Bravo recently premiered Million Dollar Decorators, a new show that follows five of L.A.’s most sought-after interior decorators’ work and personal lives. SheKnows interviewed each of the designers to give you the inside skinny on what makes them tick. British transplant Kathryn Ireland shares her design inspirations and thoughts about the show.
Kathryn Ireland arrived in Los Angeles in 1986 and is considered one of the most influential interior and textile designers in the world. Her celebrity clientele includes Steve Martin, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Mamet. She is the author of three books, including the recently released Summers in France. She is also well-known for her signature line of fabrics — you can even see her fellow castmates frolicking in her showroom from time to time.
SheKnows: What inspires your design process?
Kathryn Ireland: The client, the house, the location, where we are … and serendipity is a factor. I might just have come back from India with a mood for the saffron yellow of turmeric or a psychedelic lack of restraint for vivid, saturated color.
SheKnows: How would you describe your personal design style?
Kathryn Ireland: Eclectic and comfortable with a dash of the unexpected, but always beautiful to look at.
SheKnows: Which of your celebrity clients’ design styles matches your own personal style the most?
Kathryn Ireland: David Mamet — because he’s unpretentious and doesn’t need important things around him to make him feel important. He’s a brilliant, down-to-earth man whose interests are comfort and family living, rather like my own.
SheKnows: Is there a certain celebrity you would love to work with, and why?
Kathryn Ireland: Owen Wilson! Because he’s so attractive — his presentation of his personal style is casual and glamorous, the best combination.
SheKnows: For those of us working with more modest budgets, what design elements are worth splurging on?
Kathryn Ireland: All your soft furnishings — sofas and chairs and beds — that really serve as the backbone of your rooms should be where you spend your money, then you can build from there. Color is cheap.
SheKnows: What elements do you think we can save on?
Kathryn Ireland: I always say bad taste costs as much as good taste because you always have to change it. You can hold off on artwork and carpets, which are really the icing on the cake. You can buy prints and photographs rather than paintings, and with rugs you can do simple wool sisals instead of expensive oriental rugs. Keep the lead fabrics plain and splurge on expensive fabrics as accents — a couple of yards of pillow fabric versus 25 yards for curtains. Put your money into throw pillows and splashes of color.
SheKnows: What design trends do you wish would go away?
Kathryn Ireland: That kind of spec house look from the ’80s that everybody was in love with — granite countertops and excessive bad cabinetry. Generally, excessive cheapness when minimal good taste will do the job.
SheKnows: What new design trends can we expect to see come out on Million Dollar Decorators?
Kathryn Ireland: I believe the days of dominant trends are over. We live in a pluralistic culture now. And that’s what I love about the show — you’ll see unique points of view from some very talented designers, and none of us follow routine. Some designers do the same thing and have a uniform, but not my fellow designers on MDD. Every job is different. That’s why we do what we do.
SheKnows: Which castmate’s portfolio do you admire the most?
Kathryn Ireland: I would have to say Martyn [Lawrence-Bullard] because he’s bought fabrics from me forever, so I always feel there’s a little bit of me in his work.
SheKnows: Can we expect to see some competition among the designers?
Kathryn Ireland: Life is competition, and even though we are all established in the design profession and theoretically past the competitive phase, there’s still human nature and the unexpected circumstance.