Kelly Wearstler_Banner
Photos courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

Exclusive: Top Designer Tips & Tricks from Kelly Wearstler & A Look At Her Iconic Interior Design Portfolio

We speak exclusively to industry icon, Kelly Wearstler, about one of her most salient interior design portfolio creations and get a rare insider look at the designer tips and tricks she employed to make her vision come to life. Here is your own personal master class on how to tap the designer’s celebrated design prowess.
Gretty Garcia Jun 24, 2020
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Renowned interior designer Kelly Wearstler is known for creating multi-faceted, experiential milieus and expansive collections of coveted lifestyle products. Wearstler immediately set herself apart when she ventured onto the design scene in 2002, decorating the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. Her directional design eye filters through her artful, thespian lens, which is rooted in her love for explosions of vibrant color and glamorous, sculptural marvels. 

Internationally recognized vis-a-vis a multitude of design awards and publications, Wearstler tethers her approach to design to a reflection on a given venue’s “history, location, and architecture,” while working to push the boundaries of traditional decor paradigms and preconceived rules. Here, we speak to Kelly Wearstler, about one of her most salient interior design portfolio creations and get a rare insider look at the designer tips and tricks she employed to make her vision come to life.  Here is your own personal master class on how to tap the designer’s celebrated design prowess.

Kelly Wearstler_Story Image_2
Photos courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

What is the backstory on this project?
Santa Monica is a collection of smaller stories within the larger story of new and old coming together in a seaside city with a relaxed but sophisticated sensibility. The location, history, architecture, influences, and surrounding culture are all considered. The Santa Monica hotel is the combination of a landmark building and new contemporary architecture.  The common areas are quite large in the contemporary building so we broke them down. There’s a moody, California maritime story for the reception area with artful interpretations of iconic coastal elements. The palette is very nature-inspired, the materiality is earthy, textural, natural.

How did you begin to think about the design elements and manifesting your vision?
Design is all about telling a story and feeding that narrative through color palette, silhouettes, textures, lighting, materiality.  Like a director of a film, I am envisioning every aspect of the story and will pull all the pieces together to create a cohesive, immersive space.  What you want to feel, what you want to experience when you enter into a space.  When I initially walk through a space, I am taking it in through my own lens and creating the story in my head that will later play out in the design.   It is an intuitive process of exploration and passion.  I consider the architecture, the surrounding environment and outside views, the light quality, the history and local culture.  I wanted this project to be super authentic and organic, rich in texture and light and invitation.  A truly residential coastal vibe with a lot of layers of depth and experiential touchpoints.

Kelly Wearstler_Story Image_3
Photos courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

What was your favorite part of this project? It could be an element or an accent piece, etc.
One of my favorite parts of this project was sourcing books for The Grotto, the small library and art gallery at the hotel. We sourced books from all over, from favorite book stores such as The Strand, Hennessey + Ingalls, The Last Bookstore to 1st dibs and other online shops.  I was seeking not only to include favorite titles but also to have a thematic curation with a seaside, art and nature thread.  Some of the books are from my own collection or out of print books that I have curated over the years. I am a die-hard book lover. Art, design, landscape, graphics, fashion, beauty – every and all types of books, contemporary and vintage.  My vision for the Grotto was to create an intimate, personalized space that would replicate what you might find in someone’s long-lived-in beachside residence. A cozy living room where you could wrap yourself inside a favorite book while sipping on a leisurely cup of coffee, and dream a little. 

Design is all about telling a story and feeding that narrative through color palette, silhouettes, textures, lighting, materiality.

How could someone go about trying to replicate the feel of the project?
All of the furnishings, textiles, materials and art were hand-selected and thoughtfully considered, which gives all of the hotel spaces so much soul – as if a couple that have traveled to all corners of the globe have returned home to their luxuriously patina’ed collection of art and furnishings.  Organic, natural materials with a thread of a neutral palette and connective visual textures.  There’s so much beauty out there in vintage pieces from all different eras and contemporary furniture designs.  I am drawn to pieces that have clean, timeless lines, that incorporate a mix of authentic materiality and are highly textural.  Spend time layering, sit with pieces and take the time to add in elements without rushing to buy and fill in a space.  Local art helps tell an authentic residential story.  The most important aspect is the feeling the space gives you, the overall mood. Nothing is fussy, everything is inviting and alive.  

Gretty Garcia
Gretty Garcia handles features and special projects at Editorialist, and covers all things from exciting new releases to profiles on prolific figures across multiple industries. After studying at Harvard College, she began working at Editorialist and is now simultaneously pursuing her master’s degree from the Columbia School of Journalism. When she’s not covering this season’s must-have accessories, she’s adding to her book collection or listening to culture podcasts.
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