ON DESIGN AND FUNCTION: SUNNYLANDS President Obama at The Annenberg Estate

June 7th, 2013 | by Christopher Kennedy | Comments


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In good design, form does not follow function. Function does not follow form. Instead the two walk together, hand in hand, inseparable, on a journey that tells the story of the home, the people who live there, and how they intend for the property to be used. (Photo: Sunnylands, courtesy of The Annenberg Estate)

Jonathan Becker for Vanity Fair 1999

This is exactly how Walter and Lenore Annenberg (shown at left in a photo by Jonathan Becker for Vanity Fair, 1999) approached the creation of Sunnylands, their estate in Rancho Mirage. The goal,  from the onset, was to create a property that would function as well as their casual family home as it would  for Presidents of the United States to bring together world leaders to promote peace and international agreement.


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From the selection of the 200-acre site, with its majestic  mountain views, to the hiring of architectural legend, A. Quincy Jones and quintessential interior designer William Haines – the Annenbergs did everything right to accomplish their mission of creating an awe-inspiring retreat where one could clear the mind and turn down the volume on the outside world. (Photo: Sunnylands, Asian Pavillion, courtesy of The Annenberg Estate)



While the estate was built in the mid 1960s, and has played host to world leaders from heads of state to monarchs, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands wasn’t created until 2001. The purpose of the Trust was to dedicate the property as a sanctuary for generations of high-level national and world leaders seeking the privacy and “the pause” needed to address the most pressing issues of the day.


US-CHINA-OBAMA-XIThis weekend, President Barack Obama will host China’s new President, Xi Jinping, for an informal summit that could potentially reshape the relationship between the two world powers. Having visited the Annenberg Estate myself on an exclusive private tour, I am enouraged to know that these two  men, both known for their approachable, casual styles, will be meeting at Sunnylands. I trust that the Annenberg’s vision, as implemented by Jones, Haines and landscape architect, James Burnett, will successfully facilitate the best possible outcome of this exchange. (Photo Saul Loeb, Getty Images)




At Sunnylands, all of the elements – from the art, the furniture, the architecture and the space planning – to the gardens, the plantings, the golf and the swimming pools – were carefully designed to set the stage for cooperation and diplomacy. The Annenbergs made sure that form and function do work together, in concert, to achieve the intended goal – the fostering of world peace. (Photo, courtesy of the Annenberg Estate)


I am envisioning Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping, relaxing together in the William Haines furniture layouts, which the master decorator planned specifically to promote dialogue.  I hope they will take the time for a morning stroll through the nine-acre gardens,  which include  1.25 miles of walking paths that meander through more than 53,000 individual plants and 50 arid-landscape species. Inspired by the Annenberg’s private collection of  impressionist paintings, landscape architect James Burnett was quoted as saying, “As you move through the landscape, you are aware of being under the dappled shade, next to the water; you hear the sounds, hear and feel the gravel underfoot. The experience should transport you from the everyday world.”  Yes, Sunnylands is perfect for this meeting. What better location could there be to promote peace and understanding?


As the world turns its attention to our wonderful Coachella Valley, I have never been prouder to be a part of the Palm Springs design community where art, architecture and sublime natural beauty meet to encourage all things wonderful, not the least of which is world peace.

Related Post:  Christopher Kennedy’s Visit To Sunnylands


DSC_2082ABOUT THIS BLOGGER:  Christopher Kennedy is an award-winning, international designer, whose work has captured the attention of leading publications such as Architectural Digest, Luxe Magazine, Dwell, California Home & Design, and Elle Decor. Now, part of the Desert Sun’s Desert Design Authority, Christopher shares his expertise on style, interior design, and home furnishings.

Based in Palm Springs and Los Angeles, Christopher is best known for his clean, modern aesthetic. His design projects currently include luxury desert escapes, homes in the Hollywood Hills, lofts in New York City, and waterfront properties from British Columbia to Laguna Beach.  His eponymous furniture line is available in showrooms in Palm Desert, Los Angeles, and Denver.  Locally, his Palm Springs candle line is available at Paul Kaplan at Raymond Lawrence, Palm Springs.


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