L.A. designer Kelly Wearstler moves the needle on luxury residential design and commercial spaces.
Earlessis the only way to describe L.A. designer Kelly Wearstler’s approach to decorating. She’s one of the most inf luential and in-demand designers on the planet, but imitators can’t easily replicate a Kelly Wearstler look. Her talent lies in mixing the incongruous as she tromps on staid conventions in her glittery ombré Margielas. The result is a virtuosic combination of colour and sculptural furnishings that makes each project a unique statement. Her use of stonework (dramatic slabs with major veining), texture (where do you start —there’s f luting, fur, cut velvet, gem-like fixtures and bark-like details) and colour (saturated jewel tones) defy categorization. Peruse her Instagram feed and it’s obvious Kelly can find beauty in any element: it’s the way she ties them together for her clients that really stuns. With her fifth book, Kelly Wearstler: Evocative Style, the designer highlights recent projects including residential oeuvres such as her own Beverly Hills home (the former pad of movie queen Carole Lombard), and hip commercial spaces like San Francisco Proper Hotel.
Question: Your Beverly Hills home is one of the projects featured in your newbook. What’s the best thing about it?
KELLY WEARSTLER: I love how open it feels. The natural light is exceptional, and the rooms f low freely into one another. The house has such a rich history: architect James Dolena redesigned the original Spanish Colonial Revival house into a Georgian style in 1933. I was careful to build upon the story of the home while still imbuing it with the personality and spirit of our family.
Q: What’s your first step when starting a new project?
KW: I always look at architecture, location and history as a starting point for telling a design story. I begin by pulling plenty of mood imagery and creating a tray of all the different design elements within the space. Every room or area has a distinct inspiration tray with fabric swatches, tile samples and a mix of materials. It’s an incredible visual tool to lay out samples, materials, colour swatches and textures in a condensed area. It allows me to visualize how all the different voices within a space form a cohesive dialogue.
Q:You’re into thrift shopping and antiquing. What’s been your best score?
KW: I love shopping at vintage shows and f lea markets — great style has no price point. Many of my favourite pieces come from markets, galleries and boutiques I’ve stumbled upon while travelling — travel is the best way to score unique treasures. A table lamp by artist Jacques Duval-Brasseur is one of my best finds: it looks like an abstract flower made of mixed metals. It’s a limited design from the 1970s that I had fallen in love with, but it was rare and expensive and I wasn’t able to find one. Then I happened upon it five years ago at the Paris Clignancourt f lea market, peeking out from the stands. Paul Bert Serpette at the Clignancourt flea market is absolutely one of my stops for vintage.
Q: You have so many irons in the fire: designing textiles, rugs, furniture, jewelry. Do you design with a client or customer in mind, or go with your gut?
KW: Design is a sensory, human and tactile experience. For me, it ’s largely intuitive. I find that inspiration is every where — art, architecture, fashion, film, graphic arts, landscapes, nature. I always remain open to new colours, forms, textures, artists and furniture when I travel, being aware of my surroundings and doing research, whether it’s reading a book, meeting new people or exploring a museumor gallery. That allows me to find the beauty in all that I see and translate it into my work.
KW: Design is all about translating distinctive personalities and finding a vibe that’s right for a particular lifestyle. My job is to be a good listener and to run the client’s vision through my filter. Homes are deeply personal, but commercial spaces have an equal spirit and a soul to invoke. Every space has a muse: it might be the family, a lifestyle or an art collection. Commercial spaces can draw inspiration from the rich history of the city, the building’s architecture or the surrounding environment. Each Proper experience is an ode to its city.
Q: Your Instagram posts are stunners. How has social media impacted the way designers work today?
KW: Social media has made the design and art worlds so remarkably accessible. I personally love discovering new artists, architecture and design on Instagram. Curating mood imagery has always been a great jumping-off point for any project. With Instagram, I’m finding and sharing what inspires me and evokes emotion.