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A touch of la-la land glam from A-list interior designer Kelly Wearstler

Becky Sunshine

The A-list’s go-to interior designer Kelly Wearstler gives the golden age of Hollywood a modern makeover. 

US interior designer Kelly Wearstler has pretty much achieved guru status. Having set up her LA studio in 1995, she’s since designed the homes of the Hollywood and New York elite, along with boutique hotels around the world, and has her own line of furniture, lighting, wallpaper and accessories.

She’s won endless awards and is also known for her effortlessly cool personal style – she is 51, a mother of two and looks incredible. 

Her aesthetic is hard to pin down, but if we had to attribute one style to her, it would be the deliciously maximalist Hollywood Regency look. Think touches of art deco, a bit of modernism, and a good deal of glamour.

Although it’s a decidedly American approach, some of the UK’s most influential interior  designers, Abigail Ahern among them, have been inspired by  Kelly’s work. And anyone who has bought a marble table, a velvet chair or a cocktail trolley in recent years might have been too, whether or not they know it. 

Here are a few Wearstler trends that have reached our shores and our homes – and her tips on how to get them right.

Kelly Wearstler Credit: Nick Hudson

Keep it luxe

While each interior feels unique, Kelly definitely has some go-to materials. One is marble: covering large areas of flooring, a countertop or just a discreet side table. So why does she love it so much?

‘Mother Nature,’ she says. ‘It’s imperfectly perfect – I really don’t like things that are too perfect.’

Graphic shapes and contrasting colours deployed by Kelly in a private home

As for soft-furnishing fabrics, velvet has been a long-time favourite. ‘I love silk velvet or a raw velvet, but lately I’m so into mohair,’ she says. ‘It is super-durable, plush, thick and incredibly comfortable and forgiving.’ 

Mixed metals

Thought silver and gold didn’t go together?

The rule, according to Kelly, is that there are no rules. ‘In the studio we might put different fabrics and metals on a tray and then realise how cool they look together,’ she explains. ‘If I have nickel or chrome hardware, does that mean I can’t have brass anywhere? Well, that’s just not true. Anything can go.’

Kelly's design for the restaurant at the San Francisco Proper Hotel

She also likes to mix up polished and raw textures. ‘If you use something shiny, like a glass table or marble surface, near wood that’s been wire-brushed, it creates a beautiful visual tension,’ she says.

Colour, colour and more colour

Flick through Kelly’s new book, Evocative Style, and you quickly realise there’s no such thing as  a signature Wearstler palette. What connects each of her projects is confident colour, bold patterns and layers of texture.

It might mean a vibrant wallpaper matched with a patterned carpet and chairs in different shades; at her own home in  Beverly Hills, it’s about black and white, geometric patterns and perfectly placed art.

‘To me, white and ivory, graphite and black are colours too – I really do love all of them,’ she says.

Interesting texture, provided by linen wallpaper in this home, is a key element of Kelly's aesthetic

Across the eras

Some might say art deco is Kelly’s era of choice, but she would disagree. ‘I had a professor who once told me that you have to know history to be a good designer,’ she says. ‘You really do. You can’t just go to Instagram and look at new stuff. You have to look at history and then establish your own voice, to break out of the mould. I love so much from every decade – the ’70s and the ’80s particularly, Bauhaus too. I would say I’m a modernist at heart.’ 

The kitchen in Kelly’s own home in Beverly Hills shows how she makes mixed metals work, featuring stainless-steel cabinetry with a brass trim

Add a unique touch

Kelly has a deft touch when it comes to mixing vintage with contemporary.

‘I go to flea markets, galleries, vintage fairs,’ she says. ‘I’ll spot an anomaly, something unique, and I’ll buy it because I know I will find the perfect place for it. I find art at flea markets too. There are so many great artists that maybe were never discovered – and they can be just as fabulous as  a big-name painter. It’s really about what moves you and makes you happy.’

Coloured marble instantly adds a glamorous edge to an interior

Cocktail o’clock

If we could attribute a signature piece of furniture to Kelly, it would probably be a bar, cocktail cabinet or trolley.

‘Most people have bottles of spirits at home, but not everyone has room for a full bar,’ she says.

A cabinet or bar cart keeps it all in one place, and gives a sense of theatre. ‘It’s something for when friends come over, and everyone’s happy. It’s about bringing people together in your own environment, and creating an experience.’

Get the  look

Leaf platter, £27, Bordallo Pinheiro (arket.com)

Leaf platter, £27,  Bordallo Pinheiro

Velvet sofa in Smoke Green, £1,295, Mink Interiors (minkinteriors.com)

Velvet sofa in Smoke Green, £1,295, Mink Interiors

Odyssey cocktail trolley, £299, Atkin & Thyme (atkinandthyme.co.uk)

Odyssey cocktail trolley, £299, Atkin & Thyme

Marble Fragment wallpaper, £152 per metre, Mineheart (mineheart.com)

Marble Fragment wallpaper, £152 per metre, Mineheart

Esmeralda marble side table, £420, Sweetpea & Willow (sweetpeaandwillow.com) 

Esmeralda marble side table, £420, Sweetpea & Willow