To complete the look of a new custom home in California, you will want to employ the services of a top-notch interior designer. Without cohesive furnishings, lighting, art, wall and floor coverings, all the hard work put in by your architects and builders will simply not get the justice it deserves. Maybe you want sophisticated elegance in your Silicon Valley estate or a laid-back California look for a beachside home in San Diego, or perhaps a regal European feel in your San Francisco high-rise apartment. Regardless of the style you are going for, the ten West Coast designers on this list are the ones to call.
Interiors designers are perhaps the most mobile professionals in the custom home industry. So whether you have a residential project located along the Pacific Coast in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, or San Diego or somewhere in-between, these interior decorators have you covered. From southern California up to northern California’s wine country and beyond to neighboring states, or even further, these designers have created some of the most beautiful homes. They have hundreds of combined years of experience and have earned nearly every top industry award possible: 9 of these designers have been included on Architectural Digest’s prestigious AD100 and many are consistently on Elle Décor’s A-list. They have worked for the biggest stars in LA, collaborated with the nation’s best architecture firms, and been credited with starting new design trends from their CA design studios. They are experts on green design and sustainable home finishes, can create custom furniture and lighting, and work in every style from modern designs to family-friendly interiors. The 10 award-winning firms on this list are the best interior design practices in California.
About our methodology: We considered hundreds of professionals while making this list of the 10 best custom home interior designers in California. In addition to professional associations, we heavily weighed recognition the firm has received in the form of awards and press, any prestigious clientele they have worked with, whether or not they collaborate with other top industry professionals, including architects and builders, and what geographic areas they work in, with the more exclusive and high-end neighborhoods having greater influence. We also took into account the value of the projects they undertake, years in the business, customer reviews for quality and service, and range of services offered. Finally, we considered geographic location in order to give you a representative sampling of the best companies across the state.
If you are thinking about designing a home interior, we recommend checking each contractor’s license with the local licensing board, speaking to past clients, and using our bidding system to get competitive quotes from at least 3 contractors. Getting multiple bids is the best way to ensure you get a fair price and that bids include the complete scope of work. On the other hand, if you want to learn more about the cost of building a custom home in California, check out our cost guide article.
10) Barbara Barry
9526 Pico Blvd, Los Angeles CA, 90035
Where they work: Nationwide
California-native Barbara Barry opened her Los Angeles design firm in 1985 and has since become one of the world’s most sought-after interior designers. For over thirty years, she has created quietly beautiful, livable interiors. She has earned many accolades over her storied career, including being named by Forbes as one of the best 10 interior designers on the west coast. She has built up a star-studded client list, including financier Eli Broad, former coach of the Miami Heat Pat Riley, and Michael Ovitz, a well-known talent manager, investor, and philanthropist.
Raised in a family of artists, Barbara Barry has design running in her blood. She is an active plein-air painter and is inspired by subtle colors and forms found in nature, believing that home furnishings should evoke a sense of calm. She is known for creating softly sophisticated homes and serene atmospheres. In addition to her internationally renowned design practice, her product designs are celebrated through partnerships that include furniture, lighting, textiles, bedding, carpets, crystal, plumbing, and tile. Although she is most well-known for her residential home designers, Barbara Barry also does private consulting for businesses looking to elevate their brand aesthetic and partnerships.
9) Atelier AM
7956 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Where they work: Internationally
Preeminent interior design and architecture firm Atelier AM has become one of the most talked about design teams in Los Angeles lately. Run by husband and wife team Alexandra and Michael Misczynski, the company is sought after by high-profile clients for their careful and sophisticated design sense. Their work has earned them clients such as Tom Cruise and Brad Grey. In particular, in a little over a decade, the pair have emerged as the go-to designers for serious art collectors. They have been featured in many international and national publications, including in The Wall Street Journal, which described the firm as becoming “…known for rooms that meld eye-catching antiques in settings that are both austere and deeply comfortable in a traditional sense.” Unsurprisingly, Atelier AM has been named to the prestigious AD100.
