Kelly Wearstler is an American interior designer and founder of her own design firm, KWID. Known for her bold work, which mixes vintage and modern styles, Wearstler has designed for boutique hotels, retail stores, and even celebrity houses!
Recognized by Vogue and TIME magazine, Wearstler’s clearly had an impact on Californian interior design. But just how good is the Kelly Wearstler MasterClass? And can it really help you with your interior design?
These are the points I’ll address in this Kelly Wearstler MasterClass review.
But, first, here’s a quick summary:
- Wearstler’s sources of inspiration
- How to find what you love and train your creative eye
- What to consider when starting a project
- How to work with space and materials
- Advice for using color and texture
- How to play with scale and work around limited space
- Tips for creating a unique experience in each room
- How to showcase what you love
- Learn from a famed interior designer
- Strong visual examples throughout
- Does address low-budget options
- Mostly high-end examples
- Less focused on design basics (could be considered a pro for some)
Length of course: 2 hours and 13 minutes, split into 17 lessons
Best for: someone that is serious about improving their interior design skills and wants to learn from a revered designer. Great for those looking to pursue long-term design projects or a career in interior design.
Overall: a unique insight into Wearstler’s projects and design philosophy. The class includes field-trip segments showcasing Wearstler’s interior examples. It’s worth noting that Wearstler’s projects are mostly luxury hotels/houses. But, she does cover some useful tidbits on how to maximize your space at home. I really enjoyed her unique philosophy and it made me think about design in a new light!
NEW: MasterClass has released another interior design course with Corey Damen Jenkins. This means a MasterClass subscription gives you even more options to learn about interior design.
Here’s what this Kelly Wearstler MasterClass review will cover:
- About Kelly Wearstler and MasterClass
- A sneak peek at what’s inside
- Pros and cons
- Who it’s for
- How much it costs
- Is there anything better?
- What others thought of the course
- How unique the content is
- Final verdict: is it worth it?
Let’s get started:
About Kelly Wearstler
If you’re here, you likely have some idea of who Wearstler is and what she’s known for. So, I’ll spare you the biography and sum up some key career points:
- Noted for her impact on the rise of designer hotels, Wearstler’s standout projects include the stunning Santa Monica and San Francisco Proper Hotels
- Having published 5 design books to date, Wearstler is celebrated by esteemed publications like Elle Décor and Architectural Digest
- A celebrated icon for both her interior design and fashion sense, Wearstler’s also the first interior designer to have a MasterClass!
If you haven’t seen the MasterClass trailer, it’s worth checking it out here:
MasterClass was founded in 2015 and since then, it’s quickly risen to the top of online learning, offering over 150 courses.
Its unique selling point is its celebrity-level teaching — so you can be assured you’re learning from the best.
Classes include Singing with Mariah Carey, Modern Japanese Cooking by Niki Nakayama, Storytelling and Writing by Salman Rushdie, Fashion by Tan France, and Mindfulness and Meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn — to name a few. There's even a MasterClass on buying your dream home!
All this being said, and having taken many MasterClasses myself, I can say that it isn’t for everyone. So, in this review, I’ll weigh up the pros and cons to help you decide whether the Kelly Wearstler MasterClass is right for you.
Inside Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass
Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass is 2 hours, 13 minutes long, and is split into 17 lessons.
The course includes a 40-page Workbook with chapter reviews, a glossary, assignments, and more.
In this class, there’s a mixture of 1-1 style teaching and “field trip” chapters — where Wearstler takes you around some of her project locations.
To give you a better idea of what you’ll get from this MasterClass, here are my chapter breakdowns:
Lessons 1-2: Meet Your Instructor & Sources of Inspiration
“Everything is an experience, and you should make it the best you can at home”
In this opening section, Wearstler introduces you to her design philosophy. This includes what a room needs in order to be successful, as well as why good design is so important.
She also shares her core design values and sets down her goals for the class. Namely, Wearstler’s aim is to help you find your creative voice, make spaces sing, and be confident enough to push boundaries.
