design, Interviews

q&a with colour curator kelly wearstler

Stephan Julliard/Tripod Agency



Photograph: Anson Smart

Top design visionary Kelly Wearstler regularly takes on ordinary, lifeless homes and spaces and turns them into a dramatically expressive celebration of colour and style. In the August #HLNEXTLEVEL2018 issue she uses her signature instinct for drama and glamour to convert a spacious apartment in Austin, Texas – a lifeless and sterile space – into a characterful expression of modern design. 

Wearstler chats to House and Leisure's Garreth van Niekerk about colour, function and signature style.

Pick up our August #HLNEXTLEVEL2018 issue for a tour of the Austin abode.

Elevated 8m-high ceilings and sprawling vistas attracted owners Whitney Casey and Nav Sooch to this 370m² Austin, Texas apartment.

you are so bold in your use of graphics, how do you come up with such brave combinations?

So much of my design is intuitive. I love anomalies, juxtaposing materials and patterns. Not being afraid of risk and taking chances helps to build a signature style.

when do you know when a design is complete?

You just know. All of the beautiful and functional solutions to the desired programme have been accomplished – and most importantly, the client is happy.

trends you hope will die soon?

I personally do not follow trends. Their very nature makes them come and go without enough time to pay attention to them.

Taking pride of place in the living area behind a David Weeks chandelier, is the vast marble fireplace wall with its intriguing abstract oil by US artist John Williams. The serpentine sofas are covered in lambskin from United Leather and alpaca velvet from Maharam. To the left of the fireplace is an Italian floor lamp, acquired from Gary Rubinstein Antiques. The custom wallpaper by Wearstler was handpainted by Porter Teleo.

An object you would kill to own in your own home?

A Jean-Michel Basquiat.

one object you are sorry you never bought.

A set of four perfectly patinated Ubald Klug landscape sofas by De Sede.

your favourite item of clothing right now.

Balenciaga over-the-knee boots.

a fashion designer whose work you look up to?

I have two, one contemporary and one from the past: Virgil Abloh and Pierre Cardin. They both have uniquely and successfully touched many different mediums.


one thing you will never let a client convince you to do.

Curate everything from one source. Design is all about the art of curation – whether it be the architectural materials or the interior objects.

the problem with social media is…

Designs become one note. There tends to be an over-indulgence of similar styles that doesn’t allow room for individuality.

people think kelly wearstler is…but the reality is…

Maximalist…..my aesthetic is always evolving, always changing. Every project is unique and has its own calling.

if you weren’t a designer you would be?

A painter.

dream travel destination?

I'm a huge traveller and have so many places on my list to visit. Here are a few…

Vienna, Rajasthan, Tel Aviv, Seychelles, Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA – I can keep going!

number one most played track on your iTunes list?

Anything by Trippie Redd, I love hip-hop!

whose house have you dreamt of designing?

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry would be incredible.

icon of furniture design?

There are many that I love, but a few to name would be Josef Hoffmann, Ettore Sottsass, Carlo Molino and Paul Evans.

colour is…

Powerful, it evokes emotion, it is strong, sensual, luxurious and dramatic. Living without colour is like living without love.

what is the future of kelly wearstler design?

I am so grateful to be doing what I love and am passionate about. I'm always ready for my next adventure and to continue to learn and evolve as a designer. It truly is infinite – every project gets me more excited about the next one. I'm currently designing several residential projects and have three hotels opening next year.

I have many incredible partnerships in home designs – The Rug Company, Lee Jofa, Ann Sacks among them, and I'm working on several additional licensing partnerships including outdoor furniture. Our products are currently sold in over 20 countries, but we are continually looking to expand our overseas presence. We're also planning to open a new showroom in New York.

Overall I'm excited to continue to grow the brand and create unique and sophisticated interiors and products into the future.


Inspired by a motif in a scarf from Wearstler’s fashion collection, the custom wallpaper in the main bedroom was handpainted on silk by De Gournay. A large 1973 artwork by Evelyn Martin from Modern Epic Antiques in Miami continues the daring blue scheme. The stained walnut and leather bed, plush banana silk carpet from The Rug Company and tactile Torino lambskin Souffle chairs were all custom-designed by Wearstler, and the two bronze and brass tables from the ’60s are by Karl Springer. 
The dining room features a grand vintage Italian wood and brass chest, purchased at Cosulich Interiors in New York. Atop it rests an abstract Picasso artwork, twin vintage Stilnovo lamps and a bronze sculpture by French artist Alain Cantarel.