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In new book, designer Kerry Joyce shares tips on using garden views and candlelight

In new book, designer Kerry Joyce shares tips on using garden views and candlelight
Interior designer Kerry Joyce designed the family room of this 1930 Spanish Revival house in Santa Monica with casual family use in mind. In his new book "The Intangible," Joyce shares his design process of more than 30 years. (Magnus Marding)

He has designed furniture, textiles and rugs. He has conceived homes and crafted warm, elegant interiors. He’s even won an Emmy for set decoration.

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Not bad for someone who visited Los Angeles on vacation and ended up landing a job on the “Tony Orlando and Dawn” variety show.

“It was supposed to be a two-week tryout,” Kerry Joyce says. “I had never driven before I came here. [The series] was picked up, and two years later I found myself living in Los Angeles permanently.”

Now, with the release of his first book “Kerry Joyce: The Intangible” (Pointed Leaf Press, $90), the Los Angeles-based interior designer adds author to his list of accomplishments. “I wanted to preserve my work as a whole,” Joyce says of the eight homes that are featured in the large-format book. “My interior designs may be fleeting, but it’s nice to have created something that has a sense of permanency.”

We spoke with Joyce for this Q&A and asked about his process and what that Emmy-winning set looked like.

Kerry Joyce holds a silkscreen for "Totem" fabric, a collaboration with ceramicist Heather Rosenman.
Kerry Joyce holds a silkscreen for "Totem" fabric, a collaboration with ceramicist Heather Rosenman. (Antoine Bootz)

Your living areas are user-friendly with multiple places to lounge. Do you put a lot of thought into socializing?

I always think about how people are going to entertain. You want to have different areas for your friends. My rooms become complete when they are occupied. I know it sounds trite, but when I see my clients in their homes for the first time, it makes me happy.

Windows are an integral part of your designs. You describe it in the book as a “glimpse of green.” Talk us through that process.

You want a sense of the outdoors and the garden when you enter a room, even if it’s not vast or satisfying. It pulls nature into the room. In California especially, you want to be surrounded by nature. I’m always thinking about how to exploit nature. Sometimes, I’ll install a huge topiary hedge box to block out neighbors and add a sense of tranquility. I also do a lot of planting outside of windows.

A quartet of green velvet chairs, paired with a vintage French coffee table give the library in this Santa Monica home a club-like feel.
A quartet of green velvet chairs, paired with a vintage French coffee table give the library in this Santa Monica home a club-like feel. (Magnus Marding)

Do you design rooms around art? Or the other way around?

I don’t. But I do make sure that there are art walls.There should be one major wall to take a piece of art. I usually put mirrors over fireplaces in order to have control of the fireplace. Mirrors reflect light which is great in townhouses that can be very dark.

How do you feel about trends? Do you follow them?

The only trend I follow is the fact that the world is turning eclectic. I’ve softened my stance on keeping to a certain style. The role of designer and client-as-collector adds a good feeling to a house. It makes a home feel like it belongs to the client, which is the way it should be. You want your clients to love their house, but you need to understand them to do that.

Details are clearly important to you.

I collect accessories over a period of time. Sometimes it is two to three years. I want a home to feel collected and not overdone, which has no heart. I like to instill a bit of the past in each project. Every piece in a home is important, down to the accessories. If an item doesn’t ring true, I’ll take it out.

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Garden views bring nature into this Mediterranean home in Beverly Hills.
Garden views bring nature into this Mediterranean home in Beverly Hills. (Tim Street-Porter)

Where do you shop for accessories?

Lawson Fenning, which features things by mostly California artisans, Blackman Cruz, OK on Third, Dana John , a small shop on Beverly and JF Chen.

The rooms in your book are quite grand. What advice would you give to people just starting out?

Figure out how to exploit your garden view. Even if you don’t have window coverings. If you can, plant the sides of your property to give yourself privacy so you don’t have to close the blinds. You’ll have green all the time and it’ll be very satisfying. Candlelight is something anyone can do. You can eat by candlelight and see everything perfectly. Nothing is better than hosting a dinner party by candlelight.

Bookshelves make a statement in Kerry Joyce's Silver Lake office.
Bookshelves make a statement in Kerry Joyce's Silver Lake office. (Peter Vitale)

Your book spans Spanish Colonial to Art Moderne. What is your home like?

I’m a lucky person. I have three small homes. In Hollywood I have a 1927 little English cottage designed by an art director. It looks like Hansel and Gretel lived there. It’s furnished in an eclectic manner. In New York, I have a small apartment with a stunning garden view. I’m redoing it now as if the Guggenheim had an apartment attached to it. But it’s French. The Guggenheim in Paris. The third house is in Connecticut on five acres of river frontage. The greenery and foliage of the East Coast is magical. That’s how it feels when you are in New England. Each season is like a painting.

You won an Emmy award for set decoration for a Ben Vereen special in 1978. Can you give us a visual?

Back in the heyday of variety shows I worked with art director Romain Johnston. He had great taste and a simple vibe. He would reduce things down to their essence. I learned about lighting monochromatic things from him. The Ben Vereen special was a modernistic version of the tenements of New York City, seen through a modernist eye. I have the Emmy award in my office. The plating is coming off.

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