From February 11 to February 21, nearly 60,000 interior designers, architects and midcentury modernistas from all over the world will descend upon the Coachella Valley for Palm Springs Modernism Week. This event pays homage to Palm Springs as America’s midcentury modern design capital. As always, the 11-day event offers a chance to indulge in nonstop modernism in Hollywood’s beloved desert playground. We recently caught up with Chris Mobley, board chairman of Palm Springs Modernism Week, a few days before the festival’s kickoff to get the inside scoop on this must-attend design event.

We’re most excited about the newest additions to this year’s roster, including trips to Albert Frey’s 1959 North Shore Beach & Yacht Club and an exploration of “Modern Cuba.” Which event are you most looking forward to?

I’m really looking forward to the Modernism Week Opening Night Party – Hollywood in Palm Springs on Thursday, February 11 at CAMP. This party will not only be the debut of our new headquarters location for 2016, it’s also the first big event of the festival, and it sets the tone for the week. 

Modernism Week will be expanding to previously uncharted territory. What new events are accompanying this geographical expansion?

New this year, Modernism Week is offering three excursions that travel beyond the Coachella Valley, including a party at Frey’s Yacht Club at the Salton Sea, Retro Pinball Mania! at the Museum of Pinball in nearby Banning, and a tour of the historic Sam Maloof estate in Alta Loma.

We heard that CAMP, Modernism Week’s central location for attendees, will be moving to an architecturally significant venue in downtown Palm Springs. Can you give us a hint as to where the new digs will be headquartered?


Photo by George Aquino, 1967

CAMP will be located in the former 1957 J.W. Robinson’s department store at 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive. In addition to stimulating programs, Ferguson, Modernism Week’s exclusive kitchen and bath sponsor, is creating a demonstration kitchen that will be outfitted with the newest appliances from Bosch. Find more details at modernismweek.com.

Modernism Week isn’t just about the celebration and appreciation of midcentury architecture and design. How has Modernism Week encouraged education, preservation and sustainable modern living as represented in Palm Springs?

Modernism Week’s world-class film and lecture series, and other programming do a great job of encouraging education, preservation and sustainable modern living in Palm Springs, and our annual scholarship program is significant motivation behind everything we do. Scholarships go to local students who have chosen career paths in the fields of architecture and design, and are renewable for three years.In February 2015, more than 20 local neighborhood organizations offered tours featuring homes that have been lovingly purchased and restored — often by past attendees of Modernism Week. The tours generated more than $463,000 to fund local improvements such as landscaping, signage and restoration.Our CAMP location is a great example of preservation, highlighting a midcentury commercial building that will be going through adaptive reuse. Sustainable living is featured on our Garden Tours, and the Hot Purple Energy bike rides are a fun way to learn a little about solar energy.

There are great comparisons between fashion and architecture. How are you bringing fashion to Modernism Week this year?

Modernism Week is offering a series of fashion events presented by Susan Stein, Fashion Editor for Palm Springs Life Magazine and Creative Director of Fashion Week El Paseo: Fashion and Architecture – Inside, Outside, and Side by Side – An insightful lecture drawing comparisons between the inspirations behind fashion and architecture (Wednesday, 2/17) Your Signature Modernist Style, Presented by William Squire and Susan Stein (Friday, 2/19) Off the Runway with Lisa Perry: A Conversation with the Designer, NY Fashion Designer former owner of Barney’s New York, Lisa Perry, will present the evolution of her brand during ‘Women in Design Day’ at CAMP (Saturday, 2/20). The talk will be a highly personal tour and retrospective of Lisa’s work with host and local collector, Shari Applebaum.

Modernist fans will be happy to hear the 16th annual Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale will be returning to Modernism Week this year. What are some of the great finds they can expect to add to their collections?

What sets the Palm Springs Modernism Show apart from other vintage 20th century shows is their emphasis on midcentury modern furniture, decorative and fine arts – mostly from the 1950s through the 1970s – the years that Palm Springs became world-renowned as a playground for the Hollywood set, many of whom lived in the desert modernist architecture that we tour today. The Show & Sale merchandise is a reflection of that era and the midcentury resort lifestyle enjoyed in Palm Springs.


Photo by David A. Lee

The show opens on Friday, February 12 at 6 pm with a festive Preview Reception to benefit Modernism Week – an exclusive opportunity to be among the first to see and shop the world-class collection of furniture, home décor, vintage accessories, and decorative and fine arts before it opens to the general public.

Coined as the No. 1 Must-See Event of Modernism Week, the Modernism Week Show House will be returning yet again this year. Which of the nation’s top tastemakers will be adding their special touch to one of the many unique rooms of a home on fairway of the Indian Canyons Golf Resort?

For the third year, Christopher brings together some of the nations most prominent tastemakers to create unique rooms in this showcase house, including Michael Berman, Michel Boyd, Julia Buckingham, Patrick Dragonette, HGTV’s Jamie Durie and Kelli Ellis, style blogger Kelly Golightly, Christopher Kennedy, BRAVO’s Carson Kressley, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, Denise McGaha, Justin Shaulis, Best Practice Architecture, Trellis Home and 31 Westgate.


Photo by David A. Lee

As an added bonus and value this year, The Christopher Kennedy Compound will have two homes on tour. The Freedman Residence, adjacent to the Modernism Week Show House, will also be included in the ticket price. Built in 1969, the home was completely renovated by Christopher Kennedy and ArtHouse Construction in 2015. Blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living with stunning views of the Golf Resort and surrounding mountains, the home is also a model of sustainability with extensive solar panels, desert landscaping, LED lighting, and a vegetable garden.

Modernism Week After Dark” is always a popular event of Modernism Week. Can you give us any details about who the celebrity chefs will be and what they’ll be cooking?

Dine with Designer Christopher Kennedy at Mod Bites on Friday, February 19 at Tinto, the authentic Basque restaurant by James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces located at The Saguaro. Meet the man behind the design of the Modernism Week Show House and The Saguaro’s Mod Lounge at a multi-course dinner with wine pairings inspired by Christopher’s designs. Guests will receive a complimentary copy of his latest book, “California Modern.”

‘Last Call with Charles Phoenix: A Delightful-Desert Themed Cake and Cocktail Party’ on Sunday, February 21 will be the final fabulous event of Modernism Week 2016! Enjoy awesome appetizers and crafty cocktails served up in the colorful tradition of the Charles Phoenix Test Kitchen meets Palm Springs style. Following a final toast, the “Ambassador of Americana” will cut and serve an all-new, eye-popping, taste bud-tantalizing, decadent cake concoction co-created by Jake’s, the best bakery in town. Beer and wine will also be served, and festive, retro dress is highly encouraged.

Can you talk a little about Palm Springs modernism within the larger regional context of California? How has it come to represent California modernism as a whole? 

We have one of the largest collections of midcentury homes and commercial buildings per capita in the US. Because we have been known for decades as a celebrity getaway and international vacation destination, people come from all over to enjoy the weather, shop and tour our architectural gems. The desire to attract cultural tourism has caught on throughout California, and communities are starting to invest in their midcentury homes, commercial buildings and neighborhoods.

Buy tickets to Palm Springs Modernism Week.