Meet The Interior Designer: Kelly Wearstler

Kelly Wearstler is a bit of a rock star in the interiors world. Based in LA, she’s responsible for the look of countless celebrity homes, cool restaurants and the chicest hotels. Here, she tells us more about her style and inspiration, and the up-and-coming names she has her eye on.
By Harriet Russell /

STYLE & INSPIRATION

How would you describe your interior style? 

My style is always evolving, but I favour natural materials that channel a sense of effortless luxury. It is important that each project references its surroundings, to create a truly localised experience that fits seamlessly into its environment. I also love to explore juxtapositions, indoor and outdoor elements, contemporary and classic, masculine and feminine, raw and refined – a sense of no boundaries or restrictions on style, without sacrificing comfort and useability. 

What does the word ‘luxury’ mean to you? 

To me luxury is about textures and sensations, but also storytelling; it is the compilation of a collection of objects, each with their own character and history, arranged in harmonious composition. Each piece has a unique and inspired narrative to tell, and it is when these narratives are nurtured within a space that it truly comes to life. 

Which designers have influenced you the most & which brands do you most admire?

Some of my personal design heroes include Ettore Sottsass, Gio Ponti, Pierre Cardin, and Josef Hoffman. I love how each designer explores a clever use of materiality and I find their risk-taking aesthetics so inspiring. Sottsass and Ponti have had a particular influence on me, as they truly pushed the boundaries of the time that they lived in – this is something I hope to embody in my own work. 

I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing brands, too. I collaborated with Farrow & Ball to create a palette of eight sun-soaked hues inspired by the natural beauty of California. I am continuously appreciative of the quality and craftsmanship that goes into Farrow & Ball’s products, so I was delighted to explore this further. I am also so inspired by contemporary designers and studios such as Rotganzen, with whom I recently collaborated on a limited-edition collection for my online Gallery. 

Can you share some up-and-coming names everyone should know about? 

I have recently been working on a collection with a long-time collaborator of mine, LA-based ceramicist Morgan Peck. The collection is a culmination of nearly a decade of working together with Morgan, whom I previously commissioned to create a series of custom decor pieces and site-specific installations in the Downtown LA Proper hotel. This time round, we worked together to launch Contour, a collection of nine designs including vases, plates, candlesticks, bowls and large-scale mirrors. I absolutely adore Morgan’s signature freehand style, and the unique amorphous designs she has created, influenced by nature, rocks and stone formations. She is certainly a standout talent to watch. 

Some of my DESIGN HEROES include Ettore Sottsass, Gio Ponti, Pierre Cardin, and Josef Hoffman – I love how they explore a CLEVER use of materiality and I find their RISK-TAKING so inspiring.

What’s been your favourite project to date? 

I was so proud to launch my Gallery platform towards the end of last year. It’s always been a dream of mine to create a space where I can share the artists and designers that inspire me, with my community around the world. I debuted Gallery with the launch of the Quelle Fête series by Rotganzen, which was composed of five limited-edition works inspired by LA. Each piece, reminiscent of a melted disco ball, has such a playful humour and I love how they blur the lines between design objects and art. I can’t wait to share the line-up of talent we have planned in the months ahead.

HER OWN HOME

How do you make a home stylish but liveable? 

I hope to evoke glamour and luxury throughout all my interiors, without sacrificing comfort and use-ability. Choosing high-quality, considered materials will create a space that offers a tactile, subtle luxury, while still being liveable. For example, integrating high-quality local marble will not only look and feel luxurious, but it will ground the space in its environment, and create an emotive link between the home and its surroundings. I also always try to include vintage and antique items throughout my interior projects – the history and character that comes with these pieces to me is the greatest luxury. 

What’s your favourite room in your house? 

The kitchen, as it's the heart of a home. I spend so much time here, cooking up a storm and catching up with my family at the end of the day, or entertaining friends. My favourite aspect of our family kitchen is the welcoming feel. We have a striking central marble countertop, which offers a place to prepare a meal in the company of friends and family, creating a truly open atmosphere. 

What goes into a great party? 

I love to entertain. A great party is all about engaging guests with an inviting experience from the moment they arrive. For example, stocking up a bar cart or cabinet with a considered array of bottled beverages or creating a bountiful floral installation in an ice bucket or another unexpected, sizeable vessel. Nothing says welcome quite like a bottle of Champagne – prep a tray with varying sized flutes and glasses for an alchemy of visual intrigue. 

