Designer and trendsetter Kelly Wearstler joins the weekly chat | Home Front

Dec 13, 2012

Kelly Wearstler is an interior designer and fashion designer who is known for balancing old Hollywood glamour with west coast cool. She served as a judge on Bravo's Top Design and in October, released her fourth design book, Chromatic Rhapsody ($55, Rizzoli). The tome offers a look into Wearstler's world, profiling her latest residential projects and hotels, as well as her creative process.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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We have an exciting guest today - Kelly Wearstler - who has gotten up early in LA to join us on our chat. Kelly is an interior designer who has rocked the profession with her amazing sense of modern luxury.  Her own fashions are now sold at Bergdorf's and she has served as a judge on Bravo's Top Design. She lives in Beverly Hills with her husband and two sons. Her new book is Rhapsody for Rizzoli. Let's go! I'll take the questions about how to remove rust stains from your sink and she'll take the glamorous ones!

I would like to have your opinion about painting ceilings the same color as walls. I am not talking about dark colors, but certainly not white or neutral colors. Say mid-range colors. My ceilings are only 8 feet tall if that matters. I would like to try it, but since ceilings are such a pain to paint I certainly don't want to paint them twice if I don't like it. What are your general design rules for this. Any rooms it works better in then others? Thank you.

Hi! I love painting ceilings in a high gloss color, it adds such depth to any room. 

I inherited a Kincaid dining room set in a traditional style light cherry finish and was looking for two to four more side chairs that could complement it. The existing chairs are in a splat back queen Anne style with a cream colored upholstered seat. Do you have any ideas?

Are you looking to match the chairs exactly or just something that complements what you have? Extra chairs are really plentiful at used furniture stores and thrift shops. You could also check on eBay for Kincaid chairs that might be similar to yours in the same wood. Mixing and matching is cool and as long as you do the seats in the same fabric it should look fine.

Hi Kelly! Thanks for joining us! I love your fashion designs and your style but I REALLY love your interiors. They're effortlessly cool. I'm wondering what your methods are when you approach a space and start shopping? Do you thrift? Do you custom-design a lot of the pieces? If we were to go out shopping with the same approach you take to a space, how would we begin?

Hi! Every project is always different, but always catered individually to each client. I like to do an architectural build out of every space as well, and that includes millwork, so I really do start with a blank canvas. As far as shopping goes, I'm constantly sourcing and looking for inspiration. I take thousands of photos of antiques, art, fashion and furniture that inspire me for each project. And that includes taking photos of business cards from obscure shops around the world — they act as my visual file. 

Hi Kelly! For those of us who've followed you for several years, there seems to be a gradual evolution taking place in your personal style, i.e., less photographs in glamorous gowns and more of you looking relaxed in blue jeans with a bit of edge. Can you explain your style evolution and how it has influenced your approach to both interior and fashion design?

I love to be comfortable, but still chic. And I love mixing pieces that are both raw and refined — so that may mean a pair of perfect-fitting jeans, a leather motorcycle jacket from my collection and a pair of killer Balenciaga booties that add some fashion drama. As my workdays have gotten more intense, the value of comfort and ease in my clothes has gotten higher. Plus as my boys have gotten older, I spend more time at the hockey rink! 

I have to decide soon what to do about my kitchen countertops. My cabinets are natural oak, the appliances are stainless stell, though the electric cooktop is black and the floors are dark hardwoods. The walls are white and the look is modern. I can't decide whether to go with black granite or white quartz so...the dilemma is whether to go dark or light. My kitchen is long and narrow. I need help!!! Thanks so much.

I think white is very chic and looks more stylish right now than going brown or black. A white honed marble, Ceasarstone or Corian counter always looked clean and fresh and will brighten and lighten your space.

I LOVE your dresses for Bergdorf's and the jewelry. What other products are you going to introduce in 2013?

Thank you! There are so many exciting products in the works. I have new wall coverings coming out with Lee Jofa, which I haven't done in about six years. New china patterns will launch with Pickard, plus I'll be redesigning my blog and website and I'm always introducing new home products. 

Am seeing a lot of skinny jeans in stores. Are women wearing skinning jeans a lot? Are bootcut jeans still in. Seems that bootcut looks better on women's legs.

I love a great pair of skinny jeans and how they make legs look — which is skinny! 

I need a really good humidifier. Really good. My bronchitis does not like the switch to dry air. I am running a single room one now and it just doesn't get the job done. I'm in a large one bedroom apartment (1000 square feet). Any recommendations from the group? I'd rather buy one really good one than have to mess around with several. My lungs thank you in advance.

Wow. That is a really good question. I guess if you live in a one bedroom apartment or condo you can't put a humidifier on your furnace, which is what I have done and it has made a huge difference in our house. I have heard that the Air-O-Swiss made humidifiers are very good.  Do any of you have recommendations?

If you were chosen to redecorate the White House, what would you do?

I'd paint it something other than white! 

Love your work, your books and your style. Do you ever see yourself doing a collection for someone like Target? It seems all major designers are collaborating with mass-market retailers these days. 

I can't say what the future has in store, but Target does some awesome collaborations, including the one they just did with Neiman Marcus. It was so rad.  

All of the Home Front guests get asked this question, but it really is the most interesting one! What are some of your all-time favorite paint colors?

Picking a favorite paint color is like picking a favorite child — I can't do it, I love color so much. But two of my favorite paint companies are Pratt & Lambert and Sydney Harbour. 