With this as her starting point, Wearstler teaches you how to:
- Find what you love
- Merge art with function
- Tell a story through objects
- Train your creative eye
Taking you through her own experience collecting gems and fashion items on a low budget, Wearstler teaches you how to use almost anything as inspiration and to build upon smaller pieces toward a bigger vision.
As she sees it, training your eye and being willing to experiment is crucial for developing as a designer. So, Wearstler leaves you with some exact advice on where to go and what to look for when seeking inspiration.
Lesson 3: Starting a Project
While I expected a more at-home-style project in this section, Wearstler instead focuses on how you can work with clients toward their visions. To begin, she takes you through what she thinks is most important when conversing with clients.
With this in mind, you’ll learn:
- What a “client’s program” is
- How to define your client’s needs
- What research to undertake before a project
- How to find a strong direction
In this lesson, Wearstler shares her own case study of an urban home she worked on. As her starting point, there were a series of questions she asked in order to find the best approach for her design. For Wearstler, this is key to getting off on the right foot.
So, by the end of this lesson, you’ll gain insight into how to define your client’s needs, research the property and area to find direction, and negotiate with your client to decide on a design.
This takes you on to the more detail-specific:
Lessons 4-5: Working With Space & Field Trip
“What we’re doing here is creating a story”
Here, Wearstler focuses on the practical side of designing space. She introduces you to her theory of “sequences” and lays down your responsibilities as a designer.
In this chapter, Wearstler shares some effective ways of using visual trickery to transform a space — including how to make a small space look bigger. Using her own case studies as examples, Wearstler aims to show you what being a good designer is all about.
So, in this lesson, you’ll learn how to:
- Embrace awkward spaces
- Give an old room a new spirit
- Use sketches to test your design
- Understand the importance of prototypes
All in all, this lesson gives you insight into how you can reinvent space by mixing old and new. She also gives some concrete examples of how you can work with (rather than against) key elements of the architecture.
Using the Downtown LA Proper Hotel as a bold example, Wearstler shows you how she reinvented an old space to give it a new, modern spirit.
In fact, despite being a luxurious example, I actually found Wearstler’s tips in this section applicable to home projects. She focuses a lot on how you can work with what you have and turn potential drawbacks into creative opportunities.
The field trip segment was also a standout for me. You get to see exactly how Wearstler approaches a new space and what she looks out for when considering her design.
This is also a nice segue into the next chapter on:
Lesson 6: Materiality in Design
“Interior design is about problem solving”
In this section, Wearstler shares why material is so important to design. She also draws attention to how material exists in the architecture itself, and why you should consider this when starting any project.
Bringing in her team to show you how materials can make a statement, Wearstler teaches you:
- Her theory of “vibe trays” and how to use them
- Tricks for organizing a project and its materials
- How to create dialogue within a space
- Practical points to consider in a room
- How to understand a material’s “movement”
Using great visual examples, Wearstler teaches you what different materials can offer when designing a room. She shares her own theories of what works well and gives you some pointers for finding materials.
Wearstler also teaches you some key terms in the industry (such as the “hand” of a piece) and how you can use these to develop your style.
Inviting her team members in to discuss a project, Wearstler also shows you how they use design programs to experiment with materials. As she puts it, this is the problem-solving aspect of design: playing around to see what works and deciding how to unify the space.
My key takeaway from this section was Wearstler’s philosophy of the design hierarchy. As she sees it, this is a key aspect to consider when choosing your focal points. It also prevents a room from being visually overwhelming.
Lessons 7-8: Living With Color & Field Trip: Experimenting With Color
“Living without color is like living without love”
In this chapter, Wearstler challenges you to bring color into your home. She even shares some affordable ways you can do this, using her first apartment as a relatable example.
In her field trip section, Wearstler takes you back to her luxury hotel design — showing you how you can use color to create a depth of field.
So, in these lessons, you’ll learn how to:
- Unify space through color
- Choose the best colors for you
- Use color to highlight function
- Help your client choose a scheme
- Tell a story through color
Along with the hotel field trip, Wearstler gives you plenty of other visuals to be inspired by. For example, she shows you how she used a focal art piece to unify a space and to create dialogue between different rooms.
