On Life and Design - Q&A with Christopher Kennedy

One of the biggest initiates of the FWORD is to explore innovative concepts in food, hospitality, art, design and culture and specifically how all of those things help to define the unique desert oasis of Palm Springs.  Our little city is brimming with some seriously talented creators, innovators and entrepreneurs, all working on truly spectacular projects, and after coming down from the dazzling glamour of Modernism Week, Coachella and Zenyara, we wanted to sit down and chat with someone who we felt exemplified the Palm Springs lifestyle. 

We couldn’t think of anyone more fitting than local designer, Christopher Kennedy - who is well known for both his immense design talents and his philanthropic nature. Featured in publications such as Architectural Digest, Dwell Magazine, California Home + Design and the LA Time’s just to name a few, Christopher brings a blend of big-city style and relaxed resort living to his work. But, before we give it all away, let’s see what Christopher Kennedy has to say about life, design, and living, in our little slice of heaven.

“Looking back, I realize that this project was a "big break" and a defining moment for me.” - Christopher Kennedy image credit: Chase Lingberg

“Looking back, I realize that this project was a "big break" and a defining moment for me.” - Christopher Kennedy
image credit: Chase Lingberg

F10 - Who / what are your biggest design inspirations?

CK - The life and style in Palm Spring, to be sure. I love the old photos of celebrities in Palm Springs. They were beautiful and glamorous, but they were also relaxed and on vacation! That idea of beauty and glamour combined with nostalgia and ease is something that I strive for in all the projects and products I design.

I have been drawn to modern architecture since my days in college (I have a degree in architecture) and I spent a summer in Europe studying the Bauhaus and the modern masters. I guess it was fate that I found my way to Palm Springs...

F10 - Describe your style in 3 words.

CK - JetSet Modern Glamour 

We had only spent two weekends in Palm Springs; but as you may know, that is more than enough to fall in love with it.
— Christopher Kennedy
“Christopher + Harley” image credit: Grey Crawford

“Christopher + Harley” image credit: Grey Crawford

F10 - What brought you to Palm Springs?

CK - In my early-mid 20s, I was working in insurance and finance in Los Angeles (I got an MBA after completing my undergrad in architecture).  Needless to say, I was miserable. At that time, my father passed away and my mom got very sick...I realized life is too short not to do what you love. I also had a sweet new boyfriend from Louisiana, who did not care for Los Angeles.  We had only spent two weekends in Palm Springs; but as you may know, that is more than enough to fall in love with it. Palm Springs seemed like a great place to get back to my roots in architecture and design. We knew that David, a nurse, could easily find work here. So, when I was 27, we packed up and moved. To say that I was one of the youngest people in the desert at that time would not be an exaggeration!

F10 - What is your favorite room in your house?

CK - I do love our living room. It has a wonderful two-story ceiling. It's an eclectic mix of many things I love: tonal wallpaper, a 70’s Brutalist chandelier, an 80’s Pierre Cardin bar, Italian modern coffee tables, and more. We have wonderful accordion doors that allow the room to connect seamlessly to the outside. Over the fireplace is a piece of art by my good friend, designer Kelli Ellis. Over the sofa, we have two pieces of art from my collection for Wendover Art Group. I now have over 200 pieces in the collection, which are sold through other designers and retailers around the country. 

But really, I am sure that the bar being in that room bumps it to the top of the list!

F10 - Favorite place to visit or thing to do in Palm Springs?

Midcentury-inspired glamour, with eclectic pieces from just about every decade since the 1960’s image credit: Grey Crawford

Midcentury-inspired glamour, with eclectic pieces from just about every decade since the 1960’s
image credit: Grey Crawford

CK - Do I have to choose just one? My ideal day would involve a hike on Lykken trail in the morning, shopping in the Uptown Design District in the afternoon, and dinner at Mr. Lyons in the evening. Somewhere in there I would squeeze in a little pool time.

F10 - That sounds like the perfect day to us too! What upcoming projects are you working on right now?

CK - We are working on several exciting residential projects including a few homes in Indian Canyons, a gut remodel in Vista Las Palmas, a new build in Andreas Hills, and a home in Thunderbird. We are also starting an exciting new neighborhood development which I can't quite disclose yet.

On the retail side, we are designing several new licensed collaborations, so we are actively expanding our product offerings under the Christopher Kennedy brand. Barware, accessories, tabletop, and wallpaper are all in the works. And I am always changing and improving my retail showroom. Our jewelry and lifestyle items are doing amazingly well -- if you haven't been in recently, come see us!

A vibrant midcentury-inspired dining room in Thunderbird Heights image credit: Grey Crawford

A vibrant midcentury-inspired dining room in Thunderbird Heights
image credit: Grey Crawford

F10 - Is there a defining moment that you can think of that changed the trajectory of your life / contributed to where you are today?

