When we crossed paths with Kathryn Ireland at the site of her former Ojai digs (Reese Witherspoon was hitched there this summer) — we were instantly captivated by her talent and quirky-chic aesthetic. The It Brit manages to mix a zillion prints, textiles, and styles without conjuring space schizophrenia, and her playful demeanor matches the witty grace of her rooms. So, it came as no surprise when years later Bravo nabbed her for our number-one home-improvement obsession, Million Dollar Decorator.
Since then, we've done some wrangling of our own and were granted access to the room guru's incredible Spanish manse in Santa Monica. And fortunately for us, Ireland was more than willing to say "Mi casa es su casa" (in her Brit accent, of course) and even shared her master tricks of the trade. Ready for some maje visual delights and serious interior insight? Be our guest!
Photographed by Miha Matei
You've been an actress, a filmmaker, and a clothing designer — tell us how you finally found your true calling as a decorator.
"I guess you could say the career came to me! Steve Martin liked my house so much that he asked me to decorate his own. My youngest son was three weeks old and Steve was having dinner with us. He said 'God, I love your house — it's warm, it's cozy, and it's friendly.' He wanted me to replicate that feeling. After that, I helped him with his second home in Santa Barbara and his apartment in New York. He was my first client and I worked with him for about three years. "
What's your design mantra when looking at a blank space?
"I make sure to take into consideration colors, proportion, and the fact that everything has a purpose. I always start with fabrics and color patterns, and every girl who is starting out in a new space should do the same. "
What are three coffee table tomes every chic woman should own?
"Any of the old David Hicks
books, Etcetera: Creating Beautiful Interiors With the Things You Love
, and India Fantistique
by my friends Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla is a must. It's beyond fabulous."
What's your favorite piece of art in your home?
"I love my painting of parrots by Hunt Slonem."
How does one mix colors, prints, and textures without the space looking like a cluttered mess?
"You need to be confident with your use of color, and always keep the palette cohesive. It's about using prints and weaves, and mixing vintage textiles with new — just go with your gut!"
How has the experience been on Million Dollar Decorator and would you do it again if you had the choice?
"It's been tough and major, but I don't mind hard work if it's fun. I loved the entire experience! So, yes, I would absolutely do it all over again. "
What can you tell us about the upcoming season? We know Lindsay Lohan is a new client, can you spill any details there?
"I'm not allowed to reveal too much, so you'll just have to wait and see! There will be lots of drama and great design."
Whom are some of your favorite fashion designers?
"I love Helmut Lang, Romeo Gigli, Commes des Garçons, Gaultier, Issey Miyake, and Dries van Noten. I don't know if it's politically incorrect to say, but I think Galliano is the most talented designer there is. For my very simple casual clothes, I love Vince."
What have you purchased recently that thrilled you?
"I bought an amazing Pakistani wedding quilt from Joss Graham
in London, who's one of my favorite textile designers in the world."
What is your most prized possession?
"Without a doubt, my black Arabian horses."
Tell us about the frames on the arched wall in your living room.
"I found these illustrations of Jesuit priests in a junk shop in Arundel, Sussex. I bought them for half the price of what they'd now sell for!"
What's your sneakiest trick to hanging pictures when you don't have a pro to do it for you?
"Don't be afraid to eyeball it. And, always use common sense — you never want them too high or too low!"
You've been dubbed one of the rare designers that will truly influence 21st Century style. What one sentence would you hope the history books say about you and your aesthetic?
"It's comfortable, but still always full of surprises!"
Where would a regular person go in L.A. for great textiles?
"The Santa Monica Antique Flea Market has great people selling and Pat McGann
on La Cienega. Those are my two really good sources here, Or me
, ha! My online store
is actually a really good resource."
Please tell us about your brand-new book and what we have to look forward to!
reflects a wide spectrum of my interior design work — from a beach house in Normandy to a horse ranch in Santa Barbara."
What are your favorite flea markets in the world?
"If I had to choose, my picks would be the Santa Monica Antique Flea Market and the Albi flea market in France."
Do you have any advice on how to know when something is right or just junk?
"Sorry, but it's in my DNA!"
What trend would you love to see die a slow and painful death?
"Honestly, any kind of decorating where it's very obvious that the person has tried too hard."
You spend a lot of time in France, what makes the country such a special place for you?
"France is my escape and my inspiration. I live in the country because of the lifestyle — I love the markets and the fact that they have time for lunch!"
What other things jog your imagination?
"Typically it's travel. For my next trip, I want to go to Peru and Chile. In the past it's been the Far East, Indonesia, France, and obviously England. Different countries always inspire me, but then again, it could be anything! I put a lot of time and energy into my collections — one took me an entire year. I'm constantly designing and coming up with things — and snapping pictures with my iPhone and scoping Pinterest."
What about in L.A.?
"I walk a lot, and I like to hike Will Rogers or down to the beach. It's light, it's color, it's the blue of the sky, or the green of a hill. It's wildlife. Displays of things in shops. It's really more about the outdoors here."
Reese Witherspoon recently sold the Ojai home Ireland restored and designed for 10 million bucks. And, apparently Robert Pattinson mended his broken heart (and hid from the paps) there after the K Stew fall out this summer. We hope she holds on to this one!
What are your top three favorite spots in L.A. to get unique goods?
"I'd have to say Obsolete
, and Galerie Half
What about for less expensive items?
"One Kings Lane
, and if you have a good eye, Pier 1 Imports and Marshalls are amazing."
Did you know that Ireland is a blogger? You can catch her on HuffPo gabbing about anything from politics to re-gifting here. P.S. can't you imagine slipping on a caftan and writing from this poolside? Dreamy!
What's the biggest challenge you've ever faced on a project, and how did you overcome it?
"I've been involved with building big homes, which includes working with many different people and personalities. From the architect to the contractor and even the client, I've had to remind myself to leave my ego behind and choose my battles."
What has been the proudest moment of your career thus far?
"Being on the cover of The World of Interiors."
You really have a buoyant spirit and such a young vibe to your personality. What's the trick to that?
"Laughing, always seeing the positive in life, and having a great sense of humor."
What advice would you give to someone really striving to make a name for themself in the business?
"Always remember to learn from your mentor. Plus, the best way to develop your style is by working with family and friends."
What about our young readers who are just starting out?
"The business side of interior design is more important than having a great vision. The successful decorators do well because they can bring a project to life on time and on a budget."