By creating richly layered spaces that combine comfort with glamour, design force Celerie Kemble elevates her clients' projects with her spirited style and eclectic approach.
Celerie Kemble reveals the key to successful client relationships, shares her design influences, and discloses the colour with which she identifies most.
HQ: Manhattan & Palm Beach. Learn more at Kemble Interiors and @kemble_interiors.
How would you define the Celerie Kemble approach to interior design?
Celerie: I like to take the idea back to helping my clients put themselves in their homes and to make it more personally referential. I look at design as a way to help you live in your house and help make your house a bigger extension of you. It's a moving and very human process. I guess that involves compromises and sentimentality and practicality—every aspect of that goes into our design when we work for a client.
Let's talk mothers, daughters and expanding the Kemble Interiors firm...
Celerie: Having watched my mother—Mimi Maddock McMakin—run a highly successful Florida-based design firm, work nights, weekends and on vacation, the initial takeaway for me was to avoid a design career. But after working informally helping friends with their apartment design, and loving shopping flea markets and finding antiques and vintage items, I realized that what I was doing for free and fun actually suited me as a career choice.
I started by working as an assistant for a designer at my mother's company in Florida. And then I assembled enough design work in NY, that expanding Kemble Interiors in the NYC was a natural evolution. Mom's advice: "Go, just don't sink."
"PAINT IS MY MOST VERSATILE TOOL."
- Celerie Kemble
Do you collaborate with your mother and share clients?
Celerie: We don't work together on any projects per se...but we speak daily and pick each other's brains creatively and support each other to ensure success for our respective clients. It's always helpful to have someone you trust and respect creatively.
I consider myself really lucky, being part of a generational business because I have had the privilege of working with my mother's clients' children, and in some cases redoing homes my mother did. And my mother has had the privilege of doing the children of some of my clients because it becomes regional. Once you develop a really trusting relationship with a client, and you have a designer whose voice helps make your home, home, an intense loyalty results.
See how Celerie and her team capture imaginations with a dynamic range of colours and styles in this diverse portfolio of client projects.
All of the photos in the Design P.O.V. series are courtesy of the interior designers featured. You can find paint colours like the ones pictured at
your local Benjamin Moore retailer.
How would you identify the business of interior design?
Celerie: First and foremost, it’s a client service business–which means your responsibility is to please someone else. At the core of the work, you are communicating what somebody else needs, their budget, the timeline, their expectations, to hundreds of different people: artisans, craftsman, manufacturers, all make up the touch points that go into creating a well-designed home. It's a really, really complex system.
What are your "go-to" resources?
Celerie: I look everywhere to find things that feel new to me, but what I rely on is much more narrow; I count on partners that follow through, are reliable and stand by their products...Benjamin Moore, Schumacher, Arteriors, Merida. I don't think I have a project that doesn't include them.
How do you leverage paint in a project?
Celerie: Paint is my most versatile tool. I know I can come up with the most complex colour scheme with fabrics or art, and then take my paint deck and find exactly what will work to amplify the piece I want to highlight. For me, it's the final and broadest note on which I have complete control. Paint is the surrounding point.
What are your design influences?
Celerie: My biggest design influence is always the client, I have to see everything through the lens of how it works for their life, their home, and how it relates to what they love. In working with 10 to 15 clients a year, each brings me a whole new set of priorities and challenges. Often it is in a language I don't speak in terms of design and style...which is the priority.
From an architecture and landscape design vantage point, Frederick Law Olmsted has influenced my world. I went to a boarding school called Groton in Massachusetts and Frederick Law Olmsted designed the campus and it was like being in a magical place for four years. Also, for ten years I've lived on Central Park, also designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and the park is the lungs and the life of New York City.
What are your words of advice for someone entering the interior design profession?
Celerie: The most important things they can do is to learn to communicate their ideas. Because no matter how great an artist you are or whatever your creative sensibility, unless you can convey it to someone else and sell your concept it won't happen. I tell students to make sure that their writing and their ability to speak, not publicly, but to speak to someone else, is as effective as any creative concept.
I also think that flexibility is one of the most important things in design. Because if you can only find one right answer, you're not going to get it done. And you have to be able to sort of reload your inspiration as the mission changes. It's a job of evolution.
If you were a colour, what would you be?
Celerie: I've always been green, a bright green and olive green. It has a lot of energy but can also sit neutrally. I love green!