Designer Crush Q&A: Kelly Keiser


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

I live in the Marina District of San Francisco and it is magical. I am a few blocks from the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy Field where I walk my dog and fill up on the sea breeze and foghorns. My apartment also doubles as my design studio so it is functional and overflowing with design books, fabrics, beautiful lamps and art. I recently turned my kitchen nook into a wall to wall closet. I had a Carrie Bradshaw moment, but the reality is I eat salad or eat out, and I needed real estate for my clothes.

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

My dream project would be for Diana Vreeland. I bought a copy of her book “Memos” and in it, her Manhattan penthouse is described in detail. In my dream, she has taken a second home on the West Coast and my job is to make it as glamorous as her home on Park Avenue with layers of textiles, chaise lounges in every room and beautiful handmade boxes covering every hard surface. 

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

I am at the tail end of designed a home in the Presidio National Park in an old brick Officer’s house that is protected by the Historical Preservation Society. The client and her large family recently moved back to San Francisco from London. We collaborated to combine that very specific modern-English vibe with mid-century antiques (found in the Mission District). The combination is cozy and chic.


The project I am working on right now. I am designing for a powerhouse of a business executive in San Francisco. She’s 32 years old and has a wicked fashion sense (Chanel meets Courtney Love). We have designed her flat in black and white with lots of gold lamps and accents. It is very glamorous, and given her social life, I made certain all of the fabrics are indoor-outdoor. There is a wall filled with artfully arranged images of Kate Moss (smoking), sexy pictures from Brazil’s Carnival, my client partying with her beautiful girlfriends and a bleeding Chanel logo. Edgy chic.  

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 very old, very tall, very Italian lamps my client gave me as a gift. The handmade black shades are gilded on the inside and they make my apartment feel a bit Old Hollywood. Also, I have one piece of art that I bought from DeSousa Hughes many years ago (via the Lost Art Saloon) and it has somehow made it into ALL of my photo shoots in one way or another.   

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

I have to really spend time bonding with the client. I ask hundreds of questions. I use Pinterest and Houzz to help nail down their inspirations and I let it all marinate. I like to be in my mountain office when I do most of my super creative work because it is quiet and there are no distractions. Then, work can begin.

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

1stDibs and the Mission District in San Francisco. Two totally different experiences that provide equally satisfying results.  

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

Removable wallpaper. I was a cheerleader of this wallpaper for my friends who rent their homes. I did a stellar job installing it in my hallway one rainy Friday night. Then, I got too big for my britches. I tried installing it in my bathroom and the crooked walls made it impossible to line up the seams. In the end, it was giving me vertigo so I had to remove it (ego barely intact). 

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

I have never followed trends in that way. However, I do look forward to using more warm colors as they become a bit more acceptable by my clients.  I painted my apartment Intense Peach (Benjamin Moore) and after years of robin’s egg blues and variations on gray, it is refreshing! 

9. Lightning round! (pick one)

Beach or mountains?  

Tahoe.  I have an office near Tahoe and the mountains have never failed to fill me with inspiration and, of course, motivation. 

Twitter or Facebook?  

Pinterest & Houzz.   

Architectural Digest or Wallpaper?  

Arch Digest with the always fabulous Margaret Russell at the helm 

Should you spend money on a fabulous bathroom or kitchen?  

Bathroom, because there’s nothing that makes a girl feel better than getting ready in a beautifully designed and well lit bathroom.

Would you rather shop new or vintage?  

Vintage, but I much prefer antique.

Great view or perfect pool?

Great view.  

SF or LA?  

Obviously, SF.   

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

Take more business classes. When I began my own business I was a novice at so may business basics. Exel, powerpoint, bookkeeping, you name it, I needed to  refine my skill set.  It overwhelmed me and I think in those early days if I would have been a bit more well rounded as a business person, I would have been a better designer. 

 Want more Kelly?

Kelly Keiser Splendid Interiors, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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