“The duo’s sublime interiors, redolent of history yet in tune with the modern world, distill centuries of architecture and art. Diverse periods, styles, and materials are brought together in poetic juxtapositions: a Barnett Newman painting and classical Roman sculptures, centuries-old wood and silky stainless steel, Bronze Age artifacts and Machine Age masterworks. But for all the bravura moments they create, the Misczynskis ply their craft with subtle discipline, a quality that has made them sought-after collaborators for preeminent modern architects such as Richard Meier and the firm Olson Kundig.” – Architectural Digest
Prior to opening his own practice, Michael Misczynski worked as an architect for renowned architect Richard Meier — assisting on major projects including the Getty Museum and the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome — and Alexandra Misczynski trained under distinguished decorator Michael Smith and Naomi Leff. Today, it is not uncommon to find them paired up with the country’s best architects to complete the vision of a high-end home. Their work is known for blending minimalistic architecture and classical proportions with carefully selected classic antiques and exquisite furnishings, creating tranquil and yet boldly sophisticated environments.
8) Kelly Wearstler
8440 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Where they work: Internationally
World-class designer Kelly Wearstler has earned countless accolades, including a place on the preeminent AD100, French AD’s list of World’s Top Interior Designers, Wallpaper Magazine’s Top 20 Designers, TIME Style & Design’s elite “Design 100” group of global creatives, and even Vogue’s Best Dressed list. She and her work have been featured in Vogue, Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, InStyle, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Condé Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, Women’s Wear Daily, and The New York Times. She has also garnered attention internationally, including from the French, German, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Indian editions of Architectural Digest, Elle Decoration UK, Wallpaper, Vogue Paris, Vogue China, Residence, Belle, Vogue Living, House & Garden, and Hong Kong Tatler.
“Author, outré fashion plate, branding virtuoso (from sheets to jewelry), and decorator and muse – Wearstler cuts a profile as colorful as those of her clients.” – Architectural Digest
Wearstler’s signature style has revolutionized the look of modern American design. She creates, as Elle Décor puts it, “fanciful wild-child interiors” for her A-list clientele from the film and music industries, top celebrities, and tastemakers worldwide. Her rooms are “[brash, graphic, theatrical, and skillfully layered,” blending ”everything from 1970s funk to ’40s Hollywood into head-spinning, high-energy chic.” Wearstler prides herself on personal touches and intimate collaboration on each project — whether this means visiting metal studios, building bespoke custom furniture, or hand painting rug designs. All of her projects have a distinct voice and are steeped in a sense of cultural awareness. And though they may vary on aesthetic, a common thread of all her work is a high luxury and a hallmark exclusivity.
Wearstler has also been trusted to work on prominent hotels, including the Viceroy Santa Monica, the Tides South Beach, and the BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan. Her global luxury lifestyle brand includes everything from curated collections of furniture, lighting, rugs, fabrics and trims, wall coverings, and bedding, to fine china, decorative home accessories, jewelry, and objets d’art. Wearstler has served as a judge on Bravo’s Top Design and is a regular contributor to fashion and lifestyle publications. She has published four coffee table books and earned a spot on the Los Angeles Times’ bestseller list.
7) Michael S. Smith Inc.
1646 19th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404
Where they work: Internationally
Michael S. Smith — the man hired to remodel the private quarters of the White House during the Obama presidency — is considered one of the most original and respected talents in the design industry today. With an international client list, he counts among his admirers big names such as Cindy Crawford and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild. Throughout his career, Smith has earned some of the highest design awards, including being named five times the AD100. He is the recipient of the Pacific Design Center’s West Week “Stars of Design,” was named ‘Designer of the Year’ by Elle Décor and is repeatedly included on their A-List. His designs are frequently featured in major publications including Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Town and Country, Galerie, Domino, Metropolitan Home, Interior Design, Tatler, W, and the Wall Street Journal. His work has been celebrated in five volumes.
A native of California, Smith founded his design practice in Los Angeles in 1990. His sophisticated style is “a seamless blend of European classicism and American modernism—always fresh, always evolving, always underscored by the belief that everyone should live with things they love.” His design sensibility is inspired by a respect for the past, filtered through a modern lens. His home furnishing line – the Jasper Collection – includes fine furniture, fabrics, leathers, wallcoverings, and accessories. And he designs collections for top design industry names, such as Ann Sacks and Baker, and has partnered with some of the finest manufacturers in the business. His showroom presents the full Jasper Collection as well as an array of distinctive lines by artisans from around the world, personally curated by Smith himself.
