Monday, October 28, 2019

Designer In The News: Kelly Wearstler

Bravo to the highly creative and ever-evolving Los Angeles designer, Kelly Wearstler. I’ve always admired her free spirited design, her fashion style, and her bold and constant experimentation and invention.

She recently completed her fifth monograph on her dramatic new work. ‘Evocative Style’, is out this month from Rizzoli. This week, I want to reveal its pages, her ideas, and her bold new direction.

Designer Kelly Wearstler

“The environments featured within this book represent a continual evolution and refinement of my design aesthetic, philosophy and development. Each project was personal, unique, and presented an opportunity to share my passion for history, the arts, and established as well as emerging artists and artisans, with clients who were open and engaged. — KELLY WEARSTLER

“Inspirations were infinite—from the simple beauty found in nature to fashion runways and street style, from the structured tenets of graphic design to the rich traditions of decorative arts and the innovative use of technology. Each space provided an opportunity to challenge personal and professional boundaries, celebrate the atypical and unexpected, and create multifaceted interiors that are at once inviting and alive with history, culture, and modernity.” — KELLY WEARSTLER

Kelly Wearstler’s new book is an exciting revelation of her new directions. On each page of the volume, she presents her move toward rooms that highlight artist-designed furniture and lighting and dramatic sculptures.

Once known as the Queen of Hollywood Regency, and admired for her high glamour, she is diversifying her repertoire. The rooms presented in ‘Evocative Style’—in New York and Los Angeles—have the modern allure of richly detailed backgrounds, and collectible furniture, plus custom-made pieces of her design.

While Wearstler’s approach reads eclectic, she enthusiastically and constantly references the spirit of collaboration of the Bauhaus as her inspiration.

“I like wildly original furniture but in my rooms it is a little more refined,” she admits, “I also love the 1970s and ’80s, which now looks incredibly interesting and fresh.” Ettore Sottsass, the designer who shaped the look of the ’80s, and who has been out of fashion for a few decades, is now a witty and graphic influence.

“My style remains true to my belief in mixing styles, eras, and media, and bringing together the design stars of the past with today’s emerging artists. I like to create environments—indoors and out—that are at once inviting, comfortable, and evocative.”— KELLY WEARSTLER

KELLY WEARSTLER: EVOCATIVE STYLE is an inspirational look at her inventive new works. She shares the details from her latest projects, creative process, and personal imperatives.

Kelly lives and works in LA and she is surrounded by art museums like the Broad and LACMA and the Marciano, so she delights in working with artisans and craftspeople and artists who are challenging the rules.

The book includes a turn-of-the-century Beaux-Arts townhouse in New York City, a Spanish-style California bungalow, and the latest and very crafted incarnation of her family home in Beverly Hills. Wearstler’s design aesthetic and its constant evolution are celebrated. She is certainly identifying and focusing on a new aesthetic. Her new interiors include abstract sculptures and colors and materials and surfaces that are multisensory and inviting.  

The Proper Hotel, San Francisco

Wearstler’s signature designs explore materiality, color, forms and an intuitive juxtaposition of contemporary and vintage, as well as architectural and organic, and graphic and instinctual elements.

Among Kelly Wearstler’s most notable projects are the Viceroy hotels, the new Proper Hotels, the BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman, and distinctive private residences for art collectors, and clients who want a residence with spirit and soul.


All images here are from ‘Kelly Wearstler: Evocative Style’ (Rizzoli).

©Kelly Wearstler: Evocative Style, Rizzoli New York, 2019.

Published by Rizzoli:

Written with Rima Suqi, a writer whose work has appeared in Elle Décor, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal among others.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Designers to Watch: Studio Collins Weir — Susan Collins Weir and Chris Weir Bring a Super-Modern, Super-Chic Design Approach to Their New Work

Admired for their modern, refined interiors with the enrichment of superbly curated art, Susan Collins Weir and Chris Weir enliven design with significant custom furniture. They are obsessed with craftsmanship, daring creativity, and timeless inspiration. Their ultra-modern and sophisticated design for a living room at the 2019 San Francisco Decorator Showcase recently brought them to prominence, and now they are working on projects around the country. Studio Collins Weir was founded in 2015.

At their calm and breezy Sausalito studio, Susan, and her husband and business partner, Chris are, creating a sensation among design fans, architects and clients in the know.

“We both have a very strong background in art, design, architecture and furniture design, and we love working directly with great clients to craft spaces for them,” said Susan. “Design concepts are inspired by the clients, their families, and their values. This approach has allowed Chris and me to work on design teams with some of the best architects in the world. When we collaborate with an architectural team we realize their vision down to the finest detail.”

