Home Tour: 21st Century Soho

Take one highly successful former beauty executive, add the glamour of design maven Kelly Wearstler, and you get a New York triplex that shows the city how it’s done.

Ty Cole
OF 9

“It was very vanilla.” Kelly Wearstler is remembering, and not in a good way, her first impressions of a New York City pied-à-terre she’d been asked to design for Leslie Blodgett, the former CEO of the global cosmetics company Bare Escentuals, who splits her time between Tiburon, California, and New York. The triplex penthouse Blodgett and her husband, Keith, had acquired sat high above SoHo’s historic cobbled streets and offered exceptional views, but the romance ended there: It looked to be a gut job, no question.

Wearstler and her client clicked after chatting about everything from exotic marbles to lip gloss. “Leslie is a smart businesswoman—and very, very appreciative,” says the Los Angeles–based interior designer. “I love working with new people. They push you in directions you might not have gone.”

For the uninitiated, Wearstler, 48, is one of the biggest design talents of the past decade, best known for the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica and the former ones in Palm Springs and Miami; a mid-’00s reimagining of The Tides, also in Miami; and BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan. A soft-spoken South Carolina native, she’s an unlikely style juggernaut who has rolled into the realms of home accessories, fashion, jewelry—even chocolates and Russian-birch-plywood surfboards. (Wearstler is a Malibu surf mom on weekends.)

If the almost-three-year renovation project could be summed up in a flavor of its own, it might be peppermint: assertive, with staying power and sweet feminine vibes. The same qualities can be used to describe Wearstler and Blodgett. For her part, Blodgett has made them the core of Bare Escentuals, the multibrand business she built from a small Bay Area bath-and-body retailer into an international natural-cosmetics empire. “I serve women through my company,” says the 53-year-old Long Island native, who in April stepped down from day-to-day involvement after 22 years. (Shiseido bought the company in 2010, for $1.8 billion.) “If I can make them more confident in some way, that’s all the better. My success has been about bringing community to a consumer product. It’s multichannel; we were an online digital-community brand before Facebook even existed.”

Pretty surfaces mean a lot to Blodgett, but so do heart and soul. She’s an angel investor in companies run by women and active on the boards of three: Spanx shapewear, the Stella & Dot jewelry and accessories brand, and Every Mother Counts, the nonprofit maternal-health organization founded by model Christy Turlington Burns. Blodgett and Wearstler bonded so completely over the SoHo project that the designer was en-trusted with outfitting the entire triplex down to its cups and saucers, often sourcing objects of her own design.

Wearstler prides herself on finessing the tiniest details in her work, which can be something of a surprise to first-time clients, given the wild-at-heart impression her interiors make. Textural, retina-scorching, eclectic almost to the point of being unhinged—to some eyes they add up to a gorgeous overload that pushes the boundaries of reason. And yet they function like a dream, as the Blodgetts can attest. During their regular visits to New York, Keith loves to unwind by cooking in the central kitchen or bingeing on TV sports in the adjacent living room while Leslie reads or meets with business contacts upstairs in the library, which has a terrace and a separate entrance. The lowermost floor holds a spacious master suite and a study that doubles as a guest room for their 23-year-old son.

To improve flow between the levels, Wearstler opened up rooms and replaced a switchback staircase with a bronze spiral that lends the triplex a touch of Paris’s Sixth Arrondissement (so does the hand-painted silk in a cascade of stripes she used to line the stairwell). “It’s an experience just coming up to the kitchen from my bedroom,” Blodgett says with a laugh.

Other custom touches range from a showstopping jewelry cabinet nestled into a shallow hallway to adjustable four-way makeup mirrors in the master bath to carved-wood doors that camouflage the kitchen when the couple are entertaining. “It was almost like designing a boat,” says Wearstler, who’s learned a thing or two about space planning from her adventures in hotel design. Completing the picture are furnishings by some of her favorite makers—a Gio Ponti bar cart, Paul Evans bronze chairs, Jacques Jarrige lacquer stools—amid anonymous finds sourced online and in shops from coast to coast. She commissioned quite a few pieces, including a standout bedroom cabinet in bronze and ceramic tile from French designer Elizabeth Garouste, one of her heroines. “It’s giving love to everyone,” Wearstler says. “Emerging artists, the masters—they’re all amazing. It’s just how I think.”

Now that everything is in its place, Blodgett continues to pick up on Wearstler’s positive design vibes every day. Between meetings, she often stops in the master bath to freshen her makeup in the mirrors they dreamed up together. “If Kelly knew how good I’d gotten at working these things....” And with that, she snaps each closed with a satisfying click before skipping back up the spiral stairs.

See more of the Kelly Wearstler-designed home in our slideshow »

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