What gifts do you like to give a hostess? 

I love to give a striking bouquet of flowers – an arrangement that truly engages the senses. The great part about gifting flowers is the variety of display options, often starting as a standout centre piece, then distributed in smaller vases around the home, or even transformed into a dried floral arrangement. The wild beauty of flowers is a natural mood booster; I love to see the mélange of textures in a bouquet in conversation with the surrounding interior. 

How do you scent your home? 

From candles and incense, to diffusers, essential oils and even flowers, I love to experiment with different scents to shape the architecture of an environment. Scent-scaping can make some spaces feel large, open and fresh, and others snug and sultry. I tailor the scent to suit the seasons the same way I transition a space to heighten seasonal changes. I love Maison Margiela’s Replica range as it has a host of scents tailored to specific moments within the home, including Bubble Bath and Lazy Sunday Morning

I hope to evoke GLAMOUR and LUXURY throughout all my interiors – without sacrificing COMFORT – by choosing high-quality, CONSIDERED materials.

Any tips for styling a home?

Start by considering the surroundings of the space – what you see outside the window will become part of your interior experience, and it is important to consider this from the very early stages. Then reflect upon what most inspires you, what your passion point is, and allow that to be the spark that moves the design forward – it could be a piece of art, a prominent colour in your closet, or an era of design. 

Another great way to start is by planning out the room’s balance and symmetry – how well the visual weight of the elements of the room are distributed and repeated. The balance and symmetry don't have to mean all the pieces are the exact same weight – asymmetry in a room can introduce visual interest and tension. For example, perhaps one coffee table in the room is square, while the other is rectangular. They will have a different voice, but opposites attract.

Finally, accessories are a great way to add a personal touch to a space and it is these small design details that have a large impact on the character of a room. I like to choose accessories that create contrast with larger design elements in a room: for example a sculptural ceramic bowl placed as the centrepiece on a handsome mahogany dining table – spotlighting the contrast between the two materials. 

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

Tell us about three luxurious touches in your home…

The history: The house was originally built in 1926 in the Spanish Colonial style then remodelled as Georgian around 1934 by architect James Dolena. It is situated on three acres. We bought it in 2005 from the Broccoli family – Cubby Broccoli was the producer and creator of the James Bond films. The architecture and history make it distinctive. It has such a cool and rich Hollywood history. 

The garden: The house has an interior courtyard with the most beautiful garden that all the rooms on the ground floor look and open onto through tall glass doors. I designed the garden in collaboration with Art Luna. It is such a beautiful environment, filled with an array of sculptural plants and succulents. It is such a luxury to walk through this calming oasis each morning while I drink my coffee and watch the sun rise. We also love entertaining and opening up all the doors to the garden. The house has an incredible energy and spirit. It is peaceful and iconic California. 

The art: I discover and fall in love with new artists and artisans every day and use our home as my creative laboratory to experiment with their works. The furnishings throughout the home are by a mélange of progressive contemporary furniture designers and artists, with important vintage furniture and curated unique finds from my travels. It is such a luxury to be around these beautiful art and design pieces. It is where I am at my happiest. 

What’s your favourite item in your home?

One of my favourite items in my home is a bench by Misha Kahn called Somewhere in the Multiverse, 2019, which we also had commissioned specifically for a project in Beverly Hills. Made from concrete, steel, glazed earthenware and enamel, I love seeing this contemporary bench within this listed historic property, as it perfectly captures the tension between classic and contemporary design – an approach I often explore in my interiors projects. Misha is an amazing designer and sculptor, and I’m always inspired by his ability to manipulate solid materials into such fluid and expressive pieces.

Is there anything in your home you'd describe as 'priceless'? 

Probably my collection of vintage pieces. I love how each one has its own unique story – from its designer to its previous homes and life, to how I discovered the piece and brought it into my own home. It is so special to me to see each piece now in my home, and in conversation with another. The sentimental value of each one is priceless and irreplaceable. 

What's the biggest investment you've made in your home? 

Time. This house is truly my passion project. We have spent many years living and loving this residence, evolving it to grow with us. 

 

Visit KellyWearstler.com & follow @KellyWearstler on Instagram.

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