Designer Kerry Joyce on the Power of Calm

Los Angeles-based designer Kerry Joyce works in a wide array of styles and mediums. He not only creates interiors both traditional and modern, but also fabrics and furniture. His palettes range from deeply colored to pale as a cloud. But what all his projects share is a sense of ease, elegance, and serenity, that elusive quality that immediately signals comfort and cossetting. It’s no wonder he titled his new book The Intangible. Here he shares some of the thinking behind his acclaimed work.

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At a home in Beverly Hills, Joyce added a hand-painted, beamed ceiling and an arched metal window; the klismos- style chair is from his Dessin Fournir collection. Photo: Tim Street Porter

Coming originally from the theater, with so many different stories and time periods to interpret, I think it helpful that I have a tendency to be fluid, rather than working from one signature style. I am equally pleased to design a 1930s modernist house, a 19th-century townhouse, the most classic colonial, or an Irish Georgian country house. As is my nature, I will look to do the most distilled version of each. It’s the feeling of restraint and elegance, something poetic yet compelling, that unites all of the different homes I design.

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The library of a 1930s Spanish-style house in Santa Monica; the French cocktail table is vintage and the rug is an early 17th-century Isfahan. Photo: Magnus Marding

I’m most interested in how things combine, how all the supporting players merge and become an ensemble that is greater than the sum of the parts. Nothing overtakes anything else to create an imbalance. I strive to create a calming environment that will make you feel good without exactly knowing why.

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A bedroom in West Hollywood features the designer’s Alex four-poster bed, curtains of his sheer fabric Serenity, and a rug from his collection for Mansour Modern. Photo: Dominique Vorillon

I am obsessed with making the homes that I design feel authentic and long-lasting: It is most flattering when people mistake my homes as being from the past.

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A monochromatic palette in a Santa Barbara house; the sofas and the sofa-back table are from Joyce’s Dessin Fournir collection, and the curtains are of his Guinevere sheer wool. Photo: Jonn Coolidge

I like to make what I call “perfectly imperfect” homes. Absolute perfection is often boring; it’s the odd nuances de-signed into a newly constructed home that give it soul and heart. The resulting subtleties communicate realness and longevity, and often a sense of the past. 

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In a newly constructed bedroom, the rosewood bed is a custom design, and the vintage sideboard was fitted with drawers. Photo: Magnus Marding

When I first started with my home collections, there was a lot less muted color in the design world. Yet this is the type of color that I’m most attracted to. There is a science to it: When you add a complementary color to its opposite on the color wheel, any shade will soften and grey subtly, almost as if it is lightly faded by the sun. I’m told that people sense the patina and subtle history in my fabrics, with the feeling that they come from somewhere true. And that’s what I am always trying to create.

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A dressing room wallpapered with over-scale flowers, made by manipulating photographs; the mirrored vanity is a custom piece. Photo: Magnus Marding

I do gravitate to color ranges that draw attention and curiosity, because you can’t quite tell if they are old or modern. 

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The great room in the barn of a family compound in Aspen; the large panel above the fireplace lifts up to reveal a television. Photo: Antoine Bootz

I see every window as if it were a painting. I strive for views at ends of hallways, or if a door to another room is open, I always want to catch at least a flicker of color or life.

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In the foyer of a New York penthouse, the console is a custom design, the painting is by American artist Karl Benjamin. The carpet is vintage Chinese, and the tansu chest is Japanese. Photo: Joshua McHugh

WIth my furniture, as with interiors, I like things that are reduced to their essence, to feel clear and calm in any milieu. They have the sense of coming from the past, yet they feel of today.

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A pure white loft designed for one of the first newly built residential buildings in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Dominique Vorillon

My work is largely defined by intuition. I do trust my instincts and try not to overthink choices that feel correct. But I am also deliberate and methodical. I seek the most intrinsic solution to each problem, the most correct and pleasing details and proportion that will be authentic and lasting. Using both sides of my nature, I will go where the project leads me.

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An array of the designer’s custom chairs, ready to be upholstered in one of his fabrics. Photo: Antoine Bootz

The primary workshops that I’ve long collaborated with for furniture and upholstery are proudly local in Los Angeles, not far from my studio. For the majority of our printed fabrics, we work with a talented team at a factory in downtown LA. Our woven textiles are made for us by small, passionate mills in New York, Belgium, Italy, and France. My collaboration with these skilled craftspeople gives me great pleasure.

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The designer’s new book, The Intangible, published by Pointed Leaf Press.