Design is about telling a story for award-winning California-based interior designer Kelly Wearstler. Her confident and eclectic look can be found in private homes and hotels around the world, or purchased through her extensive lifestyle product lines. Juxtaposing contemporary and vintage, bold textures and rich colors, much of Wearstler’s work is instinctive.
In 2021, Wearstler created a rendering for a whimsical and futuristic desert pavilion to guard the new GMC Hummer EV. And this year, the designer took part in the brand’s fair Malibu Series countryside, exploring the car’s distinctive interiors.
You said that design is “largely intuitive” for you, what does this mean in practice when you approach a project? For every project, there is a spark that sets the project in motion. It can come from research or sourcing materials, but there is also an emotional component that unifies everything from the start.
You also described the design process as “kind of falling in love over and over again” (which I love), can you tell me more about that? When I design a house, I design for a person. And when I design a hotel, I design for a community. Each time, I develop an entirely new dialogue and I invest myself deeply: it’s like falling in love.
Your interiors tend to incorporate various periods of furniture, but do you have a favorite design era and why? I don’t have a favorite design era because I can find amazing pieces and references across all eras. I constantly reference and draw inspiration from some of the styles and eras that fascinate me, be it 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 being layered with seemingly opposing elements. I hope our interiors will appeal, but are also intricate and thought provoking.
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 vehicle’s design intricacies and explore the evolution of the GMC design team. Plus, I was able to drive the HEV through my beloved Malibu at sunset; it was perfect!
When you first 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 of what a garage could be, referencing historic design tropes like mid-century modernism 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 virtual space starts with a blank canvas without limits. It challenges us to reach the depths of our imagination and gives us the opportunity to break convention. Perhaps surprisingly, this also informs our design in the real world.
What is your approach to translating a client’s vision into a tangible space? And how do you balance the desires of the client with the desire to push a client or put your own stamp on a project? It’s a real collaboration. I get to know my clients well; I respond to their needs and introduce them to new ideas. Generally, if someone wants to work with me, they are not looking for something conventional.
You have traveled the world for your work. What are the most inspiring cities or monuments you have encountered and why? More recently, I traveled through Mexico and Brazil. Each country has a deeply rooted heritage in art and design, with a thriving contemporary scene. Whether it’s discovering a local ceramist in Mexico City or visiting the Mendes Wood Gallery in Sao Paulo, there’s no shortage of compelling ideas.