Susan and Chris are both modernists…with a romantic streak.

Their architectural approach is modern and full of clarity and light and fresh air and refinement.

“We definitely consider ourselves modernists,” said Chris. “We believe in clear detailing and an honest expression of materials. We also believe in recognizing the context of a project. It is important to acknowledge the spaces and clients we are working with. We strive to understand each intimately and use this as the foundation of each project. The only way to do this is to listen. We listen to what the site has to tell and to what the client is asking throughout the project.”

Chris Weir and Susan Collins Weir

The interior design practice Susan and Chris have built arose from their mutual desire to create rigorously well-crafted interiors. While they do not practice architecture in the traditional sense, their design process is rooted in their past experience in the field. They craft spaces that are not driven by trend but rather gain their momentum from a deep understanding of context and client.

“Chris runs the interior architecture projects and leads the design of custom furnishings and our bespoke pieces,” noted Susan. “I run the interior design projects but we are always discussing the jobs, the design direction, and collaborating. All while directing our staff of seven amazingly talented women.”

Studio Collins Weir is currently working on an array of residences including a Victorian house in Mission Dolores for a bachelor who takes inspiration from minimalists Dan Flavin and Donald Judd.

Their diverse commissions include the interiors for an estate in Atherton, as well as interior architecture and planning for a home in Venice Beach. And also on the boards, a mountain retreat in Martis Camp, at Lake Tahoe, and a dramatic new residence with architect John Maniscalco on the top of Mount Tiburon with 360 deg views of the Bay.

“We pay attention to what the site informs us, and to subtle aspects of our client's dreams and practical requirements,” said Chris. “This is a big part of what makes our practice work smoothly, and makes our clients happy. “

“Our clients’ ideas and lifestyle inspire the direction,” she said. “We are designing to a set of values rather than a look or feel. This helps projects feel immediate while avoiding the trap of trendiness. We are interested in design ideas of the moment. They have their place but are usually not the backbone of a project.”

Chris Weir said that inspiration could be abstract or very specific.

“One of our first projects in Colorado, was a beautiful ranch outside of Aspen,” he said. “In our first meeting, I was shown a large-scale and very expressive painting by artist Mary Weatherford the homeowners had recently acquired. The color, scale and medium and modernity of the piece were a dramatic contrast to the natural landscape surrounding the home. That sense of juxtaposition became the starting point for our interiors.”

The Weirs often custom-design furniture.

“A beautifully executed piece of furniture is an expression of the skill of the maker and the care of the designer,” said Susan. “A craftsperson can’t make something exquisite without being a master of their tools and one can’t design a perfect thing without caring enough to complete an idea beyond a simple brief.”

Custom pieces usually grow out of an unmet need in the market or a unique space to fill, said Chris. The furniture becomes important to the overall design of the interiors and a great personal pleasure for the family.

In a project recently completed in Healdsburg, Studio Collins Weir used one massive slab of Claro Walnut to create a dining table for twelve and a large round coffee table.

“We chose the timber with our client on a trip to rare wood specialists Arborica, and met the legendary wood artisan Evan Shively, in Marshall, north of San Francisco,” said Susan. “The poetry was that the fallen tree from which the slab was cut, was once majestically in the center of the Vacaville. This is a memorable experience for our client. The tables were fabricated at a studio on the San Francisco waterfront and the location was on the commute home for our client. He was able to stop by during the fabrication and see the pieces built in real time. In the end, the tables are very beautiful and tactile, but especially they now represent an important moment and experience in the client’s life.” 

“We approach each project collaboratively, said Susan. “Sometimes there is a need for a spatial idea to drive things while others are driven more by materiality and palette. We’re lucky that neither of us has too much ego within the studio and we are both interested in creating the best work we can. The open environment of our studio helps as well. Projects can’t be developed in seclusion. They are out in the wild pretty quickly and everyone in the office can have a say.”

Getting the framework, the outline right, is a priority.

“I like to say, a paragraph becomes a poem when you can’t take away another word,” said Chris. “At the beginning of the design process there are usually many different ideas and possible directions. There’s no real formula for it, its just listening and being able to let design ideas go or save them for another time. “

Materials they love mirror the client’s subliminal ideas.

“We love natural materials—oak floors and millwork, stone, as well as painted or lacquered millwork and plaster walls which gives depth to the space,”said Susan. “Over the years, we have found that there are two types of clients. People who love natural materials and understand how the stone, the metal, the wood will patina over time, illustrating the materials inherent properties as well as the clients use of the object or surface over time. On the other hand, there are people who want to be able to hose down their house. They don’t want to worry about the ring left on the marble counter from the margaritas last night, that their children jumped on the couch with muddy boots or that their husband spilled his red wine for the third consecutive night. We have designed beautiful homes detailed in quartz stone, outdoor fabrics and rugs that can be bleached clean, all complemented with millwork in natural wood.

