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Tour Palm Spring's Premier Showhouse

MAY 19, 2017
Photo credit: Marni Epstein-Mervis (

You don't have to live in Palm Springs, California to appreciate mid-century design. As a matter of fact, design enthusiasts from all over flock to Palm Springs for the premier mid-century event called Modernism Week. Each year, in conjunction with this event, celebrity designer Christopher Kennedy organizes one of the biggest showhouses on the west coast dubbed the Christopher Kennedy Compound.

This year Christopher brought together over 20 designers, social media stars and tastemakers to bring their own vibe to "Villa Golightly" which is the home of blogger and social media influencer Kelly Golightly—a real modern day Audrey Hepburn. Now you can tour her gorgeous home and get some behind-the-scene insight from Christopher Kennedy about this fun event!

Can you tell us why you started The Christopher Kennedy Compound: Modernism Week?

When I moved to Palm Springs, we did not have a decorator showcase house like many cities do, which surprised me. It is such fertile ground for a decorator showcase: we have wonderful architecture, the annual event of Modernism Week which attracts about 90,000 participants from 20 countries, and many worthwhile charities. Each year, the Compound is my labor of love and way of giving back to the city that has given me so much.


Soaking Room designed by Dee Murphy


What makes the 2017 Modernism Week different than years past and tell us a little bit about the property this year?

Villa Golightly, the desert estate of Kelly Golightly, is was much larger than past years -- nearly 7000 square foot with a 1000 square foot covered terrace, which I designed myself.  This year's was also not a classic midcentury modern property, as our show houses have been in past years. The house itself is a 1980s Spanish-influenced home, very typical of so many houses in California. The audience that toured the home was really receptive -- they loved seeing how you can channel a Palm Springs vibe in a house that's not a classic MCM post-and-beam masterpiece (after all, how many of us can live in one of those?)  

We called the transformation "Med to Mod" -- as in Mediterranean to Modern -- and, thanks to my many talented friends -- it worked beautifully!


Terrace designed by Christopher Kennedy


How does Palm Springs influence the design? 

The design of all my showcase houses is really all about Palm Springs! The fair city that I call home is having such a wonderful resurgence. When I moved here 14 years ago, Palm Springs -- though historic and always beautiful in my opinion -- was not the hip and happening place that it is now. Part of my intent in creating The Christopher Kennedy Compound was to put the city's best foot forward and to showcase the best of our design to the world, thanks to our two magazine partners and the millions of people who see the project on social media.


Master Bedroom designed by Trellis Home


How much did Kelly Golightly's own personal aesthetic help shape the interior design of the house?

Having a prominent Influencer and social media star, Kelly Lee aka Kelly Golightly, definitely added a fun twist this year! Kelly runs a popular Blog and Instagram for "modern day Audrey Hepburns." All the Tastemakers this year really treated Kelly as their client, and as a result the house had a wonderful cohesion and a fabulous 1960s Audrey vibe.


Laundry Room designed by Rachel Cannon Limited


With so many incredible rooms in the house is there one room that stands out?

We had nearly 20 Tastemakers, as I call them. Since the first year, when I had fashion designer Trina Turk do a space, I have wanted to include "Tastemakers" in addition to classic interior designers. For better or worse, designers are no longer the only arbiters of good taste! In keeping with tat idea, this year we had fashion icons and design bloggers who are crossing over into the home furnishings world, including kate spade new york and Joy Cho with her ohJoy! products for Target.


Guest Suite designed by Joy Cho / Image credit: Marni Epstein-Mervis


A quick story: about three weeks before we opened, I had a seventh bathroom -- the ensuite bath attached to Sarah Sherman Samuel's fabulous guest bedroom -- that needed a designer. I called my friend, food and beauty blogger Dawn McCoy, and asked if she could do it. She is from Texas, where apparently they would often fill the bathtub with ice and fill it with liquor during parties. (I am from California so the idea is foreign to me)  Well, together we called kate spade new york, who donated their adorable wallpaper with gold dots. She called Moet & Chandon, who filled the bathtub with their rose bubbly. And, voila, Dawn's idea of "The Bubble Bath" came to life! I love the double entendre, and it sort of stole the show. It just goes to show how creativity can transform a space.


Guest Bedroom designed by Sarah Sherman Samuel


In a similar vein, Kelly and I called fashion stylish Salvador Camarena, and we begged him to transform a small pool bathroom, a tiny space. Well, he dreamed up a Beyonce-inspired space, down to wallpaper with lemons on it (an homage to her "Lemonade" album"), a shower filled with yellow and white balloons, clothes on hooks that resemble her video costumes, and a crochet sign next to a vintage phone that reads, "Dial 9 for Becky with the Good Hair."  He called the space "Bed, Bath & Beyonce" and it made the front page of the Palm Springs newspaper.

I am blessed to have many talented friends who make this show house what it is!


Designed by Kelly Lee / Image credit: Marni Epstein-Mervis

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