Smith Travel BlogTravel tales and hotel news from the boutique hotel experts at Mr & Mrs Smith

Kelly Wearstler – interior design diva: we ask the questions

Posted by Lucy Fennings on October 17th, 2008

Kelly Wearstler is the interior designer behind a considerable number of Mr & Mrs Smith’s favourite luxury boutique hotels across the pond (including the Viceroy Santa Monica and Viceroy Palm Springs hotels in California, and Tides Riviera Maya in Mexico, to name just a few). As a result, she sailed effortlessly into second slot in our Top 10: Boutique Hotel Designers feature (stylishly sandwiched between Anouska Hempel and Ilse Crawford), so we donned our best heels to catch up with the most glamorous interior designer on the block…


Interior designer Kelly Wearstler. Photo courtesy of Mark Edward HarrisWhen did you first realise you wanted to be an interior designer?

I grew up in a home that was constantly evolving, so I was always surrounded by beautiful and unusual objects, textures and colours. My mother is a closet interior designer, so my home environment was always in a state of flux; I’d come home from school and the living room would be an entirely different colour…

How vital is the decor of a hotel to you when you’re picking a place to stay for yourself?

The decor is always a consideration when I choose a particular hotel; one of my favourites is the Hotel Santa Caterina on the Amalfi Coast, Italy, where I recently stayed on a family vacation. It was such a treat, and we’re hoping to take annual vacations there.

We love that part of the world; the hotel looks charming although it’s not Mr & Mrs Smith’s usual cup of tea… Do you have any hotel hates?

The bed is the most important thing in a hotel room, so poor-quality mattresses, pillows and bed linens are a big no-no in my book.

Tides South Beach hotel in Miami: lobby designed by Kelly WearstlerI couldn’t agree more: there’s absolutely nothing worse than booking a nice hotel and ending up wishing you were in your own bed at home! Your interiors play with colour, symmetry and pattern; to us, they epitomise glamorous old-Hollywood luxe with a pinch of neo-classical deco. What do you think are the hallmarks of your design style?

My style is always evolving, so it’s impossible to pinpoint it exactly. I’m a Modernist at heart and – of course – I love all colours.

Which other designers or artists do you admire?

There are so many – right now, I’m really into unusual pieces from the 1980s, Ettore Sottsass, Milo Baughman, Wendell Castle

You did an amazing job on the Avalon Hotel in Los Angeles – so sympathetic to the mid-century modern architecture of the hotel and yet still very contemporary in feel; how did you do it?

For the Avalon, I used a selection of pieces with simple, clean lines and modern forms in a classic architectural envelope, which provided a timeless yet contemporary vibe.

La Marea restaurant at Tides South Beach MiamiOne of Smith’s criteria for picking hotels is that guests should know where they are in the world, and not feel lost in a one-size-fits-all box. How important is a sense of place to your design aesthetic?

It’s the most important thing! There’s nothing worse than staying at a hotel that offers no frame of reference to the location in which it is set.

Where’s your favourite place in the world?

I love Paris because of the amazing fashion, food, art, architecture… Whenever I travel to Paris, I always stay at the Ritz.

Tell us something we don’t know…

Nothing beats the Paris flea market!

You also designed interiors for Maison 140, the chic Parisian-style pied à terre in Beverly Hills with a distinctly Oriental streak: how different is the process of designing on an intimate scale, compared to, say, a big hotel project such as the Viceroy group?

There are more opportunities to customize each guest room with a smaller hotel. For example with Maison 140, I used many custom elements and antiques to make each room really special.

Coral Bar at Tides South Beach hotel Miami, designed by Kelly WearstlerYou always look so well-put-together (rather like your interiors for the Tides South Beach in Miami, Florida, pictured left and above); where do you source your amazing wardrobe from?

I love vintage mixed with designer. Some of my favourite labels include Lanvin, Isabel Marant, Maison Martin Margiela, J Mary, Subversive and Lena Wald jewellery, Hysteric Glamour jeans, Elisa Ferare shoes…

… and Christian Louboutin, judging from your portrait! Dita Von Teese – a fellow vintage fan and all-round glamourpuss – recently reviewed the Viceroy Santa Monica for Mr & Mrs Smith [check Dita’s review out] and declared herself ‘ab
solutely devoted’ to the hotel: ‘Refinement, elegance and tradition … the Viceroy combines the same classic old-Hollywood style with modern chic and sophistication.’ Do you ever have a particular persona or character in mind when you design? Where do you find inspiration?

