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Straight From the Hip | Kelly Wearstler's L.A. Style

Kelly Wearstler, one of Los Angeles's hippest interior designers, shares cheeky ideas for giving parties with unexpected style—from setting a great table to dining atop a swimming pool.

Interior designer Kelly Wearstler, who recently published the book "Modern Glamour: The Art of Unexpected Style," is known for ideas that are bold, bright and fun. At Avalon, Maison 140 and Viceroy, the Los Angeles-area hotels she's collaborated on with her husband, real estate developer Brad Korzen, she juxtaposes apple-green chairs and houndstooth wallpaper, for example, and places toile-upholstered furniture near Asian-style mirrors. Here Wearstler talks about how she applies her colorful, cheeky style to entertaining.

How do you do your invitations?
I always send out a formal invitation, even to a small party. I'll usually go to this place in Beverly Hills, William Ernest Brown, because they offer a wide variety of styles and their turnaround time is quick (442 N. CanonDr.; 310-278-5620). They printed my wedding invitation and are doing the invitation to my husband's 40th birthday party.

What are your favorite cocktails and wines?
I love mojitos, especially the ones at The Ivy (113 N. Robertson Blvd.; 310-274-8303)—they're yummy, though loaded with sugar. When I was pregnant, I couldn't wait to have the baby so I could go and get a mojito. I'm a fan of Syrahs, like Penfolds Grange from Australia, and wines that are mostly Syrah, like the RC Reserve from Niebaum-Coppola in Napa.

How do you set your table for parties?
I mostly use Haviland's "Botticelli" pattern by François Lesage (from $590 for a five-piece place setting; 800-793-7106), which is white and gold, but I'll mix it with other patterns, like Haviland's "Oasis," which has a pale green band with gold detailing (from $550). And I'll use my gold-accented flatware, Christofle's "Marly" ($1,365 for a five-piece place setting; 877-PAVILLON). Sometimes I'll mix in coral plates or use silver. It's all about what balances out and looks good on the table.

What books do you keep out on your coffee table?
Beautiful ones, like John Rawlings: 30 Years in Vogue by Kohle Yohannan and Verdura by Patricia Corbett.

Do you prefer plated meals or buffet?
I'll do plated for most of the courses, but I like to end with a dessert buffet. I'll make some desserts and buy others, like the pecan pie from Urth Caffé, one of the best I've ever had (8565 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 310-659-0628). I always include something chocolate, like the espresso-chocolate chip ice cream from Bonnie and Clyde's Dessertery (9113 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-278-0773). I put the ice cream out in a big container of ice to keep it cold.

Where do you like to travel?
"Thailand—we'll go to Bangkok and then do the mountains in Chiang Mai and the beach in Phuket. We always stay at Amanpuri in Phuket—I love their cold seafood salads with pomelo."

What music do you play at parties?
I'll hire a violinist to play during cocktail hour. Then during dinner, I'll put on CDs, like the soundtrack from the movie Amélie. It's almost all instrumental, so it's great for background music. It makes me feel like I'm in Europe on vacation. When I serve more exotic food, I play something from the singer Cesaria Evora, who's from Cape Verde; her music has a mix of Portuguese and African influences.

What do you wear at parties?
I always dress up—there's something so nice about getting all dolled up. My favorite designers are Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney and Dolce & Gabbana. And I love Christian Louboutin shoes—he makes superhigh heels that are still comfortable.

How do you inject some fun into a party?
I'll embroider guests' names on chair slipcovers or napkins, which they can bring home. For something more dramatic, I'll put the table over the swimming pool—I've had a Lucite cover custom made for the pool, so it's like you're eating on water. And for a very luxurious party, I'll hire someone to do reflexology on guests' feet in a cabana filled with candles and lots of pillows for lounging.

What do you like to use as a centerpiece?
I love a mix of cherry blossoms and flowering quince branches—a light, loose arrangement. I often use an L.A. floral-design company called Sticks and Stones Design Studio (310-385-8616). Sometimes instead of flowers I'll put a sculpture on the table—it's more glamorous and unexpected. One of my favorites is a pair of large porcelain parrots I found in a Palm Springs antiques shop. I like to think they flew there to get warm. I also have these nickel seagulls with really long legs. People can still see each other and talk through the legs.

How do you make your dining room look different from one party to the next?
Try covering the table with mirrors to reflect candlelight. I use 12-inch-square mirror tiles laid down next to each other, which look better than having one long strip because the borders break up the reflection (from $15 at Campbell Custom Glass, 4845 Exposition Blvd.; 323-735-0021). You can also use colored mirrors—I've tried pink, which made everyone's skin look rosy, as if they'd gotten a tan.

Published May 2004
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