As anyone who has ever stayed in a hotel designed by Kelly Wearstler—or flipped through one of her over-the-top coffee-table books—can attest, the petite Los Angeles megadecorator is no minimalist. Her zany, upbeat aesthetic plunders Hollywood's past and recasts it in Technicolor, ignoring conventional wisdom about what matches, instead combining accessories and found objects into surprisingly harmonious tableaux. Arriving on set in jeans and a ponytail (one hardly recognizes her in this sedate getup), she surveys a rack of clothing and instantly zeroes in on a short white skirt made of feathers to pair with her own leather fringe wrap and vintage snakeskin boots. But Wearstler wasn't always such a freethinker. Growing up in Myrtle Beach, a world away from the Hollywood mansions that would later become her canvas, Wearstler mostly stuck to good-girl basics, occasionally scouring vintage stores and her mother's closet for things to add a bit of wit. "I was definitely more insecure then," she says. "But I would take risks here and there." It was only when she interned at the design firm Milton Glaser in New York City during college at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design that Wearstler started allowing herself to just let it all hang out, making "emotional" purchases at flea markets and gaining confidence in the madcap aesthetic that would become her signature. Before taking her sons to school, Wearstler has just 25 minutes to pull herself together, which she says facilitates fearless dressing. "Beautiful things happen," she notes, "when you break the rules and go for it."
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