At home with Kelly Wearstler
American designer Kelly Wearstler talks about her approach to interiors, her California homes, favourite LA spots, creative inspiration and more
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American designer Kelly Wearstler is known for her eclectic and experiential approach to interiors, and her design collections featuring imaginative furniture and lifestyle accessories. Her work merges design history with a sense of modernity, resulting in spaces where architectural rigour is combined with organic shapes, textures and colours. Her studio has worked on private residences as well as commercial and hospitality projects, each characterised by Wearstler's multifaceted style while maintaining a distinctive personality.
Living in Los Angeles, Wearstler divides her time between her West Hollywood studio and her Beverly Hills residence, and her love and curiosity for her home city has informed her design practice. From her studio, Wearstler speaks to Wallpaper* about her daily life, her inspirations and future projects.
At home with Kelly Wearstler
Wallpaper*: Where are you at the moment? Can you describe the space where you work?
Kelly Wearstler: I am based in Los Angeles and have a studio in West Hollywood. There is an inherent cross-pollination to my creative process, with each project providing inspiration for the next. So, whilst I work on a selection of projects at once, I like to keep my office organised, with all of the information for my projects – including drawings, plans, inspiration – in labelled packets, laid out on the desk so I can easily pick them up as and when I need them. I keep a collection of colour swatches nearby, so I can review tones and hues easily. I also keep a vast collection of books in my office, each covering a range of topics, such as architecture, fashion, design, and art, offering a constant source of inspiration. The wall beside my desk is covered in family photos, featuring my husband, two boys, and of course our rescue dogs Javier and Willie Wearstler.
W*: What’s your morning routine, before you start work?
KW: I start every morning at 6am with a strong espresso and then exercise, which at the moment is usually tennis. I play five to six times a week – either with friends or for a lesson – and I love it. My day-to-day at work varies, between meeting with clients, visiting vendors, travelling to project sites, or designing at the studio. In one day I can enjoy design sessions for interiors, architecture, products, and furniture. I love how each day can be completely different to the next; it is this amazing variety that inspires me most and keeps me on my toes, but I do like to keep a consistent morning routine to help me feel balanced and organised.
W*: Where do you currently live? What does your neighbourhood look like, and what do you like the most about it?
KW: I love our neighbourhood in Beverly Hills, with its beautiful architecture and palm tree-lined streets. We are so lucky to be surrounded by amazing restaurants, excellent shopping locations, an incredible creative community, and of course never too far from the ocean.
Our house was originally built in 1926 as a Spanish Colonial, and then remodelled as a Georgian around 1934 by architect James E Dolena. We purchased the home in 2005 from the Broccoli family. Albert R 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. When we purchased the home, we added about 4,000 sq ft as the house needed to be adapted to modern living. The architectural additions and modifications were done historically. However, the furnishings are by a mélange of progressive contemporary furniture designers and artists, with important vintage furniture and curated unique finds from my travels. 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. We love entertaining and opening up all the doors to the garden.
W*: What’s your favourite room in your home, and what does it look like?
KW: The kitchen is one of my favourite rooms in our home; it has such a magnetic pull, being the centre of life at home. It is the ultimate space where elevated form meets function. My kitchen features mixed metals – with the cabinetry exhibiting a handsome stainless steel with a warm gold brass trim. This cool metal appearance is subtly framed by a textured eggshell wallpaper. We have a stunning skylight that emits daytime streams of sun. Of course, accent lighting is so important for setting the mood of a space. I chose warm pendant lights with dimmable features, to allow for relaxed evenings by the table with the family sharing a meal. I love how the light interacts with the metal cabinets and our central marble countertop, diffusing a warming glow. I love our central countertop; the surface is so striking in contrast to the metal cabinetry, and provides a wonderful place for me to prepare a meal in the company of my friends and family, creating a truly open atmosphere.
W*: If Wallpaper came for dinner, what would you cook us? What would the table setting look like?
KW: One of my favourite dishes is a pasta recipe from a friend that includes a whole roasted chicken and fresh pasta. It’s super quick, simple and fresh and is ideal to serve up for a large group.
I love creating a tablescape; it is like creating a mini design installation for the meal to be centred around. I enjoy exploring varying heights and volumes and presenting contrasting materials to add textural interest. I like to step away from the standard uses of vases, dishes, and bowls, and use them to display objects in an unconventional way. For example, filling a champagne bowl with a vibrant floral display. Of course, lighting is everything, it sets the mood to a space – adorning a table setting with a variety of candles in varying heights will create an elegant ambience.
W*: What are your favourite places in LA right now, and why?