In addition to running his design practice and product lines, Smith serves on the Board of Trustees of Otis College of Art and Design and has co-chaired the American Friends of the Olympia International Fine Art and Antique Fair. He is a member of ASID and was appointed by President Obama to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. He is the author of two books.
6) Waldo’s Designs
620 North Almont Drive, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Where they work: Internationally
From being a penniless newcomer to Los Angeles to working set design on films including “Hello Dolly!” and “Doctor Doolittle” — Cuban-born Waldo Fernandez got his break when director John Schlesinger approached him to design his private home. Today, Fernandez runs Waldo’s Designs – one of the world’s most exclusive and decorated interior design firms known for pulling off even the most complicated jobs. They have been included in the AD100 and Elle Decor’s A-list time and time again, and have countless other accolades to their name. The Franklin Report describes him as a “master of his genre and a forerunner of the well-recognized modern California streamlined style.” His exclusive client list is a who’s-who of investment bankers, film producers, recording artists, accomplished artists and actors, and other Hollywood elite. He counts among his clientele Elizabeth Taylor, Burt Bacharach, Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Jennifer Aniston, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Sean Connery, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pill, and Tobey Maguire.
Fernandez has an impressive resume, which includes Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills, CUT at the Four Seasons Bahrain Bay, Live Nation executive offices in Westwood, Nobu Ryokan Hotel in Malibu, The Forum in Inglewood, and, more recently, the interiors for the Soho House in West Hollywood, a high-end member’s club on Sunset Boulevard. In addition to private residences, and the expected restaurants and hotels, Fernandez has worked on everything from riding stables and executive offices, to yachts and private planes. His commissions come from all around the world, and it is rumored that the minimum budget for his jobs is well over $1 million.
Located at the same Almont Drive location since it opened its doors in the early 1970’s, Waldo’s Designs has a small staff of interior designers and architects that take on about three major projects at a time. Fernandez also develops a trademark furniture line, which can be seen at his shop.
650 North Robertson Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90069
Where they work: Internationally
The Los Angeles-based design studio Commune, founded in 2004, has earned a reputation for holistic work across the fields of architecture, interior design, graphic design, product design, and brand management. Their luxurious designs have earned them spots on the AD100 and Elle Decor’s A-List, and, in 2015, a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Interior Design. Their work can be found in the pages of Architectural Digest, Travel + Leisure, Elle Decor, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Luxe Interiors, House Beautiful, and internationally in the Spanish, German and French versions of Architectural Digest, among many others. In 2014, Commune published its first monograph, Commune: Designed in California.
“Commune is noted for its eclectic assemblages that work in harmony with their surroundings, while paying homage to historical, traditional, and international design. The firm’s environmental sympathies are expressed in their conscientious selection of materials, and echoed in their appreciation for original architecture and its elements.” – Commune
Led by principals Steven Johanknecht and Venezuela-born Roman Alonso, the practice has designed projects worldwide in the residential field as well as commercial and hospitality. Commune, which stands for community, is made up of a diversely-skilled team of like-minded architects, interior designers, product and graphic designers, artists, artisans, craftsmen, and builders. The team brings rich experience to the table, having worked for a range of the world’s best designers before coming to Commume, including many on this list such as Waldo Fernandez, Michael S. Smith, Kelly Wearstler, and Barbara Barry. The studio emphasizes a collective approach to design, believing that authentic creativity and innovation come from collaboration.
4) Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design
8550 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90069
Where they work: Internationally
Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design is a multi-award winning Los Angeles-based interior design studio renowned for eclectic, yet sophisticated and inviting interiors. The practice is led by the British-born Martyn Lawrence Bullard, who has risen to wider stardom through the hit Bravo series Million Dollar Decorators. He is consistently named to the AD100, featured permanently in Elle Décor’s A-List, and was named by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the top 25 designers. In 2010, he won the “Oscar of the Interior Design World,” the Andrew Martin International Designer of the Year Award. Not surprisingly, Bullard is an in-demand designer for A-list celebrities, among them singers Cher and Elton John, actors Edward Norton, Ellen Pompeo, and Eva Mendes, and fashion designers Tommy Hilfiger and co-founder of Jimmy Choo Tamara Mellon. His work has appeared in over 4,000 publications worldwide including Architectural Digest, ELLE Décor, House & Garden, W, Vogue, House Beautiful, Harper’s Bazaar, Departures, The New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. His most recent cover of Architectural Digest featuring his home designs for Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian was one of the publication’s best-selling issues of all time.
