“I don’t even know if this is West Coast,” says Kelly Wearstler, waving out toward her West Hollywood studio. For the designer who has become synonymous with the decadent and colorful, amped-up interiors that vividly represent California and the stylistic revival of Hollywood Regency, this is perhaps the boldest statement she could make.
And yet, given how visibly defining her work has been in the emergence of Los Angeles’ maximalist style—a rebuttal to “shabbychic” and stark minimalism, two polar opposite trends of the ’90s—it’s easy to see how someone, Wearstler included, might shun the pigeonhole of regional references. She regards her style simply as her own.
For more than a decade Wearstler has been a head-turning figure in the design world, not only through her work on hotels and residences, but also her multiple books, lavish pictorials that remain fixtures on marble coffee tables as much as style bibles for the trade’s aspiring neophytes. In 2007 the interior designer made her way into even more American homes as a judge on Bravo’s reality series, the competition-based Top Design. And with a newly published retrospective tome, Rhapsody (Rizzoli, $55), and a brand-new hotel project on the horizon, it’s clear there’s no such thing as “enough” for the doyenne of maximalism.
Before hearing her soft Southern drawl when she speaks, it may come as a surprise to many that Wearstler spent most of her formative years on the East Coast (perhaps another reason she demurs from associating her own deeply instilled aesthetic with any particular Californian movement), first in South Carolina, and later in Boston, where she attended the Massachusetts College of Art.
The style of her childhood home, she remembers, couldn’t have been more divergent from her own tastes. “It was country-style—so different,” she says. “Stuff was everywhere. The powder room off the living room was filled with tins and baskets and all this stuff. It was crazy.” Fortunately for Wearstler, her mother, who also worked in interior design, gave her and her sister creative freedom over their own rooms. “We could pick our own wallpaper, and we could paint it any color we wanted to. I always gravitated towards color—something that was cool, colorful, a little more modern. That’s always been my vibe.” (more…)