The grand exterior of a home is just a hint at the homeowner’s personal style and the design mastermind behind it. For an inside look at what’s going on behind closed doors, we asked nine talented designers at six firms how they transform a space from empty or outdated to meaningful and modern … and why they love that painstaking process.
Bob Call & Kathy Blackbird
415 S. Cedros St., Suite 120
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Design philosophy: Be authentic and listen to the client. “In each home, we try to give luxury and comfort — then add an element of surprise. In this house, it was a huge, ponytail palm tree in one corner of the living room, with branches that almost reached the ceiling.”
Best known for: An unexpected mix of custom and found pieces from around the world and an innovative use of fabrics.
What their clients want: State-of-the-art electronics in the kitchen, surround sound throughout the house, windows that disappear into the walls at the touch of a button. “Our clients also want unique spaces — whether for entertaining or meditating.”
What they like for this season: “We are excited about the gorgeous variety of outdoor furniture. There has been an amazing explosion of outdoor furniture and fabrics, giving us — and our clients — so much to choose from.”
Read More and See Some Designs by Blackbird Interiors
Christopher Gaona, Inc.
155 W. Washington Blvd., Suite 1102
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Design philosophy: “My clients have a strong aesthetic. So it’s my job to take everything they love and make it work. I do a lot of listening to find out how they live so I can design toward that.”
Best known for: Incorporating unusual vintage pieces into classic interiors; livable elegance. “I’m very into symmetry. It’s important to me that things balance out. It may not be a matching pair of lamps, but there’s a way to do something different and still have it feel right.”
What his clients want: High-tech amenities: lighting control systems, integrated audio systems, motorized drapes. “People are also more open to wallpaper. It’s too beautiful not to be. For so long, people wouldn’t touch it. Now they can’t get enough of it.”
What he loves for this season: Good art, intimate lighting, the Art Deco period, Lucite, sheers, open kitchen shelving, real furniture in the bathroom, and outdoor furniture with dry-fast foam and Sunbrella fabric that gives the look of formal seating but can be hosed off by the gardener.
Read More and See Some Designs by Christopher Gaona, Inc.
Michelle Pastor & Christopher Kennedy
Christopher Kennedy Design
1492 East Baristo Road
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Design philosophy: “Designing a home should be a joy — a chance to dream; an opportunity to explore who we are and how we live. For many of our clients, it’s a rare occasion to express their creativity. We want to get personal with the client and have them in mind at all times.”
Best known for: Helping clients achieve their own desired look and develop their signature style. “We are not known for cramming a lot into a space. We take a lot of time and care finding the right pieces. We want everything in a home to be hand-picked and special and have meaning.”
What their clients want: As frequent travelers, many are borrowing ideas from hotels or places they have visited. “When we design a master suite, we want our clients to feel they are walking into the best room at their favorite luxury hotel.”
What they like for this season: The 1970s, because they can be retro and futuristic simultaneously. “We’re also seeing a resurgence of things that were once considered dated or fussy — like textured or graphic-print wallpaper and ripple-fold draperies. We love to drape an entire wall, floor to ceiling. It keeps out desert heat and gives any room a comforting, cocoon-like feeling, which helps to soften a modern interior.”
Greg Wolfson Interiors
960 Deepwell Rd.
Palm Springs, CA 92264
Design philosophy: Everyone should be able to afford a designer. “And each room has to be really comfortable, really thought through, and really finished. No style is wrong, as long as you finish it.”
Best known for: Fresh Prince of Bel Air set decoration and 15 years of experience decorating sets for television and film.
What his clients want: Fast, finished, all-inclusive design that’s “modern without being childish.” A popular must-have is the surfboard coffee table from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
What he likes for this season: Color saturation, especially golds. “Color is part of showing people how warm and comfortable modern design can be.”
Daniel Wright & Tim Clark
125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite 203
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Design philosophy: There’s got to be a sense of humor to a home. “And clients should never talk themselves into something, or let a designer talk them into it. If you see something, you either like it or you don’t. There’s no thinking about it. If you don’t like it, let’s eliminate it and get on to something that you do like.”
Best known for: A bold use of color, dramatic interiors with a splash of the unexpected, and a signature “funky elegance.”
What their clients want: Emilio Pucci fabric chairs, white patent leather slipper chairs, prints by Shag, and almost any piece from the new Phyllis Morris showroom in L.A. “We’ve been hearing requests for the old poodle lamps she started her business with in the 1950s, but clients are also into Jonathan Adler’s all-white pottery pieces like Muse collection vases.”
What they love for this season: Inspiration from 1930s and 1940s movie sets à la Top Hat.
Mark Nichols Modern Interiors
1502 E. Baristo Rd.
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Design philosophy: “When we create beauty in our interior environment, delight arises. My interiors offer an alternative to the egocentric modern desert style that attempts to trump the natural landscape rather than pay homage to it.”
Best known for: Choosing pure geometric forms for their clarity and functionality. “I create interiors that complement the modern architectural structure by gravitating toward light and warm backgrounds.
I accent those with splashes of color in art and accessories.”
What his clients want: Comfort. “They tend to be attracted to the clean lines of contemporary architecture and furnishings, but, as they say, ‘It has to be comfortable.’ That’s never a problem with the contemporary furniture lines that I favor or the designs I create.”
What he loves for this season: “The same as what I love for any season: striving to make a positive and long-lasting impact on my client’s quality of life.” A favorite item is the new natural fiber rugs made of aloe, hemp, silk, or flax juxtaposed beneath flat-finished upholstery. “That to me is ecomodern.”