For me, it was interesting to see how Wearstler tested color samples to show the influence of light, surroundings, and texture. In the hotel, she even considers how colors can play off the buildings outside!
While the examples are mostly high-end, there’s value in hearing Wearstler discuss the effects of different finishes and sample procedures. In fact, a lot of her advice in this section can be applied to any painting project — no matter how small.
Having shown how color can best serve your space, Wearstler takes you on to another element of design:
Lesson 9: Discovering Texture
“Texture is such an important part of design”
For Wearstler, texture is more than how something feels: it’s about how it looks and interacts with other parts of the room. With this in mind, Wearstler teaches you her strategies for choosing textures and using them to create a cohesive story.
Going back to the Proper Hotel as her case study, Wearstler teaches you how to:
- Consider architectural and regional elements when choosing textures
- Tell a story by bringing textural elements together
- Use texture to create mood
- Consider monochrome as a way to tell a story
- Train your eye when researching and choosing textures
With the Proper Hotel’s maritime theme serving as a great visual example, Wearstler also takes you through some of the textures in her studio to teach you what works well and what doesn’t.
While admitting there’s no right or wrong, Wearstler does discuss some points you should consider when choosing materials and textures for your room. This includes the effects textures can have on your space and how to best tell a cohesive story.
This is also a great segue into:
Lesson 10: Pattern: Movement and Scale
“It’s all personal taste. There’s no right or wrong”
In this lesson, Wearstler turns her focus to why pattern is so important to design (and how you can work with it). As she believes, it’s important to experiment to determine what story you want to tell.
For example, Wearster uses a close analysis of a chair to show you how scale, colorways, and material can all impact the final look. As she shows, all materials take patterns differently, and adjusting the scale also has an effect on how the same pattern can look.
Not being aware of how much scale and color can transform a pattern, I found this lesson fascinating. By showing you these examples, Wearstler also teaches you how you can experiment with patterns to find the perfect fit for your project.
My key takeaways from this section were on how color and scale can affect your patterns. Wearstler shares some great tidbits on how you can test your patterns, change silhouettes, and even make your own pattern!
By the end of this lesson, you’ll learn how patterns can unify spaces, how to consider other elements like texture when choosing a pattern, and what you can do at home to choose the right pattern for your project.
With pattern being affected by so many elements, Wearstler takes you on to another key element of any room:
Lesson 11: Lighting: Enhancing Your Space
“I encourage everyone to bring in as much natural light as they can”
In this chapter, Wearstler teaches you the importance of lighting and what it can do for your room. In her opinion, natural light always trumps artificial. But, there are also ways you can recreate natural lighting if it’s not available.
So, with attention to what lighting can do for your space, Wearstler teaches you how to:
- Enhance your space with lighting and dimming systems
- Make the most of what light you have available
- Understand “architectural lighting” and why it’s important
- Use light to create visual interest in a room
While you’ll know by now that Wearstler’s projects are high-end, what I liked about this chapter was how much it focused on what you can do at home.
Although budgets differ, Wearstler shares the importance of being flexible and finding creative solutions to limitations. She even gives you some apartment solutions that can drastically enhance your space.
In my view, this chapter was one of the more relatable parts of the course. While you get to see how light transforms high-end spaces, you also learn low-budget alternatives. And, Wearstler also shares her secret tool for lighting — which anyone can have at home.
Taking you on to more personal ground, Wearstler turns to:
Lesson 12: Furnishing: Balance and Comfort
“It’s important to have things that are comfortable”
Bringing you into the comfort of her living room, Wearstler shows you how she used 2 key architectural features to guide her furnishing decisions. For her, it’s important to work with a room’s natural features — rather than against them.
So, in this lesson, Wearstler teaches you how to:
- Play with balance and symmetry within a space
- Relate other areas of interest to your design work
- Create comfort through mixed materials
- Bring elements together to tell a story
While you might not have a luxury budget, Wearstler leaves you with some actionable tips on how to shop for furniture, keep the room functional, and furnish your room to maximize space.
