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Known for her charming, welcoming Palm Beach-inspired interiors, Celerie Kemble comes from a family of design pioneers and style mavens. Her mother, Mimi McMakin, founded Kemble Interiors in 1982, while her London-based sister Phoebe is the director and head chef of Kemble Kitchens. So what does it mean to be part of a family of tastemakers, and what’s it really like working so closely? We spoke with Celerie about her mom’s best advice, her Mother’s Day traditions, and how she approaches design when it comes to her own children.

Celerie Kemble and her mother, Mimi McMakin. Photo: Brittney Ambridge.

Growing up, how did your mother shape your love of design?

My mom is creative in every fiber of her being and provided our family with an ever-evolving but constantly beautiful home. She also taught me how to look for beauty in everything. So she wrecked me forever in terms of having outrageous expectations of my environments, but she also instilled an industriousness and sense of responsibility about making them wonderful! She caused the itch and taught me how to scratch it.

What’s one of your first memories involving design?

I remember watching my parents stenciling their bedroom floor in a pattern of twisting ribbons and bows in large open squares (it was sometime in the early 1980s). The room was transformed in about two days, and I remember feeling so proud that they knew how to do “things” and that my mom had “cool ideas.” My house always looked very different from the other kids’ and I took great pleasure in that.

Design: Celerie Kemble. Photo: Matt Albiani.

What’s one of the greatest design lessons your mom has passed down to you?

She showed me that originality has the strongest resonance.

Is there any advice that your mother has given you that you particularly cherish?

She has a great understanding that people don’t always remember what you say or what you do, but they remember how you made them feel. I think she has taught me less with advice and more with how she has behaved towards people to create great friendships, partnerships, and loyalty throughout her life. She is an inherently thoughtful and generous person.

Design: Celerie Kemble. Photo: Matt Albiani.

What’s a particularly memorable project that you’ve worked on with your mom?

I think that in sharing a business and growing our company over the last 20 years, the single biggest thing we have built together is the ethos and demeanor of Kemble Interiors. Our team is nice. We work hard. And we have fun!

Are there any noticeable differences in the ways in which you and your mom approach design, or your design aesthetics?

Our work reflects the location, the client, and the intent of the project more strongly than our personal inclinations, so those tend to drive the differences in our designs. Really, we have a very similar sense of what is comfortable and what is pretty. Both of us default to a love of the eclectic, sentimental, and layered.

Design: Celerie Kemble. Photo: Stephen Karlisch.

Is there anything we’d find in your home, design-wise, that we most definitely wouldn’t find at your mom’s?

This question really stumped me. I had to call my mom and we both mentally reviewed each other’s junk for a while. She said she doesn’t like the color peach, and I have a tendency to an old lady pink she doesn’t like. I have no idea what she is talking about.

Do you have any kind of Mother’s Day traditions?

I’m a little light on Mother’s Day / Father’s Day kind of traditions. I’m terrible with cards and gifts on a timeline, and since I am divorced, it is hit or miss on whether the kids are with the right parent on the right day. But we always call one another (my mother and I), and I’m trying to instill better behaviors in my children. My daughter makes magnificent cards and usually paints or colors one for her grandmother too. My two boys can really dress up a breakfast tray and know exactly how I like my fried egg.

Design: Celerie Kemble. Photo: Stephen Karlisch.

Being a mother of three yourself, do you have any decorating tips for approaching kids’ rooms?

I don’t approach kids’ rooms very differently than I do any other room in the house. I treat my children to the same things I love — we all sleep on my favorite sheets and the good down pillows. I have worked hard to find them quirky vintage art and fill their bookcases with books they will love. I have also really enjoyed teaching them to care for potted plants. It has been a rough ride for some of the plants but I can’t say that is really different for ones elsewhere in my house.

I didn’t let my kids pick the colors in their rooms (their repertoire is more limited than mine and their convictions are not strongly held), so instead I selected fabrics in colors that I thought would feel fun, lasting, and sophisticated — a deep saffron and bright blue for my boys, and tennis court clay color and cantaloupe for my daughter. The children would probably say that their favorite things in the room are these hairy, monster-sized bean bags I loathe. So, I guess my advice is to be an adult and make the room the way you want it. But also be the parent, and embrace that you don’t have control over everything and be cool with the things that mean a lot to them.

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April 29, 2020

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