KW: LA has a special place in my heart. I recently guest-edited the Louis Vuitton City Guide for Los Angeles – which is a dream pairing of one of my favourite fashion houses and my home city. One of my favourite places right now is the Downtown LA Proper, which my studio designed in a historic California Renaissance Revival building. The rooftop restaurant Cara Cara has incredible views of the city and it’s really special to go and enjoy a meal there with my family and friends. Of course, I love shopping so I have some go-to spots such as The Webster, which retails my favourite fashion brands in a David Adjaye-designed store. For contemporary and vintage furniture I like The Window, Garde, Joel Chen’s expansive vintage store JF Chen, and Den, a showroom specialising in restoring 20th-century furniture.
W*: Where are you finding inspiration these days?
KW: I find inspiration from a variety of sources: fashion, art, architecture, nature, photography, travel, social media. I have found social media to be such a powerful tool when sourcing inspiration. I regularly engage with my community on Instagram, Pinterest, Tik Tok and Twitter. The amazing aspect of social media is the incredibly diverse range of voices you can be exposed to; truly broadening your scope of influence. I subscribe to the outlook that finding inspiration from a rich variety of sources will allow you to discover your own authentic voice, and will nurture the creation of your own signature style. For me, each new project is an invitation to embark on a fascinating and unique journey. With design, I aim to tell evocative stories that are adventurous and full of texture, pattern and colour.
W*: What’s your next big launch?
KW: I am really excited to be working on some amazing collaborations with emerging talent, presenting these exclusively on my curatorial Gallery platform. I launched this platform towards the end of last year, debuting with the launch of the ‘Quelle Fête’ series by Rotganzen. This series was composed of five limited-edition works, inspired by the city of LA and reminiscent of a melted disco ball. Most recently, I launched a new collaboration with a long-time collaborator of mine, LA-based ceramicist Morgan Peck. I have previously worked with Morgan on a range of projects, including commissioning her to create a series of custom decor pieces and site-specific installations in Downtown LA Proper hotel. This latest collaboration, ‘Contour’, features nine designs including vases, plates, candlesticks, bowls, and large-scale mirrors, all exclusively available through Gallery. I admire Morgan’s signature freehand style, and the unique amorphous designs she has created, influenced by nature, rocks, and stone formations. I am so excited to see the upcoming launches with other fantastic designers shared with my international community.
W*: You always collaborate with artisans and creatives, and last year you launched a series of new collaborations. What do you like the most about these collaborations, and how do you collaborate with these creatives?
KW: Towards the end of last year, I launched my online Gallery platform to offer a space dedicated to collaborating with emerging talent and creatives. I launched this initiative as I wanted to share the artists that inspire me most with my community around the world. These collaborations offer me the opportunity to work with a range of talent that I have always admired. One of my favourite aspects of my work is collaborating with different artists and designers, as I have the chance to expand my knowledge, pushing my creative boundaries as I learn new ways to approach craft and design. I am constantly learning and developing as a designer.
W*: What’s the last object or piece of furniture you bought?
KW: I recently bought a 1980s metal bench designed by Agenore Fabbri which has this incredible ribboned shape.
W*: What’s your most recent, favourite design or art discovery?
KW: I love the work of contemporary American artist Loie Hollowell. She creates these transcendent colourful artworks that abstract bodily forms. I also recently found this incredible unsigned painting of a woman with this bold lavender hue. It now hangs in the lobby of the Downtown LA Proper above a ‘Colina Credenza’ from my collection and against the backdrop of a hand-painted mural by LA artist Abel Macias. It really brings the vignette together.
W*: Favourite material to work with, and why?
KW: I have such a love for a range of interesting materials! I would have to say one of my favourites to work with is marble. I have a deep love for materials that echo the natural environment. Marble makes for such stunning designs, no matter the size – from a monumental central coffee table tying the room together, to a small objets d’art sitting peacefully on the mantelpiece. For example, our Malibu residence is located right on the beach, with an incredible view of the ocean. When we renovated the space, I wanted to include a terraced effect in the ground floor, leading you to the view of the ocean. We included incredible vertical structural moments made of a stunning marble; the marble has this beautiful movement reminiscent of the ocean we look out onto. Our countertops are made from a Calacatta stone, which has been honed and leathered, so it is very forgiving. These large installations of marble create the feeling reminiscent of walking on the beach.
W*: What advice would you give to the next generation of creatives?
KW: It is so important to find your own voice, which of course can seem daunting at first. Remember that design is all about storytelling; each space has a unique and inspired narrative to tell. Finding your voice is a constant journey, one I embark on every day. It is continuously carved and reshaped as you explore new countries, narratives, design eras, the list goes on… Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take risks! Sometimes it is the most beautiful decor that comes from the most unexpected pairing.
W*: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have been?
KW: An artist. I really like getting my hands dirty and experimenting!
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Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.
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