Designer Crush Q&A: Kelli Ellis


Thanks so much Kelli for answering our Designer Crush Q&A!

1. Where do you currently live in CA and what’s special about how you’ve designed your personal space?

When we are staying in our California home, we are nestled in the hills of Rancho Santa Margarita, Orange County. Tucked next to the Cleveland National Forest, located minutes from the Spanish Mission, our architecture is very Spanish and Tuscan. Inside our home is a mixture of old world charm and treasures from our travels. With our two daughters in college, my husband and I travel often finding new goodies for our homes. I especially love my Koi fish tank, inside my family room, so we can cozy up and watch our “water babies.” I have designed our home to be elegant yet very relaxed and comfortable.

2. What’s your dream design project? Who would it be for (dead or alive)?

I adore Spain and Italy. I would love to design a boutique hotel or villa in either country. Combining work and travel is my passion, so I’d love any excuse to stay in either country longer than a typical vacation. Furniture maker Paolo Castelli is one of my favorites, I would love to use his furniture mixed with my esthetic in a villa for Antoni Gaudi! Just to work with Gaudi would be fascinating.

3. In real life, what’s your favorite design project you’ve completed to date?

A Newport Beach cottage owned by a lovely couple, who have become dear friends. It’s my favorite because my clients were so passionate about their design. Also avid travelers, they had beautiful collections and art from around the world. Each piece in their home was carefully chosen by us all – unique, antique and precious. Nothing was bought or added without a unanimous “I love it!” response. It really was a bonding experience!

4. You’ve been gifted a fabulously furnished dream home but can only bring one item from your current space. What would it be?

My great-grandfathers first-edition book collection (that’s singular right?) In reality it’s over 1,000 books and I couldn’t part with one! The look and nostalgia of my collection adds so much grandeur and depth to more than half of my home. If that doesn’t count, I’d take my antique Rocco marble top table – it’s gold and stunning.

5. What’s your creative process when designing a space?

As a design psychology expert, it’s so very important for me to understand my clients on a deep level. I need to know what makes them smile, how they live, where they came from and why they are seeking change. Once I establish what furnishings or accessories stay in the design, the plan is set in motion. I work closely with my clients to deem the look and more importantly, the feel, we are seeking in the home. Inspiration pieces are the easiest way to create a design plan, and sometimes you get lucky if the house is full of them.

6. Where do you score prized interior design items? Any shopping tips?

I have my favorite LA stomps like Dragonette or Lee Stanton on La Cienega Blvd., or I hit the auctions houses in Santa Ana to get some fantastic finds like oversized curios and antique lighting. Most of my clients want unique pieces so I spend a few hours a week calling my dealers to see what new goodies have come in. Save time and use your technology to spec your jobs.

7. Ever had an epic DIY disaster? What project would you never take on again yourself?

I had a show on HGTV called Takeover My Makeover, where we would repurpose pieces to stay on budget. In transforming a kitchen into a ’50s diner-inspired space, I attempted to spray paint the dishwasher and refrigerator to get that quaint-colored appliance look. I failed to prime the pieces and the paint would not stick or dry! It was a nightmare and we tip-toed around trying not to touch them while filming so no one would know! I love addressing the 5th wall, aka the ceiling, on all my projects. But I will never paint another ceiling again. I got paint on me, the floor and the walls – I think I have a prepping issue!

8. What new design trend are you excited to integrate into your next project?

White walls are coming back paired with bold fabrics, art and rugs. I love a white wall, white floors and fabulous punchy art and fabrics. I am doing a Las Vegas high rise in a similar style currently and I cannot wait to debut it!

9. Lightning round!

Beach or mountains?

Beach, we have a log mountain home, beautiful but a lot of work.

Instagram or Pinterest?


Architectural Digest or Wallpaper?

Architectural Digest.

Should you spend money on a fabulous bathroom or kitchen?

Kitchen, the heart of the house!

Would you rather shop new or vintage?

Vintage anyday.

Great view or perfect pool?


SF or LA?

LA, only because my favorite vintage stores are there!

10. What’s one tip you wish someone had told you when first starting out in the design world?

“Remember, they called you for a reason…if they had all the answers they wouldn’t need your help!”


Want More Kelli Ellis?

Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ 

More news: