Lara and Jeff Sanderson did not want to hire a decorator. Yes, the 11,000-square-foot house they'd recently bought on Mercer Island, Washington, was in dire need of total revamping. But their meetings with interior designers left the couple feeling underwhelmed. What they wanted was an artist. So they turned to .
In the master bedroom, the Murano-glass light fixture, mirrors, and sconces are from John Salibello Antiques, and the stools are from Epoca; custom-made bedside tables and vintage lamps flank the bed.
To the casual observer, Wearstler might appear to inhabit the white-hot center of the decorating universe — she has been hailed as the heiress apparent to Hollywood's grand Regency style, and is a virtuoso of its glitz and glamour. In reality, she's a free spirit who didn't get where she is in her career by playing it safe. She is possessed of a creative confidence that allows her to take chances based on eye and instinct alone. "I'm not an intellectual designer," says Wearstler. "I'm a very emotional designer. I listen to what my client says and then I take it to heart."
Eleven hundred miles north of Wearstler's Los Angeles studio — and just a stone's throw from earnest, rainy Seattle — the Sandersons' new abode was classic Pacific Northwest on the outside: a rambling 1946 cottage-style house clad in split-cedar siding and clinker brick. Yet the Sandersons longed to pass through its front door into a different world, equal parts Parisian jewel box, scholar's retreat, and natural wonder.
In the entry hall, the light fixture is vintage, and the stone sculpture is from JF Chen; the walls are painted in Glidden's Onyx Black, the floor is patterned with three different marbles, and on the ceiling is a wall covering by SJW Studios.
Jeff and Lara, who married four years ago, bring a broad diversity of interests to their union. Princeton- and Harvard-educated Jeff arrived at Microsoft in 1984, and stayed for 17 years; he left to become a middle-school math teacher for several years. A collector of music manuscripts, he often plays piano in his downtime. Lara, a professionally trained dancer who grew up among artists, shifted careers to politics. Two summers ago, the couple started a venture-capital fund, Sanderson Ventures, aimed at supporting small local businesses that will contribute to their communities.
The Sandersons' house is a manifestation of their combined passions — with an art-filled salon, a music room lined with pages scribbled by the likes of Beethoven and Mahler, and a warm, sprawling kitchen.
The master bath is clad in onyx fantastico stone, which Jeff calls "the most astonishing creation of nature you could imagine. It makes it very clear that there are forces larger than oneself giving beauty in this world."
The master bath walls are covered in onyx fantastico, and the flooring is marble and onyx; the sconces are vintage.
The one room that, above all, seems simply to have been dreamed into existence is the double-height library. To create it, the ceiling was punched through to a small upstairs bedroom. Wearstler designed its massive partners desk and the brass-railed spiral staircase. "That staircase got so much love," says Wearstler, who worked first with a metalworker and then with "the guy who gave it that perfect patina. It was like adding a piece of jewelry to the room."
Circa-1950 French armchairs and a custom-made desk, rug, and shelving in the library; the table lamps and globe are from JF Chen. Wearstler designed the staircase. A wall in the library is clad in negro marquina marble inset with brass; the rug is custom made.
Indeed, as much as the Sandersons wanted their house to reflect themselves, they also wanted it to bear witness to the work and passion of the people who collaborated on it, from the artists who hand-painted the wallpapers to the stonemasons who set the marble floors in the entry hall. Says Jeff, "If the people building your house are of a wonderful spirit, that spirit will continue to inhabit the house through their craftsmanship."
One person whose passion is evident at every turn is Wearstler. "Kelly has infinite creativity," says Lara, who describes the entry hall as "the Kelly special." "That's where she was in her power alley, doing what she does best." Asked about the first impression it makes on visitors, Jeff replies, "Shazam."
Elsewhere, Lara's earthier sensibility plays off Wearstler's exuberance. A guest bedroom is done in a neutral palette, for example, but a giant pattern of concentric rings is splashed across the walls and ceiling, inspired, says the designer, by the cross section of tree trunks.
In a guest bedroom, the custom-made bed is upholstered in leather and dressed with linens by Kelly Wearstler for Sferra; the hand-painted wallapaper is by Porter Teleo, the vintage side tables are from JF Chen, and the light fixture is a Paris flea-market find.
The dining room, too, represents a unique alchemy between client and decorator. "I'd never done a purple dining room," says Wearstler, who created the palette at Lara's request, and found the pair of Venetian-glass chandeliers through a dealer in New York. "I love to be challenged by my clients," she adds. "There are a million combinations that get you to the perfect design solution. It's that exploration that's so nice."
The dining table, inspired by Jean-Michael Frank, is surrounded by Art Deco chairs; the chandeliers are made of Venetian glass, the ceiling is sheathed in a De Gournay wall covering, and the rug is by the Rug Company.
For the Sandersons, the sense of discovery didn't stop once the house was complete. "Jeff and I walk around and say, 'I can't believe it's so beautiful,'" says Lara. "When something is well designed, there's harmony in it, but also something that throws you off-kilter. It stimulates your intellect."