Susan and Chris have gathered an outstanding team of specialists.

“When we approach a design we try very hard to keep our process open to possibility. We rarely say, “that can’t be done,” said Chris. “That is the same thing we enjoy in our collaborations. All of the people we work with to execute our designs are curious to explore new ideas and ways of making. That’s not to say that some things should be done a certain way. We also rely on the expertise that comes with years of perfecting a craft.”

A handful of clients are collectors. Their collections provide great inspiration to the interiors.

“Many of our clients are new collectors who some come to us with a new home and absolutely no furniture or art. I love discovering their interests,” said Susan.. “Art is such an important part of our lives. The pieces need to have meaning to the client, to the home. As the studio has grown, we have started to recommend and work closely with art advisors to develop collections in meaningful ways. Their expertise is so valued and brings another layer.”

San Francisco Decorator Showcase

The Creation — Becoming Studio Collins Weir

SUSAN: Chris and I met at the CCA (California College of the Arts) in the architecture department. Prior to starting our firm, Chris and I worked for a number of firms in San Francisco.

Chris started at Jim Jennings Architecture, Envelope A+D and Aidlin Darling Design. In these practices he worked on highly detailed residential work that frequently branched out into furniture design. A fitting turn in his career happened when he was approached to work as the Creative Director and lead product designer for an audio start up.

Chris and I started SCW and the design wing of his audio company out of our garage. A bit of a cliché for the Bay Area but true. We shared an eight-foot desk and were each other’s best critics. During this time, Chris inevitably got pulled into my projects and began to help out on custom furniture pieces as well. He eventually made the move from part time help to business partner and we formally joined forces in 2015.

The practice breaks down along our interests. Chris runs the interior architecture projects and leads the design of the custom furnishings and our bespoke pieces. I run the interior design projects but we are always discussing the jobs, the design direction and collaborating. 


Nick Johnson Photography

Adam Rouse Photography

Matthew Millman


INSTAGRAM: @studiocollinsweir

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Artist I Admire: Damian Elwes at Modernism Gallery, San Francisco

Through October 26

Damian Elwes: Artist Studios — From Picasso to Kusama

I recently had the great pleasure to meet the artist Damian Elwes, and to see his vivid and witty and fascinating paintings currently on show at Modernism.

Damian, who for decades has been studying and obsessed with artists’ studios, has painted, imagined, recreated, and vividly depicted artists' studios around the world. He captures them in an almost cinematic style, and depicts major works in the vernacular of the artists. They represent moments of inspiration, but in particular they paint a portrait of the (unseen) artist in full creative frenzy.

In the Modernism show, his collection includes the imagined studios of Willem de Kooning, Paul Gauguin, David Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Gustav Klimt, Yayoi Kusama, Roy Lichtenstein, Kerry James Marshall, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Jonas Wood. Two years ago at Modernism, he presented studios of Frida Kahlo, Cy Twombly, Lucien Freud and Richard Diebenkorn, to great acclaim.

The centerpiece and the most impressive piece of the current show is a special installation of the monumental eight-panel painting, ‘Picasso’s Villa La California’. Room-size and full of detail and humor and insight, it is like stepping into Picasso’s world. Immersive. Meticulous. Wonderful. Go now. It is a rare and special experience.

Picasso's studio

“I choose to focus on creativity and on visionary people. For me, the studio is a metaphor. I am able to learn from watching artists making art. Why have I gone to great lengths to make studio paintings and to visit studios all over the world with their untold stories?

Damian Elwes

Instead of going to art school, I spent two years searching for artist studios in Paris. I asked the artists if I could make a watercolor or paintings of their workplaces. Meanwhile, I was able to learn from watching them make art.” — Damian Elwes

Hockney's studio

Damian Elwes: Artist Studio 

Damian, who now lives in Santa Monica, is from a noble lineage of English artists and portrait painters, and started painting when his father asked him to ‘fill in the sky’ of a portrait while the sitter took a break.

But it was not until 1984 when Elwes was living in New York that he was first encouraged and dared and challenged to paint large-scale by Keith Haring. It was at this time that Damian hung out with Haring, a renegade graffiti artist at that time, lived in his studio, and committed paint to walls and canvas and surfaces around New York. His first gallery show in London was a groundbreaking exhibit of the works of Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat at the height of their fame and creativity.

Warhol's studio

Gauguin's studio

Matisse's studio

Artist studios, familiar from the painting studios of his father and his grandfather, became an Elwes obsession.

