When asked who I often take design cues from, my immediate answer would be Kelly Wearstler. By this time, her name is a staple when it comes to interior design with so many achievements to her belt. You can name it from celebrity clients to boutique hotels that have inspired her entire industry until today.
A local of South Carolina, Kelly started her career with an interest in decor via her mother who was a antique dealer. Reportedly, she and her sister would accompany their mother to her shopping trips. This stayed with Kelly and eventually resonated with her as created her own path. She studied architecture and earned a bachelor’s degree in interior and graphic design. I feel all these channels are why her aesthetic is very layered, plays with so much texture and eclectic.
Kelly then backed up her book smarts with on-the-job experiences, working as an intern at prestigious design firms like Cambridge Design Associates and Milton Glaser. I surmise that after she learned what she could on the East Coast, she headed to the West. In 1995, Kelly established her studio in Los Angeles. And from there, a million projects were born.
Reading through various design and architecture chronicles, much is said about Kelly’s work with hotels. She designed the Avalon Hotels in Beverly Hills as her first project. It was met with much praise from different publications including The New York Times which celebrated the designer’s flair for modernism. Her work for the Maison 40 Hotel and the Viceroy Hotels and Resorts further showcase her signature taste that has been noted for its “maximal” style.
Kelly didn’t stop there, of course. In her journey, she has published different books. Rhapsody is one of my favorites as it is on my office table for me to read through when I’m in a creative slump. “I want to inspire people to take risks and to create an environment that feels spirited. Mixing antiques, vintage and contemporary design pieces and art is honoring our past and embracing the future. You end up with a much more soulful interior,” she said of the book to The LA Times. This third book follows a continuing thesis for Kelly that she started in her first book Modern Glamour: The Art of Unexpected Style that showcased her work through full color photos and Domicilium Decoratus, which showed Kelly’s work in the hotel world along with photos of Kelly in various evening gowns.
Of the the celebrity clients Kelly has worked with, there are names I’m sure you’re familiar with. There’s Cameron Diaz, Gwen Stefani, and Stacy Snider. In Cameron’s Manhattan apartment, Kelly was able to merge the different forces that converge in Cameron’s life. The actress is both a sweet girl but also someone who isn’t able to rough it up when needed. The results showed kitchen cupboard painted in a rich green and objects that give a nod to the art of jewelry making. Despite being a veteran in her field, you could also tell how Kelly is never jaded. “I learn new things with every client, but Cameron taught me to be more sensitive to the hand of fabrics and textiles,” she said of her collaboration with the actress.
I think it’s Kelly’s willingness to learn something new and openness to possibilities is what makes her work so exciting. You can tell that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit her studio when I was in Los Angeles. One could easily see why the designer bagged so many other projects as she went on with companies and personalities like Ann Sacks, Lee Jofa, and The Rug Company. Her wares can also be spotted in Bergdorf Goodman, just in case you can’t get to her studio.
The next time you feel you need a little more excitement, I suggest rifling through the photos of Kelly’s work. I’m sure you’ll find a refreshing perspective you need. You’ll be emboldened to pair unlikely matches without compromising harmony and your own personal taste.