Celebrity designer Kelly Wearstler has roots in Stark County
A glamorous yet grounded star of the interior design world, with hotels, celebrity homes, coffee-table books, magazine covers and product lines to her credit, Kelly Wearstler started her life here in Canton.
She spent her early childhood in the Harter Heights neighborhood before moving with her family to Myrtle Beach when she was 7.
Her cousin, Rochelle Haas of North Canton, fondly remembers swimming with Wearstler and her sister at the Lake Cable beach as kids. “Kelly was gorgeous, even as a child, with a smile that lit up a room — and dimples,” Haas remembers. “She was always happy.”
Haas was a recent visitor at Wearstler’s sprawling Georgianstyle mansion in Beverly Hills, a house previously owned by actor William Powell and film producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.
“It was such a fun Thanksgiving, being in this beautiful house filled with kids and dogs and people,” Haas says. Extensively redesigned by Wearstler, the house is “a bit like walking through a fabulous art installation, but a lot of it is really comfy.”
Wearstler and hotelier husband Brad Korzen have two exuberant sons, Oliver, 7, and Elliott, 6. The boys have the run of the extravagantly decorated, 11,000-squarefoot place, which to them is home sweet home.
“The house is very lived in,” Wearstler’s mother, Canton native Nancy Talley, confirms. “Pictures the kids have done hang on the walls mixed in with the magnificent art collection. The kids come first for Brad and Kelly, above anything.”
Wearstler’s current dwelling is visually chronicled in her third and latest photo-filled book, titled “Hue.”
As a young girl, Wearstler said, she had a budding eye for decor. “I grew up in a home that was constantly evolving, so I was always surrounded by beautiful and unusual objects, textures and colors,” the designer says. “My mother is a closet interior designer.”
“Everything was always in a state of flux. I’d come home from school, and the dining room would be a totally new color,” Wearstler, 42, says. “Growing up in South Carolina, our house definitely had a ‘country cute’ feel, but my own bedroom was always modern, which my mother hated, but she let me experiment.”
Her mother agreed.
“I always decorated with a lot of color, and today, Kelly’s main thing is about lots and lots of color,” says her proud mother, who now lives in Massachusetts.
Wearstler earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Massachusetts College of Art, and interned with Milton Glaser Inc. in Manhattan. She moved in her mid-20s to Los Angeles, where eventually she founded her own Los Angeles-based design firm called KWID (Kelly Wearstler Interior Design) in 1994.
Her many credits include designing striking interiors for a series of in-spot hotels — the Avalon in Beverly Hills, the Viceroy in Santa Monica, the Estrella Inn in Palm Springs, the Tides in South Beach.
Her latest project is a Viceroy resort on the Caribbean island of Anguilla that is “filled with organic elements, such as driftwood lamps, petrified-wood tables and travertine marble floors,” Wearstler says. These pieces, along with textiles and techniques from around the world, offer visual contrast to the geometric lines of the architecture.
Her design approach is both eclectic and unexpected. Mid-century pieces blend with others that are more traditional or contemporary, with color and texture choices both subtle and bold, and a sliding scale of formal and fanciful.
“When I walk into a room, I want to be moved. I want to feel the drama,” she wrote in her 2004 book, “Modern Glamour.”
About designing, she says, “I’ve evolved in many ways, from my knowledge about antiquities to uses for different materials. I feel more confident, which means I’m willing to take more risks.”
Wearstler has designed wallpapers and fabrics for Schumacher, home accessories for Bergdorf Goodman, bedding and table linens for Sferra, and most recently, a dinnerware collection for Pickard china.
“The best part of my job is the design process,” she says. “I’m made for it and I love it.”
The designer’s mainstream success, which has included the cover of Town & Country magazine, profiles in The New Yorker, Vogue, Elle Decor and Food & Wine, and a spot as a judge on the Bravo series “Top Design,” is, not surprisingly, a treat for her mother.
“It’s so exciting to see Kelly in situations you really don’t think your daughter is going to be in,” Talley says.
“She’s really good friends with Jennifer Aniston and Ellen (DeGeneres). She just did Gwen Stefani’s house and Cameron Diaz’s house. To see her with those people and see her on TV is very exciting. I’m very happy and proud of her.”