Soon he was in Paris studying Delacroix and Picasso and every artist who ever painted in Paris. And over the following decades (including a legendary time when he and his family lived in the remote and lovely Colombian rainforest)…Elwes was visiting, photographing, studying and painting them. He looks at ambiance, view from windows, light, ephemera and studies the paintings the artists worked on in these specific studios.

His paintings become a vibrant and evocative dialogue with the artist, and comment on a continuous era of creativity and ideas and evolution of an artist. Soon he was showing in Los Angeles, and among his early clients were Mick Jagger, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, and Pierce Bosnan.

In 2007, after seven years of painting in Colombia, Elwes studied and researched Picasso’s Bateau Lavoir, a time when Picasso was at his most innovative.

“I am fascinated with everything that goes into creating a work of art,” said Elwes. He’s a fervid researched and studies every photograph and paintings and belongings and writing of an artist before embarking on a studio painting.

He has visited and reinvented/ reimagined the Collioure studio of Matisse, as well as Villa La Reve where Matisse lived and painted.

Next on his agenda: Damian Elwes has been invited to work and live for a year in Cy Twombly’s former studio and residence near Rome. I can't wait to see the works he creates there.

DeKooning's studio

Ellsworth Kelly's studio

Roy Lichtenstein's studio

Damian Elwes has now studied and painted the studios of artists ranging from Claude Monet to Roy Lichtenstein and Cindy Sherman and John Baldessari.

Elwes has developed a cult following, in part because the paintings unveil and reveal and recontextualize the artists and their place of work and setting. They capture historically important moments, within a framework that is accurate and architecturally correct. Even the view from the windows is period accurate.

“In historical terms, Elwes’ canvases can be seen as an invaluable contribution to the understanding and investigation and revelation of some of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, “ said gallery owner, Martin Muller. ‘They are immersive and they capture a time, a period, a life, and moments of brilliance and breakthroughs. It’s daring. Elwes does it with great admiration, and often with a dash of wit and humor.”

Joans Wood's studio

Klimt's studio

Kerry Marshall's studio

Yayoi Kusama's studio

Modernism Gallery — The Architecture

Architect statement: AIDLIN DARLING DESIGN

“The design of the new MODERNISM Gallery seeks to honor both the history of the existing structure and the origins of MODERNISM itself.

The new façade of the gallery was inspired by the lithographs of El Lissitsky, one of the first artists to be shown in the thirty-plus year history of the Gallery.

A series of steel frames, planes, and lines are sculpted to create a large street front viewing portal and the primary entry into the gallery.

Within, the design creates a highly intentional and complimentary dialogue between the original structure of board-form concrete walls and wood ceiling members, and the new, crisp, white modern planes that define the walls for displaying art.

The result is intended to create a highly inspirational venue for the viewing of experimental art while pioneering one of San Francisco's up-and-coming art districts.”

— Joshua Aidlin, Principal, Aidlin Darling Design

Frida Kahlo's studio

Cy Twombly's studio

René Magritte's studio

About Modernism Gallery

Founded in 1979, Modernism has since presented more than 375 exhibitions, historical and contemporary, in media ranging from painting to photography, sculpture to performance, by an international roster of artists.

Martin Muller of Modernism

Modernism’s 1982 ground-breaking Andy Warhol exhibition — the first time the Pop artist’s work was shown on the West Coast. The show turned out to precede California’s enthusiasm for Pop art. Only one painting sold, for a minute $20,000.

Martin Muller, who has a broad international following, has mounted for than eighteen retrospectives of the Russian avant-garde.

Historical exhibitions encompass concepts including Dada, Cubism, Surrealism, Vorticism, German Expressionism, and foremost, the Russian Avant-Garde 1910-1930.

The contemporary exhibits feature rotating shows, six to seven weeks in duration, of the nearly 50 gallery artists—including various representational and abstract modes, sociopolitical, and conceptual works—presented at both Modernism and Modernism West, as well as at art fairs in the United States and Europe.

Modernism publishes collectible books, monographs, catalogs, and fine art editions. Martin Muller is noted for his discernment and collections of art and design books, and for his eclectic gallery publications. His art and design book collection, legendary, now includes 30,000 books.

Keith Haring's studio


Martin Muller, owner
Danielle Beaulieu, Director

724 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Instagram: @modernisminc

Damian Elwes is a British artist who lives and works in Santa Monica. His work has been exhibited in galleries around the world, and he was recently the subject of a retrospective at the Musée en Herbe in Paris.

Instagram: @damianelwes

Picasso's Bateau Lavoir studio