Kelly Wearstler talks to Travis Neighbor Ward

B is for Bergdorf. Kelly Wearstler, the interior design world’s “it” girl, has opened shop. 

By Travis Neighbor Ward

No one epitomizes glam décor like Kelly Wearstler, the only interior designer able to mix brass elephants with bold geometric rugs and still have it look sexy. But while some Wearstler fans content themselves by poring over her books (Domicilium Decoratus and Modern Glamour) and watching reruns of her on Bravo TV’s reality show Top Design, others are gearing up for a pilgrimage to her latest venture: The Kelly Wearstler Boutique, a 250-square-foot chic shopping mecca on the seventh floor of Bergdorf Goodman in New York. The shop opened a few weeks ago and is Wearstler’s first boutique, and a happy addition to the BG Restaurant, which she also designed in the same building. Between that, her eponymous firm, her residential and hotel design projects, and second retail rug collection that debuts early next year with The Rug Company, Wearstler’s plate is full. We caught up with her on the road to get the low-down on her style, projects and family time.

Travis Neighbor Ward: What are you working on now?

Kelly Wearstler: We’re doing The Tides Hotel in South Beach, in Miami, which will be done in November or December. The Viceroy Icon Brickell in Miami and The Viceroy Anguilla. [The latter is] going to be modern but very accessible and organic, five stars. There’s a 15,000-square-foot spa and restaurant. Also two hotels in Mexico, in the Mayan Riviera [the Tides Playa del Carmen and the Viceroy Mayakoba]. And that’s enough.

What are you looking out for these days?

Whatever I see and I’m taken aback by. It’s all over, it varies. It could be glass, metal, marble or parchment. It’s really the form and the material, and the color that excites me. And that’s one of the reasons I’m doing the shop in Bergdorf Goodman.

But you know, you’ve got to let them be kids. They’re more precious than the furniture.Kelly Wearstler

Do you ever shop on Ebay?

I’ve never been on eBay, believe it or not. Unfortunately I don’t have time because I know there’s, like, so much stuff. But I do shop on Because it’s all great quality furniture and you don’t have to sift through so much. I do a ton of shopping via auction catalog, and I do things on absentee bid. I get a ton of furniture through that. When we travel with my family, we go where I can take two days and go shopping. Because we’re designing these hotels and spaces, and it takes so much time that the furniture part of it is just like the last thing.

Are there any colors you don’t like designing with?

I love every color.

You and your husband [hotelier Brad Korzen] have two sons, ages 3 and 5. How do you achieve your glam look at home and still make it low-maintenance?

They’re well-trained. Food and drinks stay in the kitchen. Period. They jump on the sofa and they jump on the bed and stuff. But you know, you’ve got to let them be kids. They’re more precious than the furniture. So, if something’s damaged I don’t freak out, I just fix it.

In your book Domicilium Decoratus, you’re lounging in couture gowns a lot at home. Do you really do that? Or is that a message to readers?

The message is have fun! It was really more of a spoof because I’m so casual. I work like there’s no tomorrow, I have two boys and I’m constantly busy and running around… You can’t get too serious about it.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I’m with my family. We go hiking together and bike riding. We love going to Mexico, because it’s totally a great place to go and just relax. And we also love taking adventures. We went to South America, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile. We’ve been to Japan, France, Turkey, Morocco. Everywhere.

You’ve mentioned the late designer Dorothy Draper as inspiration. What inspires you about her work?

I think her stuff was modern, but there was a sense of tradition. And for her era she was such a risk-taker, and I think that’s the most important thing. She was unbelievable for her generation.

What other past designers inspire you?

David Hicks and California designer Michael Taylor. His work was very simple, modern and really powerful.

What do you think about mixing styles in a home?

We just bought a Georgian house from 1926. There’s so much paneling that’s classical and if I put a bunch of period furniture in it, it would look like my grandparents live there. There has to be a contrast. It’s like if you buy all your clothes at the same store: It ends up looking a little boring and serious. But I think if you mix different periods and materials, and create these interesting dialogues with the furniture, it creates a much more beautiful product in the end. And if you find a great period chair, don’t put a heavy tapestry on it. Put a great leather in a great color, and make it feel a little more fresh.

The Kelly Wearstler Boutique, 800.558.1855 or

Published in The Atlantan magazine, November 2007.

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