The Style Files: Celerie Kemble

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Anytime I am asked who my favorite interior designers are, I immediately think of those who have been the most influential to me and who have achieved the great feat of carving out a unique, inimitable place in the design world. Celerie Kemble ranks among my top favorite interior designers for several reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that I love her aesthetic. Having grown up in Palm Beach, Florida, Celerie (nee Cecilia) has a true appreciation and command of a style that is rooted in tradition, with a touch of whimsy and a major dose of glamour. Celerie’s mother, legendary designer, Mimi McMakin founded Kemble Interiors in 1982, but Celerie didn’t fall into the family business right away. She graduated from Harvard and worked in film production for some time before ” succumbing to what she calls a compulsion for design and the creation of thoughtful interiors that put the person in the place.”

Over the years, Kemble Interiors has grown to have offices in Palm Beach, New York, and London. Celerie has completed projects all over the world and has created a design empire with a line of fabrics and wall coverings for Schumacher that I use for my own projects all the time, floor coverings for Merida, furniture for Henredon, and accessories and lighting for Maitland-Smith. I find Celerie to be endlessly inspiring for her fearless approach to design, the way in which she has created an identifiable and unique look and brand, and for the fact that in spite of a schedule and docket of professional commitments that would be exhausting for anyone, family is her first priority. I’ve met Celerie on a few occasions now and have always been impressed with how down-to-earth and truly disarming she is. We recently had a conversation about design, the endless search for inspiration, and some exciting new projects she has in the works. I think you’ll find her answers inspiring, real, and refreshing.

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Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Celerie Kemble: I like things pretty – with quirk – and this can be achieved in a variety of vernaculars so I don’t really anchor on a particular style.

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{This room exemplifies the Palm Beach-Meets-Park Avenue look for which Celerie is known and loved.}

PC: Your firm, Kemble Interiors has offices in New York, Palm Beach, and London. Do you find that clients in different cities have different needs or goals? How would you compare the design scene stateside to the design scene in Europe?

CK: I think goals and needs are usually more related to personality type and background, then region. For instance, my most recent client in London is American and from the South but she’s quite fashionable. So, the continent proves irrelevant – but that she’s Southern Traditional with a lot of fashion explains it all for me.

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 {A Chic Living Room by Kemble Interiors}

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

CK: The work of my peers – thank god for good editorial spreads, books, and now Pinterest. I also get lost on Tumblr and can dig deep into about 15 years of travel and shopping moments on my iPhone. It makes me feel somehow saner in this business of constant eye-catching beauty and new material when I find I still like what I liked years ago.

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 {Celerie, Looking Super Glamorous in her Office Surrounded by Countless Design Books}

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

CK: I have a few friends who turn anything in their proximity more beautiful by some magic, and through their eyes or lenses or voice I also learn to see the world differently:

Sara Ruffin Costello – writer

Amanda Brooks – fashion writer, best friend from infancy

Lucia Engstrom – photographer

Gin Cambre – photographer

I like to keep my icons to people I have seen in their bathrobes – because to admire people I’ve only seen photos of seems a path to misery.

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{Celerie’s Dear Friend, Amanda Brooks}

PC: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?

CK: Most of my friends are old friends – even the ex-boyfriends – I think life’s achievements are in the relationships you hold.

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{A Pretty Vignette in a Space by Kemble Interiors}

PC: Who has been your greatest professional influence?

CK: My mom. She taught me to work hard, be flexible, and she set the framework for my comfort level being a working mother.

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{Celerie’s Beautiful, Chic Mother, Mimi McMakin Photographed in Jamaica when she was in her Early 30s | Photo via Kemble Interiors’ Instagram}

PC: Finish this sentence: “Before I die, I’d like to…”

CK: Get very, very OLD.

Hampton Designer Showhouse

{A Showhouse featuring Many of Celerie’s Designs from her Various Product Lines}

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

CK: Red wine – I don’t really feel guilty about that, I just know I should have a third glass less frequently.

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{A Photo I Snapped at the Henredon Showroom at High Point Market in April Showcasing some of my Favorite Pieces from Celerie’s Furniture Collection}

PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?

CK: Having a great view, seeing lots of sunsets, and having the time to enjoy them.

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 {The stunning beachside resort Celerie recently designed an helped develop, Playa Grande in the Dominican Republic was recently featured in Vogue.}

PC: What can we look forward to next from you?

CK: Building more great cottages and houses at Playa Grande, a resort I have been working on for 10 years – please check it out– www.playagrandebeachclub.com. A line of outdoor furniture this fall with Lane Venture, new fabrics with Schumacher, new rugs with Merida, and a line of curtain hardware. I am always adding to my furniture and accessories collection with Henredon and Maitland-Smith – they are on the floor at HD Buttercup in LA or online at www.designershouse.com

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{Another Photo of Celerie’s Chic Designs for Henredon}

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Go-To Outfit: Lela Rose dress, heels in my vintage backpack and flops or Toms because my feet don’t like the heels.

Style Mantra: Please let messy be okay.

Scent: Orange Blossom by Jo Malone

Piece of Jewelry: Chunky Vintage Necklace

Color I Never Tire Of: Green

Flower: Anemone

Indispensible Design Element: An Imagination

Era for Design: 30s/40s

Fabric/Textile: Bamboo, Sisals, Grasscloths, and Wicker

Design Book: Floor to ceiling shelf of them in my office and Bronson Van Wyck’s even taller, deeper shelf next door.

Hostess Gift: I never give them. I can’t get my act together.

Meal: A Creamy Pasta

Drink: Spicy Margarita– Must be on the rocks, non-discriminating about the tequila

Celerie Favorites

Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work: I take a bath with my kids.

3 Things I love about New York: Airlift, Good Food… I can’t get to three.

Weekend Destination: Palm Beach and Playa Grande

Hotel: So decadent, but Amans. My favorite is Aman Wana in Indonesia.

City: Hong Kong

Museum: Harvard Museum of Natural History– I love the glass flowers exhibit.

Song that Always Puts Me in a Great Mood: I still love my high school songs– Suzanne Vega and Stevie Nicks.

Actor/Actress: Crazy girl crush on Kristen Scott Thomas, Jane Lynch, Tina Fey, and Christina Hendricks

Risk Worth Taking: Most of them– but now I have to think my kids might read this someday

Greatest Extravagance: Travel

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5 thoughts on “The Style Files: Celerie Kemble

  1. Great interview Paloma! I love that Celerie longs for messy to be okay. And I just have to say that I can’t tell you how much I LOVE your new website! It is absolutely perfect!

  2. This was such an amazing blog post!!!! Made my day 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing and being such a fabulous source of inspiration..especially on those three cup of coffee days! XO

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  4. Pingback: The Style Files: Sara Gilbane | La Dolce Vita

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