Designer Celerie Kemble is renowned for creating spirited interiors that don't shy away from the playful or the personal. In her first book, Celerie Kemble: To Your Taste -- Creating Modern Rooms with a Traditional Twist ($52, Random House, 2008), she showcases her signature touch of caprice. Last fall, the New York- and Palm Beach-based designer created a line of fabrics for Schumacher (available through Bilbrough & Co.), and her line of faux leathers, called Tannery V -- "I like a little critter in every creation" -- recently became available in Canada, exclusively through Joanne Fabrics.
Style at Home Your book celebrates the breaking of a few design rules. Why is that important?
Celerie Kemble I grew up in an unconventional house with a mother who was a tastemaker, not a rule follower. She was a designer, and I often accompanied her as she went from house to house. I saw first-hand that individuality was more memorable than how well the design rules were followed. My mother was brave and irreverent, and I learned my design vocabulary from her. I also learned that it’s more important to have a home that reflects your tastes than to have a home that was ordered off the menu. The challenge now -- in an era in which television shows us perfect homes -- is to make a space your own. Years ago, it was about completing a home -- buying sets of furniture the way you would sets of clothes. These days, it's about personal style, not perfection.
S@H You've spoken before about the importance of whimsy and humour in decor. Is that what you mean by "personality"?
CK Whimsy, for me, is told by the look on someone's face. When a person loves an item -- a vintage lamp, a rug, a print -- there's an emotional response. They light up and get a goofy grin. You see that they love that piece but are almost embarrassed by their love. They smile and then hide their smile behind their hand. They wonder if they "should" love this lamp or rug or print. I'm all about forgetting the "shoulds." Where other designers might construct a room and then inject quirky items, I use them as a starting point. It's like having one of the words in a crossword puzzle; you build from there.