PalmSprings.com Spotlight: An Interview with Designer Christopher Kennedy

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Christopher Kennedy

Since founding his firm in 2005, Christopher Kennedy has emerged as one of the nation’s freshest voices in home furnishings and interior design. His name and products are quickly becoming synonymous with modern luxury and vibrant California glamour, and have captured the attention of such leading publications as Architectural Digest, Dwell Magazine, Elle Decor, Luxe Magazine, and The Los Angeles Times.

Christopher holds Bachelor of Architecture and MBA degrees from Drury University. Born in San Francisco and raised on California’s Central Coast, he brings a synthesis of big-city style and relaxed resort living to his work. From his storefront and studio in Palm Springs, Christopher also creates an eponymous furniture line, lighting for Lamps Plus, and a forthcoming accessory collection for a major television shopping channel. 

Kate Buckley: Christopher, everyone I’ve interviewed has had their own distinct journey  (and that’s what makes this series such fun!). I’m looking forward to learning more about yours. How did you come to Palm Springs?

Christopher Kennedy:  After graduate school (MBA), I found my way into finance and business in LA.  Don’t ask—it was the tech boom!  Obviously, it wasn’t my passion.  Around that time, my father passed away, and I realized that life was too short not to do what you love. My husband, David, and I had spent at most three weekends in the desert. But many people can attest that is more than enough time to fall in love with our fair city.  We decided to make the move.  We knew that, as a nurse, David could work in Palm Springs, and it seemed like a good place to get back to my roots in architecture and design. Best decision we ever made!

KB: Viewing your designs, it seems you’ve created a signature look—infusing a modern metropolitan sensibility with an awareness of how people like to live today—particularly in resort areas like Palm Springs. What does “vibrant California glamour” mean to you?

CK:  I believe in the “California Dream”—no matter where you live.  I am a California native, born in San Francisco and raised on the Central Coast.  “Go West, young man,” indeed—find a place where the weather is nurturing, you can stake a claim, and you can create the life you have always wanted.  That is what I strive for, and I create exuberant interiors that reflect that mentality.  At the same time, I believe in manners, nostalgia, and a simpler time—but not in formality.  Call it Big City Style meets Relaxed Resort Living.

Interior by Christopher Kennedy

KB: Are there specific challenges to designing for Palm Springs that don’t exist in say, San Francisco?

CK:  I design homes all over the continent, so I don’t think of Palm Springs as having limitations.  People are willing to be more adventurous in their vacation home.  They don’t live there every day, so they are willing to take risks.  If anything, designing here invites opportunity.  That said, when people are in Palm Springs, they don’t want to worry, so we strive for practicality. “Can I come in from the pool and sit down on my sofa?”  Yes, we find ways to make that possible,  It’s a first-world problem, for sure!

KB: I am particularly enamored of your judicious use of color. Do you have a favorite color—or would that be like asking if you had a favorite child?

CK:  I wouldn’t dare compare colors to the gift of raising children!  I do love all colors, but my favorite color is green.  Specifically, a deep vibrant green.  Call it fate—emerald is my birth stone.  In Palm Springs, my favorite accent colors tend to be blue and green.  I favor cool colors in our hot climate.  The green of the golf courses, the teal of the water, the azure of the sky…these colors tend to find their way into my work.

“World’s coolest treehouse” interior by Christopher Kennedy

KB: Tell us about your remodel that you call the “world’s coolest treehouse.” That sounds amazing! Is that in Palm Springs?

CK:  Yes, the home is in The Mesa neighborhood, not from [the homes of] Barry Manilow and Suzanne Sommers, of course.  It was built by renowned local architect, Tom Jakway, as his own home, and he enjoyed it for almost ten years before moving on. The new owners, a fun-loving couple from Chicago, charged with me with giving it a freshening up.  It sits high above the valley floor, and the clients wanted lots of color, but the bones of the structure were so strong, that I convinced them to employ color in the art and accessories, and let the house and its view speak for themselves.  Here are a few exclusive pics—enjoy!

KB: What is your design philosophy?

CK:  I believe that our built environments have tremendous power over our lives.  I believe that the spaces where we spend our days should delight and inspire us.  Thus, I don’t believe in beige.  I believe that we, as humans gifted with awesome divine creative power, are capable of creating our lives intentionally.  I believe that thoughts and words have power, and that they ultimately shape our reality.  So, to me, design is about formulating spaces that create happy feelings—because those feelings become thoughts, thoughts become actions, and actions become destiny.  In short, I believe that design MATTERS.

Interior by Christopher Kennedy

KB: You’ve said that your success can be attributed to your innate ability to transform your clients’ dreams into reality. Can you give us an example of this?

CK:  I believe that we all have innate gifts, and one of mine is simply knowing what will inspire and delight someone.  My firm’s job is to give someone the home that they have always wanted, and yet is more than they ever dreamed.  For example, at my “JetSet Prefab” project (featured in Palm Springs Life, California Homes, and The Hollywood Reporter) my client simply said, “I’m really into Mad Men right now, and here is a picture of Don Draper napping on his sofa.  Can you create a home around this image?” And we did.

KB: What do you enjoy most about working with your clients to create living environments? 

CK:  The Big Reveal. It’s not unlike what you see on TV, with the tears of joy and all that. We always send our clients away, and then transform the house—doing it that way is so much more fun and rewarding for everyone.  Not too long ago, a client with a young family, for whom we renovated and decorated the entire home, called and said, “We had friends over last weekend, and they were in awe of the house. But more than that — what you created is so beautiful, and so us, and it functions so perfectly, that I just had to call to say thank you.”  That’s what I enjoy most.  We impact people on a very personal level, and when we do our job right, we change their lives.

KB: Any new exciting projects on your horizon?

CK:  I am developing a line of small furniture and accessories for a major television shopping channel.  I should be on-air by the fall, so please stay tuned!  It’s pretty exciting—the idea that I can reach that many people and offer products that they will invite into their home, use, and love.

Christopher Kennedy and his husband, David Clark

KB: What would you be doing if you weren’t designing?

CK:  I often joke that I am a frustrated real estate developer.  You know, I have a degree in architecture and a Masters in Business.  Creating projects on a large scale that are enjoyed by many people…that intrigues me.

KB: What do you love most about Palm Springs?

CK:  Everything!  My work and my brand are continually inspired by Palm Springs.  I am fascinated with history of celebrities and other notable people who have chosen to spend time here—and still do. They were smart, and beautiful, and interesting, and they were on vacation!  That aura of beauty and glamour combined with easy-ness and real-ness—that is what I love and what I strive for in the spaces and products I design.

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