CK - Moving to Palm Springs was definitely a defining moment. Losing both my parents by the time I was in my early 30s was also. Career-wise, I can look back on several people that took a chance on me when I was just starting out -- a chance that they really didn't need to take. I will be forever grateful. Palm Springs is filled with many amazing, creative, and generous people. 

After nearly 10 years of having my firm, I decided to tackle a crazy project as a way of giving back and we created The Christopher Kennedy Compound: Modernism Week Show House. Basically, I brought the idea of a decorator showcase house to Palm Springs. Five years later, we have raised over $300,000 for the Modernism Week charity and, I think, changed the conversation around interior design and renovation in Palm Springs. It's a labor of love and has been a game-changer for me, for sure.

F10 - If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

CK - Be patient but stay focused. Know that what you want will come to you, though maybe not when and how you expect. 

We here at F10 appreciate Christopher for his honesty, sharing his story with us and for gracing Palm Springs with his talents! To find out more about Christopher Kennedy you can view his work here!

Inside Desert X 2019 with Executive Director Jenny Gil Schmitz

 
“Jackrabbit, Cottontail, and Spirits of the Desert” by  Cara Romero  // image credit:  Lance Gerber  *read more about the artist + installation  here

“Jackrabbit, Cottontail, and Spirits of the Desert” by Cara Romero // image credit: Lance Gerber
*read more about the artist + installation here

For many years, the California Desert has been a source of inspiration for artists, musicians, actors, designers and creators from all walks of life.  In 2017, we saw the first installment of Desert X.  A truly unique, awe-inspiring, site specific - contemporary art exhibition, with the Coachella Valley and the California Desert as its backdrop. 

Over nine weeks, Desert X engaged millions of visitors from across the globe via social and digital media channels and received multiple awards for both its education and community programs and partnerships.  Needless to say that when the 2019 exhibition was announced, a sense of anticipation and excitement swept the desert yet again.  One of the things we admire most about Desert X is that it’s a true community experience.  From the installations themselves, to the symposiums, panels, tours and participation of local businesses it represents so much of what makes Palm Springs and the desert a unique place to call home.

As huge fans of the arts and the mission behind Desert X, we were excited to sit down with the non-profit’s Executive Director, Jenny Gil Shmitz, to get the inside scoop on the 2019 exhibition and what we can expect looking forward.

“Dive-In” by Superflex // image credit: Lance Gerber
*read more about the artist + installation here

F10 - What was the initial inspiration / catalyst behind Desert X?

JGS - The idea of Desert X is to bring renowned international artists to the Coachella Valley to reflect on the beauty and wonders of our valley through the lens of contemporary art; and by showing large scale public art projects outside of the traditional institutions such as the museum or the gallery to expose a very large audience to the ideas and stories that these artists are telling.

F10 - How do you select the artists / installations?

JGS - Neville Wakefield is the Artistic Director of Desert X and he, along with his co-curators, invited about 30 artists to discover the Coachella Valley during the 18 months that we had to prepare the show. Eighteen of these artists developed projects that were produced for the 2019 exhibition. The selection is made by the curators but the conditions that the show deals with such as the vastness and diversity of the space, the scale of the landscape or the environmental conditions end up influencing the artists’ projects to the extent that Neville says the desert curates the exhibition. 

F10 - What do you hope Desert X will do for the Coachella Valley?

JGS - I am hoping that Desert X will turn the Coachella Valley into a cultural destination and will make contemporary art more accessible to all of its communities. Armando Lerma, who is a local Coachella artist and has participated in both Desert X exhibitions, told me when he was growing up here he felt as an art orphan, with very little access to the ideas of art history or contemporary art that are generally shown in museums and galleries in major cities like Los Angeles or New York.

“Wormhole” by  Cinthia Marcelle  // image credit:  Lance Gerber  *read more about the artist + installation  here

“Wormhole” by Cinthia Marcelle // image credit: Lance Gerber
*read more about the artist + installation here

F10 - What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting Desert X 2019 off the ground?

JGS - The challenge was to beat the first exhibition in 2017 that was a total success with over 200,000 visitors and media coverage around the globe.

F10 - If you could tell the Coachella Valley one thing, what would it be?

JGS - I would like artists to continue to come to the Coachella Valley to tell their stories and relate to the stories of the Coachella Valley and its communities. 

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Desert X 2019 ran from February 9th through April 21st.  If you didn’t get a chance to see the installations in person, you can follow their story on social media, check out the full list of artists, installations and images on their website or check out their new podcast available on iTunes! 

Interested in being a part of the next Desert X? Check out their involvement page to see how you or your business can help make it possible.

Instagram // @_desertx
Web // https://www.desertx.org/
Donate // https://squareup.com/store/desert-x-2