What you said about recording design inspirations via photos is so interesting. What software or system do you use to tag and organize them so that you can access them later? Signed, compulsive picture taker.

I just use iPhoto on my computer! I'm constantly downloading from my camera and clearing space so I can keep shooting. 

Jura, how do you go about selecting chat guests each week? The selection is interesting and I always look forward to who will be next. Wondering if you've got a system to choosing them?

What an interesting question. We have never been asked that. I try to get people who are doing interesting things in the design world and be timely about it. Recently, I've been lucky enough to have some top interior designers who have written books that came out this fall, including Barbara Barry, Miles Redd and the Novogratz. I also had Darryl Carter who not only wrote a book but opened a DC design boutique. I would like to get more retailers to chat with us next year and maybe some architects or remodelers. Any ideas? Send them on! Thanks as always for being with us.

Your statement accessories for home -- they're like retail art -- are some of my favorite collectibles. How do you come up with them? The gold legs were just brilliant. I saw them on design blogs everywhere. So curious what your process is and where you find inspiration from.

Thank you so much! I'm inspired by everything around me — I was at the PV Fabric Show in Paris a few months ago and that provided endless inspiration for striking colors and bold patterns. I love luxe materials such as raw stones and brass, but I like to combine them in ways that are whimsical. 

Hi Kelly! Love your style. How did you get into fashion and interior design? Have read so much about your lines and tastes, but would love to know more about where your inspiration and training came from. It's deliciously unique.

I've always loved design, and have been taking art classes since I was a kid. And I went to the Massachusetts College of Art. If I wasn't a designer, I'd be a painter. I realized I wanted to be in design when it felt like my art classes were going by too fast. 

Any suggestions of personal gifts to get for an interior designer? My sister whom you think wouldn't be that much of a challenge, I am stumped as to what to get her mainly because she has her second home on the b&b circuit and I don't want what I give her to be used by the b&b guests so it has to be something for her. help!

My nLuxe Flora Throw is made from soft, beautiful Aplaca and is a great gift for the design-minded.,default,pd.html?dwvar_HF12AL86150_color=1&start=46&productTemplate=product%2fproduct&cgid=58

This question is for Kelly (although Jura is also welcome to answer) - if I want the glamour/west coast look that Kelly is famous for, where do I start? Do I do one room? Or do I make one small change everywhere (or in several rooms)? Thanx!

Start with some chairs — they're like jewelry to a room! 

Jura: I follow you on twitter and noticed that this past declutter Sunday you threw out your old magazines. I have stacks and stacks of old magazines. I recognize that I am never going to be an adventurous traveler and so am content to throw out those National Geographic Adventure Travel magazines even though the magazine no longer exists. But Southern Accents doesn't exist anymore so how can I throw out those beautiful magazines. At least the Verandas can go since I have the big Houses of Veranda.

Thrilled that you follow my #DeclutterSunday tweets weekly. They have definitely forced me to get better organized around my own place. I did recycle a lot of magazines, including some I never read. Horrors. But I think you gotta realize that you'll never have the time to read everything you want and  new ones arrive weekly! I don't think it makes sense to save magazines unless you really use them as references for your work or just your inspiration. If you save them, try and stack them up neatly or put them in attractive magazine holders. Otherwise, there are plenty of organizations that could benefit from your mags, including hospitals, retirement homes, etc. I know it's hard to throw out such beautiful photography, etc. but we just can't keep everything.

I bought the MoistAir 12 gallon from the Allergy Club catalog and have been using it for the last 3 years. It has cut down on dust in the house and helps us breathe better. It's good for up to 2500 sq. ft. but they have a lot of humidifiers for any kind of space.


Hi Kelly! Thanks for chatting. Have you ever done a project in D.C.?? Wondering what your favorite hotels, stores, and restaurants are around here!

I love DC and need to explore it much more. I would love to do a project there in the future! 

Kelly, love your work. What are your tips for giving easy and inexpensive updates to spaces?


Hi all, We have a carpenter who is doing a lot of work in our kitchen. He is an employee of the kitchen design/build company. Do we "tip" him at the end of the job? We didn't tip the designer or any of the other employees, but this man has been in our house for weeks, so it feels more personal. What is the norm in this situation? Thanks.

I might give him a nice holiday gift such as some cookies or baked goods or gift card to a restaurant  since he has almost been part of your family!!

Kelly , Checked out your website - beautiful. Can you give us east coasters some fresh new accessory ideas for home and human? What are you seeing for spring?

Thank you! For spring I'm seeing some really awesome electronics — like computer screens that go underneath kitchen counters. General Electric is doing this really well. 

It was wonderful to have you on the chat, Kelly,  and thanks so much for doing it! We look forward to following your work in 2013! Now, it's time for a break here in Chat World. There will be no chats on Dec 20 or 27 so everyone (especially moi) can celebrate the the holiday season and do what they gotta do. So happy holidays and see you on January 3. I think I'll book a professional organizer, don't you think? All the best for 2013.

In This Chat
Kelly Wearstler
Kelly Wearstler is an interior designer and fashion designer who is known for balancing old Hollywood glamour with west coast cool. She served as a judge on Bravo's Top Design and in October, released her fourth design book, Chromatic Rhapsody ($55, Rizzoli). The tome offers a look into Wearstler's world, profiling her latest residential projects and hotels, as well as her creative process. She'll be online to chat with readers on Thursday at 11 a.m., EST!
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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