California home interior designer evokes the essence of laid-back style.
While no two projects are alike, Kate Lester’s home interior designs perfectly capture the sun-drenched, casual beach living of Southern California. Her style is real—and it’s no wonder.
Starting with a laptop in a spare bedroom, Lester homes took on anything that came her way—powder rooms, living rooms, accessory consultations. A few months later, she had her own office and two employees.
Shane O’ Donnell
Born and raised in Hermosa Beach, Lester was steeped in beach culture growing up and is still in the midst of it. “My husband is a lifeguard,” Lester says, “a real-life Bay Watch David Hasselhoff. We surf, paddle board and skateboard. And we live six blocks from where I grew up.”
As an interior designer for homes, a Kate Lester home means it’s embraced a sunny, ocean-centric influence. But in her youth, she had other plans. “I went to USC and got a business degree,” Lester explains. “I grew up thinking I would have a successful corporate career—all high-rises and briefcases. But when I worked in marketing for a financial company, my view of corporate America changed. It was cubicle after cubicle and asking for days off. I realized I didn’t want to be stuck in an office asking for leave to see my daughter’s soccer game.”
Kate Lester decided to reset her goals, and shift to home interior design. Bartending by night, she studied interior design by day, eventually landing a job with West Hollywood interiors, working there for five years. Along the way, she began to take on side projects, developing a portfolio. In 2012, she launched her own studio, Kate Lester Interiors, back in Hermosa Beach. “People were starting to redo beach homes in Hermosa Beach,” she recalls, “and it was easier for me to establish a business here rather than in LA, which was saturated with designers.”
Starting with a laptop in a spare bedroom, Lester took on anything that came her way—powder rooms, living rooms, accessory consultations. A few months later, she had her own office and two employees.
“Everything snowballed,” she says, “and I began doing ground-up homes and major renovations.” Today, Lester has five in her interior design studio, and two more employees running her retail home furnishings and accessories shop next door to the studio—both, aptly, located on Pacific Coast Highway.
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It’s livable luxury, meaning you can have nice things, but they are impervious to sandy feet and seaweed.
Lester doesn’t mind if clients (and her Instagram followers) are drawn to her sun-and-surf aesthetic in interior design style—it’s something she celebrates. “I like to say it’s a curated California cool,” she notes. “A home should look like the pieces were collected, even if they weren’t. My interiors are comfortable, not ‘decorated.’ The drapes don’t match the pillows. It’s livable luxury, meaning you can have nice things, but they are impervious to sandy feet and seaweed. At my house, I have a five-year-old and a white sofa.”
Kate Lester’s clients have included celebrities and sports figures, but she’s discreet about giving up any details. “These people live in the public eye so much that they often want their homes to be completely private, a place where they can relax,”
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Though she’s handled scores of projects for clients who are in the public eye—or not—Lester has a few recent favorites. One is a 5,000-square-foot new-build home for two young doctors with children. White walls and chevron-patterned wood floors create the backdrop for Lester homes unique touches.
“We used black-framed windows for contrast and pushed the envelope with things like farmhouse sinks for the master bathroom and an eggplant-colored vanity for the girls’ bathroom,” she says. In the kitchen, designed to be the hub of the home, the interior designer suggested deep blue-gray for the cabinetry color and added a boldly patterned backsplash. Pieces for the living room and dining area look like they’ve been gathered over time.
Another project was the transformation of a 10,000-square-foot 1990s Mediterranean-style home. “The clients originally thought that they just needed some art and accessories to change the look,” Lester recalls, “but it was all brown, with precast concrete columns, carpeting, lots of travertine and marble. We did things like bleaching the beams, installing new flooring and updating the cabinetry with paint and new hardware to open and brighten things up. It’s still a Mediterranean-style house, but lighter and more modern.”
With these completed projects and others, Kate Lester has stayed true to her approach and principles. “I always bring a sense of humor to each design,” she notes. “After all, I’m not curing a disease.
I am always authentic to the people who live in my designs and to the architecture, and I aim to be unique. I don’t want clients to go next door and see the same artwork over the neighbor’s fireplace.”
Most important, for Kate Lester interiors, the surf is always up.
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