Designing a hotel allows you to incorporate an element of fantasy, because guests want to experience something different from what they’re used to at home. I also draw upon the environment in which a project is set, to offer guests a piece of the place they’re visiting – but there’s a fine line, because no one likes a themed hotel.

What do you never leave home without?

My sketchbook, a camera and a tape measure.

What’s the first thing you do when you’ve checked into a hotel?



20 Responses to “Kelly Wearstler – interior design diva: we ask the questions”

  1. Very good interiors. I like it.

    By gunny

  2. I’m only familiar with Kelly Wearstler from her appearances as a judge on the “Top Design” show here in the states (where young designers compete and hopefully get a boost in their careers–kind of like Heidi Klum’s “Project Runway”). Her eclectic wardrobe is showcased to, um, interesting effect some weeks in that show, but I really enjoyed seeing some of the interiors she designed. Thanks for sharing.

    By Dominique

  3. I loved this article, as I love stylish hotels. I’m planning to re-design our master bedroom and want an elegant, romantic feel. Where do hotel designers find the gorgeous, sumptous wall-to-wall oriental carpeting that so many use in their interiors?

    By Gail Ragen

  4. I was wondering about Kelly Wearstler’s formal interior design education. Where did she go to school for her training?


    By Dawn

  5. Great article and a good insight into the interior design world!!

    By Richard

  6. @Dawn – Kelly tells us she received her BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art & Design.

    By Lucy

  7. Hmm, I see. We had a Playa del Rey interior designer redesign our home about a year ago. One of the design team, Marcella Melgar, mentioned that she came from that school too, if memory serves. So I guess they produce good interior designers.

    By James

  8. I’ve read your write up about interior designer. I’m glad that we have the same interest and passion in life. Even I, when I was just a kid I really don’t know what will be my career that I’m going to pursue. Until then,I enrolled in designing class. After that, I have realized that my passion is in designing. And now, I’m a Agoura hills interior designer.

    By franceshimes

  9. […] my niche! Since then, I’ve interviewed industry icons including Katie Lee Joel, Charlotte Moss, Kelly Wearstler, Ivanka Trump, Vicente Wolf, and Christopher and Suzanne […]

    By Luxury lifestyle

  10. She also has her own line of fabrics and wallcoverings through F. Schumacher, “House of Kwid”. Our interior design firm has used several of her fabrics in both residential and commercial projects. We have received a great response and interest.

    By Joel Snayd

  11. […] Dita’s full review of Viceroy Santa Monica (designed by another international glamourpuss, Kelly Wearstler), and check back here soon to meet another groover-shaker tastemaker from our panel of travel-savvy […]

    By Dita Von Teese

  12. Kelly Wreastler is not only an interior designer but she’s also a fashionista. She’s fearless when it comes to trying new things. In fact, her works inspires me. I am an interior designer student who wants to follow her footsteps.

    By shermaine

  13. […] Watch this space for our upcoming interviews with our top triumvirate of design queens, Anouska Hempel, Ilse Crawford and Kelly Wearstler… […]

    By Top 10: Boutique Hotel Designers | Travel Blog - Mr & Mrs Smith Boutique & Luxury Hotels

  14. I love Kelly and just featured her as a style star in my blog Just wondering, how did you score the interview?

    By fabgab

  15. Hi FabGab, Kelly was the interior designer for several of the hotels that have been hand-picked for the Mr & Mrs Smith boutique hotel collection, including the Viceroy Palm Springs, Viceroy Santa Monica, the Tides South Beach in Miami and Maison 140 in LA. We contacted her through her PR, who was happy to help.

    By Lucy

  16. Great article! I’m an interior designer and I absolutely luv Kelly Wearstler’s bold and unafraid boldness as far as design elements. There’s definitely nothing “yawn” about her interiors!

    On a side note, what’s happening with It’s been unavailable for a while now?

    By Sithabile

  17. […] of Warapuru joining the Mr & Mrs Smith hotel collection in future, as well as interviews with Kelly Wearstler and Ilse Crawford […]

    By Anouska Hempel interview

  18. Love your blog! I’m in the midst of middle life with kids but I have a dream to make an awesome bed & breakfast so I really love seeing everything you’ve explored and I’m collecting great magazine images of the rooms I love.

    By Laura

  19. I like the post. I’m a freelancer and kelly inspired me with her designs and thoughts.

    By Naufal

  20. Nice Post! Very Helpful!

    By Tyler

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