Inspiration presents itself to all of us in many different forms. Chance encounters with a stranger. A book found at an abandoned subway stop. A rose budding right before your eyes in an unexpected June thunderstorm. And of course, staring at someone else’s furniture.
For Shelley Starr, the latter is the inspiration behind her iconic interior design firm, Shelley Starr Interior Design—and thankfully, she took notice.
We can all trace the lines that brought us to where we are today— the good decisions, the unwise choices, the relationships, the sights, sounds, travels—they all come together to generate what we call “moments of inspiration.” And it’s through these moments that we find what defines us spiritually and professionally.
Shelley’s love of furniture created her own moment of inspiration. And from that moment onward, she set out to do one thing—create environments and furnishings that speak to us with a resounding cosmic vibration. As a lifelong host who thrives on curating sensational soirees, and a venerated designer who lives life outside the frame, Shelley Starr consistently reimagines what is functional, what is luxury, what is beautiful, and what is the future of “space.”
Having worked with several high-profile celebrities, entrepreneurs, and notable personalities, Shelley has enjoyed the freedom to create inspired environments across the globe while utilizing her experience, intuition, and soul to inject life, love, warmth, and art into the homes and hearts of her clients.
There are those who imagine—and there are those who take imagination and turn it into a new reality. Shelley Starr is an interior design juggernaut that refuses to succumb to trends. Instead, she builds spaces that nurture thought—spaces that communicate.
Elevated popped into Shelley’s latest tour de force design project to gain some insight on what’s new in design, and what it means to be inspired.
You’ve been turning homes into masterpieces for over twenty years. How did you get started in interior design?
I actually started my career as a product designer. I was obsessed with the processes involved with running factories and the production of furniture. Through this, I learned a great deal about construction, spatial planning, how essential product scale is, utilizing multiple materials and, of course, product development. So how did this evolve into Interior Design? I love to entertain and have spent my entire adulthood hosting parties. My friends and guests often told me that I had a lovely eye for design and attention to detail. As most circuitous stories unfold, my design firm and career then began when an amazing client took a chance and asked me to design their two-story penthouse in Soho, Manhattan. The rest is history and now I enjoy a career that I’m incredibly proud of.
Obviously interior design trends change from year to year, decade to decade, and generation to generation. What constants have you seen throughout your career?
Consistency, integrity, quality craftsmanship, and thoughtful attention to classic or timeless design concepts, and most importantly—a deep sense of ownership, pride, and responsibility when it comes pulling together the thousands of details my clients request, while realizing their specific vision and needs.
Indoor/outdoor living is all the rage these days. How do you seamlessly combine indoor and outdoor aesthetics from a geographical standpoint?
You are correct! In the past few years we’ve seen many families reprioritize how they experience their home, and enjoy the amenities they provide for their family and friends. When I’m designing, I’m always looking for the common thread that links my interior rooms to one another—yet each room must have its individual characteristics. And then, I explore how this thread connects to the exterior living area. Once I have the design concepts drafted, then it becomes about extraordinary materials that are not only beautiful and functional, but also user friendly and sustainable.
You like to take design to the next level by utilizing a combination of exotic and outside-the-box materials including reclaimed wood, leather, and…horsehair. What materials are you in love with right now for kitchens, baths, and living spaces?
Oh my gosh…this is a difficult one. I’m obsessed with so many different materials. I’m always collecting materials and stones and sticking them to walls while I wait for the perfect room or project to use them in. One little secret—I’m known for always honing and/or leathering all stones I work with. I would like to give a shout-out to Ann Sacks for their incredible selection these days. Sky’s the limit when I hit one of their thoughtful showrooms. I’m also in love with a lot of David Sutterland exterior materials and I often use them for interior product.
You’re unique in that you offer clients a product design element. What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve dreamed up recently?
That’s tough— it takes a great deal of time and energy to create each and every custom piece. I recently designed the most spectacular modular seating unit for a massive living room and a lighting installation for a five- story apartment building in Manhattan that’s moved into first and second place in my heart. I wanted to go big and unique, and luckily, I have amazing clients that chose to trust my vision. I’m beyond excited to photograph this room and post the photos. I’m also crazy for extremely thoughtful cabinet designs. I love thinking outside the box and creating the endless details that people ignore or forget to address, until the cabinets have been completed, and they’re left scratching their heads thinking “Wish I had thought of that.”
You’ve stamped your name on quite a few homes over your career—can you name a couple favorites and what their defining elements were? Another tough one—because I personally evolve and push my creative perspective on each project!
My first would be an amazing penthouse for a high-profile client in Manhattan. I worked with a company out of Germany designing what I like to refer to as a “functional artful lighting installation”—handmade crystal butterflies in a multitude of crystal colors. It’s spectacular!
I have a project I’m currently working on in Calabasas and I must say, the bar I designed, and the hand-cut marble pieces I used on the back wall take my breath away each and every time I look at it. Honestly, I’m obsessed with the whole home and what my clients and I have achieved together.
In Malibu, I created custom-made bronze entry doors as well as a reclaimed wood ceiling from old barns across America. The whole home turned out spectacular. And in Encino, I have a project still under construction, but I think I can retire after it’s complete. I’m beyond proud of each and every detail I have thought of when it comes to renovating this home for my dear clients.
You have a blank slate and a blank check. What’s the first thing you do to take your home to the next level?
Hahaaaa….I love this question. First, I would create a kitchen that Mario Batali would envy and beg to hang out with me in. Where he would choose to sit back and marvel at my attention to detail, all while I cook him one of my signature dishes! Then, I would design my closet in a manner that would make Carrie Bradshaw fall to her knees and beg me to allow her to shoot one more movie in which she solely hangs out in my closet! Finally, I would build a private spa that all my closest friends beg to hang out with me in and I would relax daily in my favorite bikini and robe!
You’ve traveled around the world masterfully curating jaw- dropping homes—so, where’s your dream home and what defines it?
Capri, Italy. A cozy kitchen, Mario stopping-in regularly to tell me how awesome I am. A lovely garden and an intimate pool. Fabulous bedding, great towels and lots of exterior seating for the endless stream of guests that I would receive. This will be my heaven one day!