Since its modest beginnings in 2006, Modernism Week has become a juggernaut attracting thousands to Greater Palm Springs while helping raise the profile of the desert’s design community.
“It would be difficult to overstate the positive effect that Modernism Week has had on tourism in Palm Springs and re-establishing Palm Springs as an architecture and design mecca,” says local designer Christopher Kennedy.
Kennedy recently appeared on HGTV’s House Hunters Renovation and is about to open a new shop in the Uptown Design District (Oct. 7) to showcase his furniture line, bedding, candles, and pottery. An author of two design books, his latest, Making Midcentury Modern, was just published in the spring.
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His rise through the design ranks over the past decade has coincided with Modernism Week’s growth, now one of the biggest tourism draws to Greater Palm Springs — something that is not lost on Kennedy.
“I just think Modernism Week is such a wonderful thing for Palm Springs and it’s close to my heart because Modernism Week began about that same time that I started my company, so it truly feels like we have grown up together in many ways,” says Kennedy. “Twelve years ago, I don’t think anyone would have predicted that it would attract almost 90,000 participants from 20 countries.”
The view looking out onto the course at Indian Canyons Golf Resort from the 2015 Christopher Kennedy Compound during Modernism Week.
Kennedy has made significant contributions to Modernism Week’s dynamic growth. He started one of Modernism Week’s most successful signature annual events — The Christopher Kennedy Compound: Modernism Week Show House — in 2014, which combines the work of several interior designers who each design a specific room in the Showhouse. The event raises funds for Modernism Week’s education and preservation efforts. Last year’s Showhouse raised $100,000.
“When I had the idea of starting the Showhouse, I approached the board of Modernism Week about making it an official event. Luckily for me, they did, and the Christopher Kennedy Compound has grown to exceed my wildest expectations,” Kennedy says. “I am eternally grateful for the platform that Modernism Week has offered me.”
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The first house located in the Indian Canyons area of Palm Springs was perhaps Kennedy’s biggest collaboration. “We had about 12 designers that were involved, a true who’s who. Trina Turk designed the pool area. Celerie Kemble of New York/Palm Beach — probably one of the most famous designers working today — did the master bedroom. Woodson & Rummerfield’s did the living room and Patrick Dragonette did the den,” he recalls.
Christopher Kennedy designed the interior of Appetito Restaurant in Palm Springs.
“We renovated it down to the studs in just over two months. Crazy! In the process, we uncovered that — although the real estate lore was that it was a Stan Sackley design — it was in fact designed and built by developer John Caranci in the 1960s. He and his two young sons physically built the house.”
Kennedy invited Caranci’s widow and her sons to the gala opening night. “The Caranci family blessed the re-imagining of the house and said that everything we did … was exactly what John wanted to do, but the technology did not exist at the time,” Kennedy says. “This, truly, is the mission of the Christopher Kennedy Compound.”
The wheels are already in motion for the 2018 Showhouse. Last year’s combined fashion, architecture, interior design, and lifestyle and featured a poolside fashion show with Trina Turk and her husband, Jonathan Skow. “People loved it,” says Kennedy, “and I hope that it is something we can bring back in the future.”
Modernism Week Fall Preview, Oct. 19–22. modernismweek.com
Lydia Kremer is a Palm Springs–based writer, publicist, and author of 100 Things to Do in Palm Springs Before You Die.