room go for maximum drama?

A: Pamela Lerner Jaccarino, the Editor-in-Chief of Luxe Interiors + Design, our Media Sponsor, and I did our best to set a style guideline so there would be some cohesion. However, she does not believe in restricting the designers’ creativity – and neither do I! I attempted to set a palette of grey, white, blue and green. I am continually inspired by the green grass, sparkling turquoise pool water, and azure sky of Palm Springs. The colors are so refreshing to me. Most designers followed that directive, but I think it is very important that each Tastemakers’ unique perspective come through, and guests are definitely going to see that. I can tell you that the designers have pulled out all the stops and there WILL be maximum drama!

Q: Can you lift the veil and give us a few teasers of some of your favorite elements of the new décor?

A: Just today, the wallpaper was installed in the Master Bedroom. It is a zebra-printed grasscloth that Celerie created for her Schumacher line and it is amazing! I can also tell you that Patrick Dragonette, who is creating the den, ignored my color directive and is creating a cozy room in shades of brown, gold and cinnabar. I love that he is creating a warm media room. Jiun Ho from San Francisco has created a totally custom chandelier and table for the Dining Room. My good friend Thomas Lavin, who is creating a masculine Guest Suite, is partnering with furniture maker Christian Liaigre and he is having a brand-new bed shipped via air freight direct from France.

Q: You are designing the outdoor living room/patio – a natural choice for someone who lives and works in Palm Springs. What cues have you taken from your own lifestyle to design this space?

A: My own home has a large covered rear terrace, much like The Compound does. We do almost all of our entertaining out there, and it flows seamlessly from my indoor rooms, just as life in Palm Springs is meant to be lived. And, I too, ignored my color directive, opting for hues of green combined with yellow to bring some sunshine to the north-facing covered terrace.

Q: Will you be using your own furniture in the space? Your Hope Outdoor Sofa seems like it would be perfect!

A: I am indeed using the Hope Sofas from my Christopher Kennedy Outdoor line. I created a Chesterfield-style sofa, but manufactured it from teak, waterproof foam, and marine-grade vinyl. The sofas are beautiful enough to be inside, but made to be outside. Perfectly Palm Springs.

Q: The home was built in 1971 and designed by John Caranci, inspired heavily by the work of Stan Sackley. What are some of the architectural elements of this home that make it appealing for today’s lifestyle?

A: My goal for the home is to take a classic mid-century property and update it for how we live today. Interestingly, we discovered that many aspects of the home are still relevant. People in Southern California want a connection to the outdoors – most of the rooms opened to the pool, and the ones that didn’t, we added fabulous accordion doors from LaCantina, maximizing the indoor-outdoor connection. To bring the house up-to-date, we expanded the kitchen to make it more relevant to how people live now. Doesn’t the party always end up in the kitchen?

Q: What makes this house uniquely Palm Springs - besides that location?

A: The low-slung roofline, interesting architectural massing, and deep overhangs are quintessentially Palm Springs. I love how the great Palm Springs architects – Donald Wexler, E. Stewart Williams, William Cody, Stan Sackley, Hugh Kaptur – were influenced by the Bauhaus and International Styles, but employed modern technology to address our unique desert climate. The Christopher Kennedy Compound is a classic example of that synthesis.

Q: The Christopher Kennedy Compound is more than an inspirational design event; it’s also a fundraiser. Can you tell us a little about the goal of the fund raising?

A: Indeed, this is first-and-foremost a fundraiser. Modernism Week is a non-profit organizatio with a mission is to provide scholarships to local students pursuing college educations in the fields of architecture and design, as well as supporting local and state architectural preservations. As a Board Member of the American Society of Interior Designers, Palm Springs Chapter, I strive to support design education and local students. I also serve on the Professional Advisory Council at Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture, so these are causes very close to my heart.

The goal of the Show House is to raise $100,000 for Modernism and other architectural preservation efforts. It will open to the public for tours and special events during Modernism Week, February 15-23, 2014. Buy tickets here.


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