Designer Kerry Joyce Avoids Trends While Using His Emmy as a Paperweight

For decades, this Los Angeles–based designer has created all things beautiful, from fabrics to the homes they dress. With a forthcoming first monograph, Joyce is ready to celebrate.

Joe Schmelzer

Charles Curkin: You are one of the only fabric designers I know with an Emmy Award.

Kerry Joyce: It’s a nice paperweight.

Oh, come on. It’s an Emmy...

We craftspeople are just craftspeople. It’s not as glamorous as “best actor,” but the award is a good conversation piece. I have the statuette in my office, and I recently had to casually place it behind me for a portrait.

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Kerry Joyce’s favorite paperweight.
Joe Schmelzer

We’ll get back to that in a minute. How did you get into art direction for TV?

Back in the day, my first job was on the Tony Orlando and Dawn variety series. It was completely by mistake. It was the mid-1970s, and I’d just graduated from NYU with a degree in scenery and theater design. I took the two-week job in L.A. for CBS, and the show kept getting picked up, so I ended up staying there. I also worked on the Captain and Tennille show and American Bandstand. What other awful things did I do?

Then you decided to branch out?

I knew nothing about interior design at that time. I dabbled, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make it pay well. I find design sort of painful—like how artists are in turmoil all the time. On a good day, what I do is art. And artistic work makes my head hurt. I wasn’t getting paid well enough for my head to hurt.

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Have things improved for your head?

It’s not as bad anymore. It gets easier when you can just go back to what you’ve done in the past.

Chairs upholstered in MOMO fabric from Joyce’s Performance collection.
Joe Schmelzer

And you’re also an architect?

No. I’m self-taught—in this world, you can’t really say you’re an architect unless you’re certified. So you can’t call me an architect.

OK, I won’t.

But architecture and interior design go together. I don’t want to be decorating bad architecture.

Tell me about the first house you did.

A friend of mine recommended me to a client in the Beverly Hills post office.

What does that mean?

That the house has the 90210 ZIP code but isn’t technically in Beverly Hills.

Go on.

The project was for the actress Jami Gertz, with whom I’ve worked six times over the past 20 years. It was then sold to Crocodile Dundee.

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Samples of the Performance collection.
Joe Schmelzer

Paul Hogan?

Yes. I redesigned it for him and his wife. Then they sold it to Ellen DeGeneres, who had me come back to do her gate. It has since passed through Jessica Simpson and is now owned by Jennifer Lawrence. All of the other houses I’ve done have never been sold—they’re still with the original families. That one, for some reason, has this distinction.

Whom do you work with these days?

A lot of my clients are investment bankers, which is great because they make lots of money. Thank goodness.

Do you keep up with trends?

I try not to be gimmicky, and I avoid “art furniture.” When I do a room, I consider all the pieces of furniture to be the cast of a play in which no one’s supposed to be a star. Nowadays, everything’s a star. So much of design has become “good taste is now bad taste.” A Coco Chanel outfit, unless it’s on a 16-year-old girl, makes you look old these days. At one time, it was the opposite. Something that’s beautiful is not beautiful anymore.

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Fabrics from Kerry Joyce Textiles.
Joe Schmelzer

Why do you think that is?

Everybody wants to be young. I have all kinds of clients, and all of them are trying to be young. Everything is eclectic now, full of “art this” and “art that.” I strive hard to be classic. But not at the expense of my clients’ happiness, of course.

Textiles are what you’re most known for. You recently collaborated with ceramist Heather Rosenman on a capsule collection of fabrics, which is being unveiled this year.

This is my first collaboration with an artist. It’s interesting dealing with them. It adds youth to my company, and here we are...back to being young. Someday she’ll be very famous, and we won’t be able to afford any of her stuff.

A showhouse in Hollywood designed by Joyce in 2007.
Dominique Vorillon
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Did you enjoy working with a fellow artist?

I love the idea of collaborating with other artists, which for someone with an ego like mine might be unexpected.

Back to the Emmy. What’s the portrait for?

I have my first monograph coming out in the fall with Pointed Leaf Press. It will be a career retrospective and will feature my product designs. My hope is that people will read it once, put it on their shelf thinking it was wonderful, and then never look at it again.

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