Her designs for the Viceroy hotels in Santa Monica and Palm Springs, the Eastern Columbia building in downtown L.A. and her boutique in Manhattan's Bergdorf Goodman have made Kelly Wearstler the "it" girl of Hollywood glamour interiors. She has parlayed her popularity into signature fabrics, floor coverings and home accessories, coffee-table books and her role as a scene-stealing judge on Bravo's "Top Design."
So it's somewhat unexpected to see her at Cost Plus World Market, swooning over rakes and brooms.
"These are so beautiful," she says, holding a $5.99 bamboo rake aloft. "I honestly need one, and they actually make you want to use them."
Indeed, the rakes become the inspiration for her first voyage through the cost-conscious import store at the Los Angeles Farmers Market by the Grove. Wearstler imagines a picnic on the beach and will use the rakes to create textural patterns in the sand, a high-impact way to delineate a space for entertaining.
Though she is known for a color-saturated rendition of movie-star-mansion opulence, lately Wearstler has embraced the neutral tones of natural materials such as wood, sand and stone. She describes her latest project, the forthcoming Viceroy in Miami, as "a bento box of Asian inspiration that's modern yet classical."
The World Market merchandise, which Wearstler calls "more beachy than urban," complements this design sensibility, and she quickly assembles the basics for a multicultural Malibu bash. She splurges on a statement piece -- a 4-by-6-foot rug with a black-and-white African pattern, $119, which will serve as a beach blanket tabletop -- and quickly finds box-shaped quilted chair pads, $12.99 each, for lounging. Cut off the tags and chair ties, she says, and you're set.
Wearstler recently teamed with fine linen manufacturer Sferra to produce a forthcoming spring bedding collection, and here she spots a pair of throw blankets that could serve as tablecloths or fend off a chilly breeze. One is a $29.99 acrylic herringbone in subtly colored stripes reminiscent of the Milanese fashion house Missoni's designs; the second, $34.99, has a woven texture whose pale coral and coffee colors remind Wearstler of a seashell.
In any shop you can find good designs if you spend the time to search them out, she says. "Go for the simple and understated. Bright colors and wild patterns can tend to look on the cheap side."
Wearstler applies this philosophy to place settings. She chooses white pieces from the store's Halo china collection, which has the light-reflecting spiral ridges often seen on hand-thrown ceramics. The dinner dish is $4.99; a salad plate and bowl are $3.99 each. To give them punch, she opts for napkins that are black (two for $5.98) and polka-dotted (two for $3.98) and finds woven round place mats in black, brown and beige.
"You can mix them all up," she says. "Sometimes more is more." Still, it all must somehow tie together. So, for drinks, Wearstler picks the Kalypso glass carafe, $6.99, and a matching 12-ounce tumbler (four for $11.96) wrapped in woven sea grass that complements the place mats.
"This is one all-purpose glass," Wearstler notes. "It's too much to carry and gets too fussy if you have separate ones for wine and drinks and water."
Bamboo cutlery, $6.99 for a set of eight, is a stylish and green choice.
"They are so cool and modern-looking," Wearstler says, examining the minimalist wood utensils. "Though if you are serving meat, you might want to make it pre-cut. Kebabs only."
For mood lighting, Wearstler warms to World Market's large selection of Noguchi-style lanterns, made from creamy-colored, mottled Japanese rice paper and priced from $9.99.
"These are really sexy," she says.
Still on point, Wearstler grabs kettle chips seasoned with sea salt, stacking a couple of bags in a cart so overloaded that she struggles momentarily to keep the pile from falling. At the checkout counter, she decides to get more bamboo rakes, miniature versions of the one she has been carrying.
"When you are raking sand, you need to have a variety of texture," she says seriously.
She grabs two, each $1.49. "Basically, they are free."
Well, not quite, but they will be worth every penny. "I have two sons, 5 and 6, and I am going to set them loose with these rakes on the sand," Wearstler says. "That should buy me an hour or so to get the party started."