I personally liked seeing Wearstler’s choices for her own home, rather than her professional projects alone. You definitely gain more of an insight into Wearstler’s style, and this chapter is far more relatable in terms of design tips you can apply to your own home.
Along with creating balance within a room, Wearstler teaches you how to make a space “you” through:
Lesson 13: Creating Experience With Art and Objects
“Experience doesn’t have to be a room”
In this chapter, Wearstler takes you through what she means by “art,” and how you can use it to give your room character. Like in her early chapters, Wearstler focuses on her hobby of collecting.
As she sees it, being curious about materials and collecting what interests you is a great way to direct your design choices. With attention to this, and through some stunning visual examples, Wearstler teaches you:
- How to showcase what you love
- Unique storage solutions
- How to work around limited space
- Effective ways to mix old and new
- How to use art to enhance a space
Returning to the Proper Hotel, Wearstler shows you how she incorporated modern art into an old space to give it a new spirit. As she says, art isn’t limited to paintings or prints. In fact, she encourages you to be experimental in order to arrive at “happy accidents.”
While this chapter does consider high-end examples, Wearstler does share some concrete advice on how you can create your own gallery space at home — especially through mixed mediums.
But, having followed Wearstler’s design story for the LA Proper Hotel, she takes you on to its final segment:
Lesson 14: Field Trip: The Completed Story
“Everyone looks beautiful here, which means they’re gonna come back”
Throughout the course, Wearstler backs up most of her lessons with examples from the Proper Hotel. Here, she summarizes the points she wants you to take from the final story.
This includes her tips on playing with colorways, creating repetition and a depth of field, and how to play with texture to guide the eye:
Although this section does include some noteworthy tips, it felt more like a showcasing of her completed project rather than a lesson. Wearstler takes you through the techniques she used to arrive at her end product — such as how she collected materials and enhanced the experience of the rooms through furniture placement.
Lessons 15 & 16: Design Heroes & Creative Journey
“I was actually an entrepreneur before I even knew what the word was”
Toward the end of her class, Wearstler reflects on her design influences and her creative journey to date. She discusses some of her favorite designers and how they’ve influenced aspects of her work.
Perhaps more importantly, she talks about her background in visiting antique stores, and how this helped her develop her eye for design. She even shares her strategies for how you can train your design eye, wherever you are.
Along with this, Wearstler also gives you some tidbits on:
- How to learn from other disciplines
- Managing design work alongside a day job
- The perks of working with a budget
- Her daily routine and responsibilities
- What to expect in a design career
Further to this, Wearstler dedicates her final chapter to more exact advice you should take for your design career:
Lesson 17: Life as an Interior Designer
“It’s all about putting in the time and loving what you do”
By the end of her MasterClass, Wearstler has shared some of her personal design philosophies, and, she hopes, taken some of the mystery out of design. So, in this final chapter, Wearstler takes you back to the Proper Hotel for some parting advice.
Here’s what this section covers:
- What to know when starting out as a designer
- How Wearstler navigates project difficulties
- What to do when projects fall through
- How to undertake design research
- What success means to Wearstler
By the end of this lesson, you’ll gain some final insights into how you can talk with your clients and meet them halfway. Admitting you won’t win every battle, Wearstler suggests ways you can manage design struggles and grow stronger in your career.
Giving you some final pointers on reaching success, Wearstler leaves you with some parting encouragement and assurance that, by working hard, you can get to exactly where you want to be.
What I liked about Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass
Learn from a famed interior designer
Creating luxury hotel and property designs since the mid-90s, Wearstler has built a strong reputation for herself in the interior design world. Best known for her modern Californian designs, Wearstler stands out as one of the greatest contemporary designers of our time.
In this MasterClass, you get a unique chance to learn directly from Wearstler herself as she guides you through her design philosophy. With the field trip segments, too, you get to follow Wearstler through her projects.
For me, this sets Wearstler’s MasterClass apart from other online design courses.
