Living With Art

Decorator Kishani Perera on Creating a Balanced Home for Art and Everyday Life

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Decorator Kishani Perera on Creating a Balanced Home for Art and Everyday Life
Decorator to the stars Kishani Perara

Los Angeles-based interior designer Kishani Perera is not only an author, boutique proprietress, and decorator to the stars, she's also an art lover. Perara works with celebrities such as Rachel BilsonMolly Sims, Josh Duhamel, Kate Bosworth, Ben and Christine Stiller, Jason Statham and Rosie Huntington Whiteley, and Emily Deschanel to create youthful yet tasteful interiors—but she keeps an eye toward her clients art collections as well. We spoke to her about getting her start in the business, writing a book, and how the right decor can put your art collection in the spotlight. 

How did you come to be a decorator, and then to have your own home store? 

Design was in my blood from birth, whether I realized it or not. From a very young age I marveled in classic architecture and enjoyed vintage shopping, rehabbing furniture, and collecting beautiful and unique objects. After pursuing a degree in English from UCLA, it became abundantly clear that design was the direction my life would take. I went back to UCLA to study architecture and design, and quickly thereafter launched my own firm in 2003. I believe my utter passion and obsession with design, and the way I mixed high and low, vintage and new, helped to quickly propel my career. Not to mention that I was fortunate to work with some very distinguished and well known clients early on.

My projects were published in several magazines, which then drew the attention of Abrams Publishing. That was the inception of my book Vintage Remix, a collection of my projects, and a how to on the art of mixing. After having collected enough antiques and vintage curiosities and furnishings into fill several storage spaces, I decided in 2011 to conquer another dream I’d always had—to open my own shop. 

When working with art collectors, what are some factors to keep in mind when planning a room? 

Non-art-collectors focus first on the interiors, thinking on the patterns, colors, and textures of the textiles, the overall look and palette, then consider adding art in to complete the space. But when working with serious art collectors, I find that the art is their primary focus in designing the room; the furnishings are secondary. If they have a valuable piece, in particular, we develop a palette that doesn’t compete with the piece, neutrals and solid versus patterns and vibrant colors that might overpower it. As a designer, I don’t feel that art has to match an interior, or vice versa, but it must compliment. Art should be its own entity within a room. My best advice is to allow the art to breathe, not to clutter the space around a special piece in particular, and to let it shine.

What decor advice would you give to those looking to enhance the presentation of their art collection? 

I find with art there’s strength in numbers, so I like to group a smaller pieces together for effect. Often there is a concern that by grouping several pieces together, each will lose its individual impact, but in fact the opposite is true. When grouped with complimentary pieces, the collection can tell a story, or at the very least create conversation and interest, drawing the viewer further in than if displayed independently. Framing is also not something to be ignored, and I take great care to select just the right frame for each piece not only to bring out the beauty of the artwork itself but to add a component to the design of the space.

Your book shows how to mix old and new, high and low all within the same surroundingshow does art fit into that equation?

My design philosophy is based on the idea that layering creates a unique space, and art is one of the most important components of the layering process. I find art in a variety of places, in galleries near and far as well as online. The provenance of a piece is not as important to me as the emotion it evokes, so if I find a beautiful piece at a flea market, it’s just as valuable to me as one that I purchase with a noteworthy pedigree.

As the owner of Rummage, you also curate a selection of art objects alongside furnishings and decoration. What do you look for in a piece for that project?

As with the vintage furnishings I curate, I really just seek out pieces that speak to me, that are distinct, usually colorful, or moody in some way. It’s all about finding pieces that elicit a mood and cultivate curiosity. 

Do you have an art collection of your own?  

My taste in art varies from midcentury paintings to Fauvist pieces. I tend to love color, so anything with a bold palette grabs my attention. I currently have hanging a group of vintage portraits—oils, pastels, and watercolors—and a Rousseau-like painting that I love, plus several other small watercolors. At the moment I don’t collect one particular artist, but I've been collecting antique portraits of men in turbans for some time now. I’m not quite sure how that started.  

Are there any artists or artworks that inspire you and your work?  

I'm inspired by art on a daily basis, and have many artists to thank for that. I recently commissioned a Harland Miller piece for a client, so his work is on my mind a lot lately. Bold, humorous, and inspired by literature, it's so clever.

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