Designing A Home Is Like Falling In Love, For Kelly Wearstler
Design is about telling a story for Kelly Wearstler, the award-winning, California-based interior designer. Her signature confident and eclectic look can be found in private homes and hotels around the world, or purchased via her extensive lifestyle product lines. Juxtaposing contemporary and vintage, bold textures and rich colors, much of Wearstler’s work is instinctual.
In 2021, Wearstler created a rendering for a whimsical and futuristic desert pavilion to keep the new GMC Hummer EV. And this year the designer took part in the brand’s Malibu Series campaign, exploring the car’s distinctive interiors.
You’ve said that design is “largely intuitive” for you—what does that mean practically when you approach a project? For every project there is a spark that sets the project in motion. That may come from research or sourcing materials, but there is also an emotional component that unifies everything from the beginning.
You’ve also described the design process as “a sort of falling in love over and over again,” (which I love), can you expand on that for me? When I design a home, I am designing for a person. And when I’m designing a hotel, I’m designing for a community. Each time I develop an entirely new dialogue and become deeply invested: it’s like falling in love.
Your interiors tend to incorporate diverse periods of furniture, but do you have a favourite design era and why? I don’t have a favorite design era because I can find such incredible pieces and references across all periods. I’m constantly referencing and pulling from some of the styles and eras that fascinate me—whether it’s mid-century, deco, Bauhaus or Memphis.
Interiors and spaces tell a story—what is the story you want to tell? Our interiors are at once welcoming, comfortable and familiar, while also layered with seemingly opposing elements. I hope our interiors delight, but also are complex and make people think.
What drew you to the GMC Hummer EV Malibu Series collaboration? I first worked with GMC in 2021 and already admired their supertruck as an incredible piece of architecture. The GMC HUMMER EV Malibu series allowed me to take a closer look at the design intricacies of the vehicle and explore how the design team at GMC have evolved. Plus, I got to drive the HEV through my beloved Malibu at sunset; it was perfect!
The first time you collaborated with GMC Hummer you designed a virtual garage, what practical considerations came into play when designing a virtual space? The virtual garage I created was rooted in fantasy. We wanted to challenge expectations for what a garage could be—referencing historic design tropes like mid-century modern and Brutalism, while pushing it into the future.
With the GMC Hummer project in mind, how does technology help your work, and how has it changed your design process? Designing in the virtual space begins with a blank canvas that has no limitations. This challenges us to reach into the depths of our imaginations, and it provides an opportunity to break convention. Perhaps surprisingly, it also informs our design in the real world.
What’s your approach for translating a client’s vision into a tangible space? And how do you balance the client’s wants with a desire to perhaps push a client or put your own stamp on a project? It is a true collaboration. I get to know my clients well; I respond to their needs and present them with new ideas. Generally, if someone wants to work with me, they aren’t looking for something conventional.
You’ve travelled the world for your work—what are some of the most inspiring cities or landmarks you have come across and why? Most recently, I’ve traveled throughout Mexico and Brazil. Each country has a heritage deeply rooted in art and design, with a thriving contemporary scene. Whether it is discovering a local ceramicist in Mexico City, or visiting Mendes Wood gallery in Sao Paulo, there is no shortage of compelling ideas out there.