Strong visual examples throughout
As you’d expect from an interior design course, Wearstler’s MasterClass is visually strong and she backs up all her teachings with concrete examples.
While some users found the examples excessive, I personally liked how Wearstler used multiple case studies to show you how her philosophy translates in different projects.
Taking you through the Proper Hotel, as well as her first apartment and studio projects, you get to see a range of designs from varying budgets. While the luxury hotels were a little out of most people’s reach, it’s still fun to see how Wearstler works.
Does address low-budget options
Although Wearstler’s main case study is a designer hotel chain, I was impressed by how much Wearstler related her hefty designs to at-home interiors.
Throughout the course, she focuses a lot of attention on how to work with awkward spaces, as well as how to make the most of a small space and budget limitations.
In fact, there’s very little advice that couldn’t be applied to home projects. Wearstler teaches you how to incorporate art into any space, how to play with lighting, and how to make a space your own.
What could be improved
Mostly high-end examples
One drawback of this course, for some, is the focus on luxury hotels rather than home-design alone. If you’re expecting an interior design course that’ll strictly focus on home design, this might not be the course for you.
Although Wearstler does mention low-budget alternatives throughout the course, these are more of an aside. Overall, Wearstler’s more focused on sharing her creative spirit — and the Downtown LA Proper is where we see most of this.
Less focused on design basics
If you’re new to design, Wearstler’s MasterClass might be a little out of your comfort zone. While the course follows a great logic of design phase to final product, it definitely isn’t an introduction to design.
Wearstler launches straight into how she collects materials for her work and how she creates dialogue within a room. So, if you’re expecting a more foundational class, this might not be the best place to start.
Terms not always explained
All in all, I think Wearstler does a good job of explaining design terms. She teaches you how to study the “hand” of a texture and shows you examples of these terms throughout the class.
That being said, she does occasionally use terms without explaining what they mean. If you’re not a design student, you might find this difficult to follow.
Luckily, though, the Workbook includes a design glossary and explains most of these terms for you!
Who’s this course for?
In my view, this course is most suited to someone who’s:
- A fan of Kelly Wearstler’s design style
- Keen to see Wearstler’s high-end projects
- Interested in pursuing an interior design career
- Considering a long-term design project
This course is less suited to those interested in purely home design. As mentioned, most of the examples in this class are high-end and take up most of the lesson time. So, for many, this course wasn’t hugely relatable.
However, if you’re a fan of Wearstler’s and are eager to get a rare glimpse at her design projects, you’ll probably enjoy this course.
How much does the course cost?
At the time of writing, a MasterClass subscription costs $180 per year, or $15 a month.
With the subscription, you have access to all 150+ courses on MasterClass.
Remember, that the more classes you take, the less the effective cost per class is.
For example, if you’re able to find at least 4-6 classes you like, it means you’re effectively paying $30-$45 per course. ($180 / 6 classes = $30).
And keep in mind that considering these classes are taught by world experts, the value is unbeatable. It’s sort of a way to “hack learning.”
Also, MasterClass offers a 30 day refund if you’re not happy with your purchase.
Alternatives to Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass
Outside of MasterClass, I did find some other interior design courses. One example of this is Udemy’s Introduction to Interior Design. This class is about half the length of Wearstler’s and is more focused on design basics.
If you’re looking for an introductory course on interior design and have the goal to furnish your own living space, an alternative to Wearstler’s class might be your best bet.
However, if you’re a fan of Wearstler’s design style and would like to gain unique insight into how she works, the MasterClass is unrivalled. She also gives you insight into how to work with clients, which is great if you’re pursuing a design career.
So, it’s worth considering your learning aims in line with the lesson plan to best decide if this class is for you.
What's more, with the all-access pass, you can take any or all of the MasterClass courses!
Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass: what others have said
My aim here is to present the most fair and balanced review of Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass. So, it’s worth drawing attention to other opinions — both good and bad.
When researching this course on Reddit and other forums, a common drawback to the class was not understanding its target audience. Many expected an interior design course suited to everyday home renovators, but found Wearstler’s lessons too out-of-touch.
