Cover With over a decade of experience, Kelly Wearstler crafts charming interiors with an alluring narrative Image: Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

American interior designer Kelly Wearstler shares design advice and pick out stylish furnishings and decorative pieces that she loves

American interior designer Kelly Wearstler believes in balance. “Keeping a strong balance between my personal and work life is a priority for me,” says the renowned design maven. “I credit this to keeping my head clear and focused.” 

This philosophy also rings true in her distinctive, multilayered designs, which are often marked with a soulful character and a well-executed juxtaposition of styles. “I’m always seeking contrasts—blending contemporary and classic, masculine and feminine, raw and refined.”

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Consistently ranked as one of the top few interior designers in the world, Wearstler has been crafting interiors for more than a decade. Since the launch of her eponymous global design firm, the design powerhouse has created a plethora of notable interiors across residential, commercial, and hospitality spaces from Beverly Hills to the Caribbean.

Wearstler wields a masterful narrative approach when designing each evocative space. “Design is all about storytelling; every space has a unique and inspired narrative to tell,” she says. Her colourful career also includes launching her own collection of luxury furnishings, objets d’arts, and even signature paint hues as part of a recent collaboration with British paint giant Farrow & Ball.

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Design is all about storytelling; every space has a unique and inspired narrative to tell.
Kelly Wearstler

The designer is also the first instructor to teach the interior design course on American online education platform MasterClass, which she cites as one of her most memorable points in her career so far. “I never imagined myself as a teacher, let alone having it all filmed for the first time,” says Wearstler. “This experience really pushed me to evolve in an unexpected way and that is what life is about. If you have a true passion for something, I believe you can do anything you put your heart, soul and mind into.”

Here, the stylish tastemaker shares more about her work-from-home routine and the hottest design trends to watch; she also picks out five coveted items that have caught her eye lately.

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Where do you seek design inspiration from?
Kelly Wearstler (KW) Design inspiration can be found everywhere—in photography, art, architecture, fashion, and nature. For example, a walk on the beach planted the seeds of ideas that formed a core inspiration for the coastal Santa Monica Proper Hotel.

To find inspiration and discover your own style you should explore a variety of sources. This is why I love to travel—I love to discover new cultures, new landscapes, diving first-hand into history and nature. Fashion is also a great inspiration for my design work and vice versa.

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You lead such a packed schedule daily. What are your top tips for time management?
KW My day-to-day at work can vary drastically from meeting with clients, travelling to project sites, or designing at the studio. I ensure I carve out time for myself through exercise; I start each morning with a 6 am workout, then if I have the time, I will do pilates training during lunch, which is so incredible for building strength and relieving any stress. Once the workday is done, my top priority is spending quality time with my family.

What is your work-from-home routine like?
KW Whilst working from home, I stick to my philosophy that the early bird catches the worm. I always wake up early and work out; either virtually with my trainer Andie Day, a run on the beach, or by playing tennis which is a new skill and new favorite hobby. I then have a cold plunge in the ocean or pool and a triple macchiato to sip on as I begin meetings. Sticking to this routine really helps set the tone for the rest of the day.

I stick to my philosophy that the early bird catches the worm.
Kelly Wearstler

What is one decor trend you’re currently obsessed with?
KW Working on my recent Broad Beach project highlighted to me just how much I enjoy the 50s to 70s era of interior design, particularly from California and the surrounding areas. I have always loved Los Angeles, from its natural beauty and soulful laid-back lifestyle to its evocative yet modern vibe.

From wood-panelled kitchens, sunrooms, and living spaces paired with mid-century modern furniture, the decor style evolved throughout the 50s and into the 70s; it absorbed a California blend of easy elegance and effortless luxury.

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Who are the design icons that have had the most impact on you and why?
KW A few of the more well-known designers that have had an impact on me are Ettore Sottsass and Gio Ponti because they really pushed the boundaries of the time they were living in. Designs that appeal to me the most include those that explore a clever use of materiality, a juxtaposition of styles from a range of eras, and risk-taking aesthetics.

What’s one piece of advice you have for an aspiring designer?
KW It is important to find your own voice, but this can seem daunting at first. Finding your voice is a constant journey, continuously carved and reshaped as you explore new countries, narratives, design eras; the list goes on. Don’t be afraid to take risks, sometimes the most beautiful decor comes from the most unexpected pairings.

What are some collections that you love right now?

1. Somewhere in the Multiverse by Misha Kahn

KW This bench was commissioned specifically for this space in my Beverly Hills home, made from concrete, steel, glazed earthenware, and enamel. Misha Kahn is an amazing American designer and sculptor, I’m always inspired by his ability to manipulate solid materials into such fluid and expressive pieces.

I love seeing this ultra-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. I love to push boundaries and explore juxtaposing styles.

2. Framed commission art by Jonathan Ryan

KW We commissioned this piece by Los Angeles-based artist Jonathan Ryan at the reception of the Santa Monica Proper Hotel to embody the coastline sensibility of the hotel with its tactile blend of rich pigmented colors and graphic geometry. The monolithic canvas (recreates) the earthy, raw local landscape with a material layering of sand and gravel articulated within the oil paint, producing an immersive and sensory trompe l’oeil composition.

3. Paper Pulp Chair by Thomas Barger

KW Believe it or not, this powder blue stool by Thomas Barger is made out of paper pulp. The Brooklyn-based artist uses this unusual material to produce cartoonish furniture. This triangular blue stool immediately caught my eye and was the first piece I bought from the Frieze Art Fair so it’s particularly special to me.

4. Morro Coffee Table from the Transcendence collection 2021 by Kelly Wearstler

KW The Morro Coffee Table has an unusual geometric and simple form; it is composed of a 3-sphere base and substantial-top, creating a contemporary sculptural silhouette. Made from hand-carved natural stone, the Morro Coffee Table exemplifies modernity and beauty.

5. Rarity Large Bowl from the Transcendence collection 2021 by Kelly Wearstler

KW One of my favourite pieces from the collection is the Rarity Large Bowl for its fluid form and naturally occurring variations in colour, making for a uniquely impactful statement piece. The organic shape was hand-carved by artisans, creating a mould in which the pigmented concrete could be poured. As no two will ever be alike, it makes for the perfect catchall for personal treasures.

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