Designing Woman: Kelly Wearstler


By Kelly Wearstler

I opened my design firm, Kelly Wearstler, Inc., one decade ago. I knew from a young age that interior design was my calling as I grew up in a home that was constantly evolving. Beautiful and unusual objects, textures, and colors always surrounded me, exciting me to no end. My mother is also a closet interior designer; everything was always in a state of flux-I’d come home from school and the dining room would be a totally new color. Growing up in South Carolina, our house definitely had a “country cute” feel, but my room was always modern, which my mother hated. But to her credit, she always let me experiment and let me express myself freely.

My work allows me to be more extroverted. I am drawn to all color, and, of course, unique and beautiful objects are always singing out to me. I think other than my mom, Dorothy Draper is one of my biggest role models. She was so divine and daring for her time.

 I am also pleased to have been given the opportunity to work with Bergdorf Goodman.

Before moving to Beverly Hills, CA, and opening my design firm, I received my BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and spent time interning with Milton Glaser Inc. in New York as well as with Cambridge Seven and Associates in Massachusetts. My extensive years of education, formal and otherwise, afforded me the access I needed as well as an outlet to be more extroverted (I am naturally a shy girl).

My first real design project was my Hancock Park apartment. Since then, I’ve evolved in many ways, from my knowledge about antiquities to uses for different materials. I feel more confident, which means I’m willing to take more risks. My current work focuses on fine-tuning the contemporary concepts of chic sophistication. In terms of hotels, I have designed the Avalon, Maison 140, Viceroy Santa Monica, Viceroy Palm Springs hotels, and most recently, the Tides South Beach. In redesigning the Tides South Beach, I thought it most appropriate to pay homage to the history of this amazing landmark, carefully respecting Miami’s culture and Art Deco roots while honoring the city’s inherent beachfront spirit.

I have also collaborated with The Rug Company, hand-picking a multi-colored palette for our collection. The rugs are hand knotted in fine Tibetan wool or wool/silk blends in somewhat uncommon color combinations, but depending on the space in which they are used, they can look timeless or very contemporary-a sort of intermediary between styles. I often draw my inspiration from the Art Deco movement as well as Op Art and nature, and this project was no exception.

My inspiration for many of my projects comes from varied details in nature and my own personal collections: the grain and curve of a beautiful seashell, or my own vintage trims and wall coverings. Although with any project, I derive inspiration from just about everywhere: travel, helping my sons with their little art projects, fashion, nature, the color of a baby’s eyes, modern art, technology, James Bond films…everywhere! Inspiration is everywhere if you’re looking for it, and my style is always unexpected. I’m actually amazed at how quickly my aesthetic tastes have changed over the years.

I am also pleased to have been given the opportunity to work with Bergdorf Goodman. My boutique opened on the Decorative Home floor in 2007, and this summer, I introduced more pieces to the already existing compilation. For this collection, I drew inspiration from the textures and colors of rough crystal and precious gems including jade, turquoise, alabaster, and opaline, and combined them with new finishes like bleached wood and patinaed copper.

Always promoting the mixing and matching of patterns and colors in an interior as long as my clients are confident in my decisions, I’ve found that it’s best to take a chance and put the “rules” of interior design aside-the best combinations are often born out of risk. I also encourage this risk-taking with my fabrics and trimmings collection created with Groundworks at Lee Jofa/Kravet that will be available this fall. I designed this collection in the hopes that people may mix and match colors and patterns with ease. For this collection, my inspiration came from my travels including Japanese kimonos and embroideries as well as antique textiles and trims.

I am currently preparing the lifestyle and design experiences for six hotel residence projects, which are underway in Miami, Anguilla, and Mexico’s Riveria Maya. I am also working on designing a book of fine wall coverings with famed hand printer Cole & Son as a follow-up to my monograph Modern Glamour: The Art of Unexpected Style and Domicilium Decoratus, and my current portfolio of home products will soon be joined by bedding, tabletop furniture, and fashion. And as for the future of Kelly Wearstler, Inc.? As a designer, I’m always evolving and becoming more confident-and sassy. I am literally inspired by everything, and I draw upon everything around me while still sticking to the classics. This is something that will enable me to continually come up with fresh ideas and design concepts that will never go out of style.