“I felt the series was very unrelatable. Who is their target audience? Everyone who I know that signed up for this MasterClass program is a regular person like me. [...] I feel like I came away with very little” -- Comment from MasterClass
“I had hoped to get some help with designing for my home but this was mostly focused on commercial properties and for people who have gajillions of dollars” -- Comment from MasterClass
For others, the course seemed a bit lacking in the before/after stages of the projects, which many users would’ve wanted to see:
“I would have liked to see a lot of before and afters of her work. I thought her concept and information were both interesting, and how she gets her inspiration” -- Comment from MasterClass
Sadly, this course didn’t have a hugely positive response. In my view, this is mostly down to the course title, and people’s expectations of learning home renovations rather than seeing Wearstler’s high-end projects.
That being said, those who were more familiar with Wearstler’s status in the design world enjoyed what she had to offer. If you’re looking to be transported to her world, this is an enjoyable opportunity:
“Kelly Wearstler IS a decorator to the rich, we all knew that going in. That’s one reason we did the class (she’s a star!) and part of the fun of it. [...] She is engaging to listen to and [...] a genius in her profession. [...] I found it fascinating and inspirational to be transported into her world. [...] This class was nicely done with good production values” -- Comment from MasterClass
“I’m obviously not working with a Kelly Wearstler budget but it was fascinating to get a glimpse into her process and how she approaches her work. [...] It was definitely a high level MasterClass, not super in the weeds/instructional, but it gave me lots of food for thought and unique ideas for my own space” -- Comment from MasterClass
All in all, this course divided opinions. I think a lot of the negative feedback came from a lack of understanding of the class objectives. So, it’s worth bearing in mind Wearstler’s teaching style (checking out the trailer is a must!).
Also, it’s worth checking out other MasterClass courses to see what else sparks your interest. If you can find at least 1 or 2 other classes that take your fancy, the all-access pass is really worthwhile.
Is the content unique?
Overall, I’d say this course is pretty unique. It’s not an objective class — all lessons are guided by Wearstler’s unique design philosophy and style.
So, you definitely won’t get the same advice as you would from an introductory course. In fact, Wearstler’s luxury hotel designs more or less frame the course.
While Wearstler does have several books, I don’t think they have the same impact as a video course. With MasterClass, you have the benefit of high production values, great tutelage, and all course topics in one easy-to-navigate place.
Wearstler’s books, too, are more niche. For example, her 2009 book, Hue, is specifically about color.
In her MasterClass, you get a snapshot of everything. You even have the added bonus of an online forum and a live Q&A with Wearstler herself.
Is Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass worth it?
If you go into Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass with the right expectations it’s absolutely worth it.
A lot of the examples are high end and Wearstler does brush over some basic/beginner friendly design ideas.
But, if you admire Wearstler and her design style, I do think this MasterClass is a great way to get inspired for your project and to take a way lots of practical points. It rates highly in our Best Interior Design Course review.
So, if you liked what you saw in the class trailer and lesson plan, this MasterClass is worth checking out.
And, to get the most out of MasterClass, it’s worth taking as many classes as you can that interest you. With 150+ courses, there’s no shortage of classes to choose from.
For example, you can also learn Art & Creativity from Jeff Koons, Fashion Design from Marc Jacobs, and Songwriting and Producing from Alicia Keys — to name a few.
Also, MasterClass has a 30-day refund policy if your course wasn’t what you were hoping for. This reduces your risk of losing money if a class isn’t for you.
Frequently asked questions
A MasterClass all-access-pass costs $180 a year ($15 a month). This gives you access to Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass, alongside 100+ other courses.
Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass is 2 hours and 13 minutes long and consists of 17 videos.
Sadly you can’t get the Kelly Wearstler MasterClass for free. But MasterClass has a range of purchasing options and offers refunds if you’re not happy.
Yes, MasterClass operates a 30 day refund policy if you purchase directly through them. If you purchase through other providers, their returns policy may apply.
Rebecca graduated from King's College university with a first class honours in English Language, followed by a Masters' Degree in Eighteenth Century Studies.