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Kishani Perera: Eclectic can be livable in designer's 'Vintage Remix'

April 4, 2012 |  8:44 am

Kaitlin Olson and Rob McElhenney house
In her new book "Vintage Remix: The Interiors of Kishani Perera," the Los Angeles designer proves that "eclectic" does not have to be code for "messy" or "absolute disarray." The homes she decorates mix high-end furnishings with EBay and Etsy finds, flea market pieces and mass-market purchases for rooms that reflect an individual's personality with warmth and often a touch of glamour. 

Kishani"Vintage Remix" ($35, Abrams) delivers its advice partly through profiles of Perera's celebrity clients, including the bedroom of Kaitlin Olson and Rob McElhenney, stars of "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" and a married couple in real life, and the kitchen of model and actress Molly Sims. Perera shared her design philosophies and strategies for the Q&A at the end of this post, and she also talked through a few of the rooms featured in the book, explaining how readers could apply some of the same concepts in their homes. We started with Olson and McElhenney's living room, pictured here.

"In the living room, I tried to work with what they had," Perera said. "They already had the high-end sofa and the custom leather ottoman, which was a wedding gift."

To add pattern to the room, Perera added Firenze embroidered window treatments from the Ballard Designs catalog and website and a zebra rug from Home Decorators Collection, another online resource with inexpensive buys.

"You'll notice there are black, cream and charcoal elements," Perera said. The charcoal in the drapes ties in with the charcoal in the rug and the throw on the chair. To put more emphasis on the large window on the right, Perera hung white sheers on both sides of the fireplace to make those smaller windows fade away. "Patterned drapes on all of the windows would have been too much," she said. 

Accessories include mercury glass from Anthropologie on the antique bar cart. Vintage bottles on the fireplace were from the the couple's wedding, originally used in the place settings. "We needed something on the mantel that wasn't too distracting," she said. "The bottles add a little shape."

For a look at two more Perera rooms plus the Q&A, keep reading ...

Kaitlin Olson and Rob McElhenney house
The monochromatic palette of Olson and McElhenney's master bedroom is composed of different shades of gray, all with a touch a purple. "If you were to add something with a hint of blue or brown, it wouldn't work," Perera said.

She added bedding from Matteo to the couple's bed, an investment piece they already owned. "I like their sheets because they have a vintage feel and wash," the designer said. "They feel like you've washed them a thousand times."

The pendant light helps the room to feel open, airy and modern. Its simplicity is soothing. The net effect of the color scheme and lighting? "Like a cocoon," she said. The bedside lamps were $40 apiece on EBay; Perera chose to invest more of the budget in custom lampshades in Bergamo fabric. The ottoman provides not only a place to sit but also storage. A local carpet company cut and bound pieces of carpeting -- an inexpensive alternative to buying a custom rug.

 

Molly Sims home
We all can't shop Paris flea markets like Perera and client Sims, but we can certainly steal the look. In the actress and model's New York loft, more variations of gray appear on the wall -- this time with a brownish tone for softness and warmth. The botanicals ("I love real botanicals -- pressed flowers and scientific information," Perera said) came from a Paris flea market, but similar prints are relatively easy to find in stores here. A black wood and beaded chandelier also came from Paris, but a similar one can be found at Perera's boutique Rummage. At the slate bar, vintage industrial swivel bar stools  received a touch of color and femininity with pink polka dot Scalamandre silk.

While we had Perera on the phone, we couldn't resist asking her a few more questions: 

One of your tips in "Vintage Remix" is "don't be a shopping snob." Can you share some of your favorite resources?

I like Wisteria, Ballard Designs, Apt 2B, EBay, Etsy  and Craigslist. I also love the National Council of Jewish Women thrift shop, the antique stores along Lankershim in North Hollywood, one-off shops in East Hollywood along Santa Monica Boulevard and 45 Three Modern Vintage Home on Fairfax Avenue. I shop for high-end items on 1stdibs exclusively and I'm never disappointed. When I'm out of town I always try to hit area flea markets.

What is your strategy when it comes to accessorizing?

I honestly feel like what I do is very traditional. People want what is comfortable and traditional. If you look at the shapes of the sofas I use, they are classic pieces, dressed up in great textiles. Accessories are a great way to funk up the house -- a fun rug or a weird chair, tchotchkes you've collected or mementos of your life. Sometimes there is an edit necessary. But there is a way of arranging things -- group things in different ways. I often walk in to a  client's home and will say, "Why don't we put all of the photos in a collection?" There is a formula, you get used to it: one large thing, one medium thing. It's about balancing scales and shapes.

The interiors in the book are all so different and individual. How would you advise readers to let their personality shine through?

I think it takes a little bit of research and education. People often tell me they don't know what they like. I tell them, "It isn't about me. I want it to be you." People say, "I have no taste," or "I'm a left brain person." People are terrified to make decisions. I may not like some of the things that clients pick, but if it's their taste I'll run with it. It takes some time for people to figure out what they like. I always tell people to rip out pictures from magazines. Make an inspiration board. If you like something and it speaks to you, it may hit you two years later. Maybe it was a house in Tahiti. It could be jewelry, or fashion. Once you go through that process, you'll realize what you like.

Flea markets can be overwhelming. Any tips?  

Be open to new things and beauty in all forms. You should have a sense of the space before you go, even if it's a rough sketch. Get a sense of what size you are looking for and what your space will allow, especially when it comes to furniture. Know what you can and can't get away with.

You use gray a lot. Is gray your beige?

Gray is the new neutral. People are realizing that now. Over the past four years, I have been using gray instead of beige. In the gray family there are so many shades -- purple, brown -- that it can appeal to anyone.

Why do you think people are embracing a more eclectic look?

It's partly economics. People simply can't afford to spend money on investment pieces. It's also due to the fact that people get bored!

RELATED:

Kishani PereraPerera's boutique Rummage

"Undecorate," the no-rules approach

"Design Sponge," the decorating book

Home of the Times: California design in pictures

York Boulevard, Highland Park: An emerging scene

South Coast Collection in Costa Mesa: shoppers' delight

-- Lisa Boone

Photo credits: Kaitlin Olson and Rob McElhenney home by Jean Randazzo; Molly Sims home by Troy House; Kishani Perera portrait by Christina House / For The Times

 

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