As one of the most prolific high-end interior designers today, sometimes it seems that everything Kelly Wearstler touches turns to Instagram-worthy design gold. The glam design queen recently took us on a tour of her newest project: her own modern Malibu beach house. Wearstler recently opened up her home for travelers to rent, and we still can’t believe that vacationing here is possible. Neither can she.
“I still pinch myself when I’m here,” interior designer Kelly Wearstler says of her family’s vacation home, situated right off the Pacific Ocean in a beautiful section of Malibu, California. “The house is right on the sand and built on stilts so at certain times of the year, the waves actually come beneath the house. When you’re sitting in the living room, it feels like you’re on a boat.”
Wearstler and her husband, Brad Korzen—the founder and CEO of The Kor Group, a large Los Angeles real estate firm—found and purchased their dream beach home in 2009. What they loved most about it was its location. It’s tucked into a prestigious one-mile stretch of Malibu’s Carbon Beach that’s sometimes referred to as “Billionaire’s Beach.” That moniker is thanks to the cluster of well-heeled CEOs and celebrities that own or have owned homes ther—Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, and former Hollywood couple Courteney Cox and David Arquette are among the neighbors.
But for Wearstler, a nationally-recognized designer who has styled the homes of A-listers like Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, and Gwen Stefani, this beach house’s original interiors weren’t up to par. So she tore it down to the studs. Then she got to work crafting a floor plan and shopping for furnishings and art that would give this classic Malibu house the signature look of Kelly Wearstler.
Now that her Carbon Beach getaway is available to vacationers when the Korzen-Wearstler family aren’t in residence, guests get to enjoy Wearstler’s California style and personal touches. Her improvements include the addition of high-end Gaggenau kitchen appliances, elegant Douglas fir kitchen cabinets, and California-made Aireloom mattresses on every bed. Wearstler’s own designs are on display too. For example, ringing the dining room’s marble table are 10 oak frame seats with ebonized finishes, all designed by Wearstler. The seats are called the Zuma chair after the nearby popular Malibu beach.
One of the things that makes Wearstler’s Carbon Beach home a dream destination is that each of its five bedrooms are, well, dreamy. Bedrooms on the north side face the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, with a charming little rock garden in the yard and a bamboo hedge, with Malibu’s cliffs visible in the distance. On the south side, the dazzling Pacific Ocean takes center stage. Every bedroom has balcony or terrace access, and the master has its own fireplace and ensuite bathroom. And then there’s the standout “white bedroom,” as Wearstler calls it. It features white rugs, a white bed frame, white linens, and beige walls and floors. But what stops guests in their tracks is the one-of-a-kind headboard shaped like the face of Medusa with flowing locks that cascade over the mattress.
“That was a wood sculpture that I found at an auction and just thought, “that’s so sick!” Wearstler says of the piece. “It looks like a woman who’s just emerged from the sea—so I turned it into a bed.”
One of the other truly eye-catching items in the home stands in an atrium on the home’s main floor, between the switchback staircase and the fully-equipped kitchen—and this one’s alive. It’s a lofty Northern Californian ficus tree, gifted to Wearstler and Korzen by the renowned Los Angeles landscape artist Art Luna. The tree extends the height of the two-story home and brings a touch of the outside in.
“The addition of an atrium opened up the house and does incredible things with the natural light,” Wearstler says. “You don’t get the light just from the front and side windows; you get this even California light.”
Wearstler drew inspiration from the Golden State for her Carbon Beach home’s design. She procured art pieces from California artists at local auctions. She tracked down area dealers for vintage furniture. She evoked West Coast tradition and artistic values. “Everything I did was inspired by the beach and California,” Wearstler says. “I wanted it to feel so immersive, so local, so much like how anyone would imagine a California beach house—but run through my own filter.”
Wearstler loves the fact that the house now feels open from floor to floor, thanks in part to the atrium and the ficus tree. She adores that her family members can each hang out in their own rooms, but when the are doors left open, still feel like they can carry on a conversation. And she loves the way each piece of furniture, vintage or modern, tells its own tale.
So is there a strategy to the way Wearstler blends the old and the new? Not specifically. “It’s an emotional thing. I go out and shop and find all these amazing things and then it comes together to tell a story. It’s like a painting; you have to step back and look at it to figure out where you need to add elements,” she says.
More of Wearstler’s trademark style can be found throughout the home, including unusual placements of some artwork. Instead of hanging certain pieces, Wearstler simply leans them against the wall. It’s a visual way to make the space feel more relaxed, she says. Another of her design signatures is her use of marble—lots of it. She incorporated in several different types, including Cipillino, Bardiglio, and Onyx. “It’s Mother Nature and you wanted to be surrounded with Mother Nature. It creates a beautiful texture that feels elevated. All the marble is honed and leathered so it has an earthy quality,” she says “It doesn’t feel shiny and new, but rather vintage and with a lot of soul.” Which sounds a lot like this amazing house itself.