The name Kelly Wearstler reverberates throughout the interior design sphere. Wearstler, whose magnificent oeuvre spans residential and commercial interior projects, luxury furniture designs, high end home accessories and fashion collections, holds court as Los Angeles’s most well-known interior designer.
Wearstler’s decorative instincts recall the theatrical grandeur and unbridled excesses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but she is equally adept at mixing diverse periods of furniture to arrive at a scintillating style that’s all her own. All inhibitions are cast off in the wind — proportions and scale get flipped and rotated, and different textures are knitted together to form an intriguing tapestry. “The harmony of masculine and feminine, classic and contemporary, high and low” is central to Wearstler’s design philosophy. Wearstler is also known to exult in colour. Pink, turquoise, ochre, cinnamon, mauve, metallic and tiger stripes….no shade or pattern is too bold for her taste. Tables laid with sculptures and objets d’ art, and accoutrements paved with gemstones and brass evoke a rich layered landscape.
Originally from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Wearstler’s small town roots have no bearing on her vaulting, maximalist imagination. Gifted with a keen eye for design, she studied interior and graphic design at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston before graduating to an apprenticeship under legendary graphic design icon, Milton Glaser.
Since establishing Kelly Wearstler Interior Design in 1995, Wearstler has built a shimmering empire of lifestyle projects — from designing The Avalon Hotel to applying her unique design touch to global brands across the luxury market space. We probe the designer to get at the heart of her inimitable style.
Where did your appreciation for interior design begin?
I have always been drawn to design. My mother was a designer and she took me to antique shows and auctions as a girl, educating my eye from a young age. I’ve always been very curious and was never without my sketch book. Interior design combines so many of my passions – architecture, art history, sculpture, pattern, texture, light and movement. It’s truly my dream job.
Could you describe your aesthetic in your own words?
My aesthetic is about taking risks, juxtaposing the raw and refined, mixing high and low, feminine and masculine. The tension of opposites interests me very much.
What are the underlying ideas and principles you hope to communicate through a space?
Design is a constant adventure in exploration. It’s about finding your voice. For me, design means curating individual personality with a balance of high and low, masculine and feminine, size, color, pattern and texture. Hierarchy and scale are so important. The goal should be to curate a cohesive dialogue while still allowing statement pieces to shine.
Kelly’s home in Beverly Hills (photographed by Nick Hudson and Grey Crawford)
There’s a strong global influence in your work. Where are some of the places you’ve been and what have you learnt on these journeys?
Travel is a huge source of inspiration for me. One of my greatest joys as a mother is traveling with my sons, seeing the world through their eyes and exposing them to different cultures and art. Paris is a favorite destination and my must-go for art, culture, shopping and seeking out incredible vintage at flea markets.
What have been your favourite projects that you’ve worked on in the past decade?
Design is storytelling. I approach every project – whether a hotel, a piece of furniture or a collection of fabric – with the same process of exploration and passion. All of my projects hold a special place in my heart as they each play an important part of the evolution of my design story – full of adventure and soul on every scale.
Could you describe your home?
My home was originally built in 1926 as a Spanish Colonial and remodeled around 1934 by architect James E. Dolena. It was formerly owned by Albert R. Broccoli, the producer of the James Bond films. The architecture and history make the house distinctive and it’s fun to know all of the amazing Hollywood personalities that have passed through the halls. We made the home ours with a redesign that included the addition of an atrium and living room off of the kitchen. We wanted an area where our boys could hang out and play while we entertained. My intention was to build upon the story of the home, while still imbuing it with the personality and spirit of our family — a combination of comfort and history.
Kelly’s boys, Oliver and Elliott (photographed by Coral von Zumwalt for Lonny Magazine)
What does a typical day of work involve for you?
I start every morning with an exercise class then grab a double dry nonfat organic macchiato and drive my sons to school. My day to day at work varies, between meeting with clients, visiting with vendors or designing at the studio. When the work day is done, it’s all about being with my family.
While you’re most celebrated within the interior sphere, you’re also quite the fashion celebrity, even birthing your own fashion line. How do fashion and interiors intersect for you personally?
My love of fashion definitely taught me to treat materiality in a different way. I pay so much attention to the hand of things, the feel and detail of the tailoring. Infusing gemstones, mixed metals and the artisanal sculpture work that is jewelry is a favorite way to imbue a room with depth, character and luxury. It is all alchemy.
Kelly Wearstler Flagship Boutique
What has been the biggest milestone in your career?
My first hotel project, The Avalon, which is a boutique hotel in Beverly Hills. On the heels of that project, I designed the Viceroy Santa Monica and went on to design multiple properties for the Viceroy Group around the world along with other boutique and luxury hotel projects.
What are you working on now and what are you looking forward to in the near future?
The studio is such a dynamic place. We always have plenty of new, exciting irons in the fire. I’ve just launched extensive lighting, furniture, fabric and wallcovering collections, along with the recent debut of luxury bedding and a robust stone and tile collection early this year. We’re continually expanding our home décor offerings with authentic and unique artist collaborations. On the interiors side we’re premiering a new hospitality brand with the first residential property slated to open in Hollywood this summer with hotels to follow in Austin and San Francisco over the next two years.
Images courtesy of kellywearstler.com.