Designer Crush: Kate Lester

1. How did you get your start in design?

I was working in corporate America after college with a great job and a sweet corner office. The only problem was that I spent more time thinking of how to renovate and re-design said office than actually working in it. So, one day I quit my job, went back to school and took a huge pay cut (and risk) to follow my dream. After leaving design school, I got an amazing job at a boutique design firm under a designer who pretty much taught me everything school did not. I worked my way up from coffee runner to senior designer and the rest is history.

2. How do you define “California style”?

I feel like California style is casual, curated, and always secondary to a lifestyle that brings the outdoors in. We like to call it “livable luxury”, and it means comfy sofas (in machine-washable fabrics) vintage rugs that can take a beating, and woods that are washed, bleached & distressed. I think that universally California style is this really strange mixture of accessibility and aspiration. I always say that Californians embrace a high-low culture, and a lot of that is reflected in our décor vibe. Gorgeous waterfront homes are often adorned with custom upholstery and commissioned art, while the inhabitants are most proud of the funky one-of-a-kind armchair we found at a flea market and had recovered in a textile from Mali.

3. Where do you draw inspiration from?

Is it socially acceptable to say Instagram? I feel like I should be saying something more dignified but the truth is that the internet is a treasure trove of design inspiration and I love it. My team and I send inspirational images back and forth to each other and file them in those awesome folders on Instagram. Then everything is super accessible and organized when we are brainstorming design concepts for an upcoming presentation. I also get a ton of inspiration when I travel. Restaurants, hotels, and shops are the best. Commercial design pushes all of the boundaries and, hints of that make its way into our designs all of the time.

4. What inspired you to launch your own design firm in 2010? 

While working for another designer I had started taking on smaller design projects on the weekends. I would help friends of friends with bedrooms, living rooms, and bathroom remodels. Once I realized I was making more money on the weekends than I was during the week at my normal job, I knew it was time to branch out on my own.   

5. What’s your process for getting to know a new client?

I think one of the most important things we discuss initially is how much input the clients would like to have during the design process. Some clients come to you, you have two meetings, you design the house and it’s done. Others want to be involved and have input every step of the way. It’s also important to discuss lifestyle, hobbies, careers, and history. We recently had clients who met while one was working at a cigar shop in London. We found these vintage cigar molds and used them in the design and when she saw them, she burst into tears. The more you get to know your clients, the more thoughtful, intentional and collected the designs feel. 

6. Describe a particularly memorable project.

It seems cliché to say my very first project, but that’s where I am headed. I had just quit my job, and was sitting in traffic on the 405 thinking “what in the world am I going to do?” How am I going to get clients, and really make money doing this? Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life?” Then my cell phone rang. It was a friend from college calling to say he had heard I was going out on my own and it was perfect timing because he had just purchased a huge house a block from the ocean and had not a single piece of furniture. It was then and there I knew I had made the right decision and Kate Lester Interiors was born. 

7. What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday from morning to night?

A perfect Sunday starts with Soulcycle, followed by a Wellness Shot and a Greens 3 from Pressed Juicery. After that, a beach day or bike ride along the strand with my husband and daughter and dinner on the Hermosa Beach Pier at sunset. To round out the night, a nice warm bath, a glass of pinot noir and a good book (with a little Instagramming in between).

Lighting round! 

8. Favorite Netflix binge show?

"Broadchurch."

9. Go-to karaoke song?

"Don’t You Want Me Baby" by The Human League. My hubby and I do it as a duet. It’s pretty all-time.

10. Must-have snack?

Justin’s Almond Butter Packets since I eat at least one meal in my car a day. 

11. First concert?

New Kids on the Block. Ah-mazing.