“I am inspired by my travels , truly they provide me with the memory bank to pull from , the flavors , colors , cultures , smells and inhabitants of the countries i visit become the source of endless inspiration. I believe the greatest education you can give yourself is to travel , and as a designer it is vital to do so. My motto , “live , love and decorate “ says it all …. enjoy life and let it inspire you as you do so !” – Martyn Lawrence Bullard
Martyn Lawrence Bullard is a master of a broad range of styles and has applied them to lavish residential projects, trailblazing luxury resorts, and high-end retail shops. His adventurous use of color and texture and intricate understanding of worldly and historic design movements are hallmarks of his style. In addition to his interior design practice, Bullard has created an eponymous collection of indoor and outdoor fabrics, wallpaper, furniture, and home accessories. His keen eye has made him appealing to some of the world’s top luxury brands: he has designed a fabric line Schumacher, tile lines for Ann Sacks, rugs with The Rug Company, a collection of dinnerware with porcelain maker Haviland Limoges, as well as collaborations with silver maker Christofle and crystal manufacturer Daum.
3) Madeline Stuart & Associates
717 North La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069
Where they work: Nationwide
A long-standing leader among the Los Angeles design community, Madeline Stuart has earned international acclaim for her sophisticated home designs. Her firm has been distinguished by its inclusion on the AD100 since 2001 — the same year that Forbes named her as one of the best interior designers on the West Coast. And in 2010, the inaugural debut of Elle Décor’s A-List featured Madeline Stuart as one of the leading 25 designers in the country. Her designs have caught the eye of publications including Mountain Living, Veranda, C Magazine, Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, and Town & Country. Due to her meticulous attention to detail, she is proud to be trusted to restore properties originally built by such acclaimed architects as Sylvanus Marston, Paul Williams, and Gerald Colcord.
“I was born in NY but I was raised in Beverly Hills with extremely creative parents. My father was a documentarian and film director and my mother was an interior designer. My love of history, music, art, design and architecture can be attributed to these two remarkable people.” – Madeline Stuart
“Each project starts with the process of discovery. We begin with research related to the architecture of the residence, the period we’re trying to evoke, and the real or imagined history of the house. We work with our clients to establish how they want to live so their home is a true reflection of our collaborative effort.” – Madeline Stuart
Madeline Stuart has attracted the attention of a wide range of clientele, stretching from the entertainment industry to the world of business and finance. Some noteworthy clients include Larry David, hotelier Jeff Klein and film producer John Goldwyn, talent agents Susan and David Gersh, former NBC Studios President Ted Harbert, actor Jason Alexander, and film producer Lisa Henson. She is equally confident designing a mountain retreat, a Fifth Avenue penthouse, and a 1920’s Hollywood hacienda. But regardless of the style or scale of her project, Stuart emphasizes “above all else, the fundamental marriage of integrity and beauty.” And always evolving, she has worked on commercial projects for law firms and movie studios on top of her residential work.
2) Tucker & Marks, Inc.
58 Maiden Lane, Fourth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94108
Where they work: Nationwide
The San Francisco design studio Tucker & Marks, founded in 1986 by Suzanne Tucker and her husband Timothy Marks, has earned a reputation as one of the premier residential design studios in the country. The pair’s work has been featured in Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Town & Country, and numerous books. Co-founder Suzanne Tucker has been repeatedly included on the prestigious AD100 Top Designers of World list. Other honors include the 2015 Design Leadership Award and the 2016 Julia Morgan Award. Tucker is the founding director of the Northern California Chapter of the ICAA (Institute of Classical Architecture and Art), where she sat on the board for 14 years. She currently sits on the national Board of Directors of ICAA and also serves as the chair of the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show.
“A house can be a lifelong romance, and we should find ourselves falling in love with our homes over and over again.” – Suzanne Tucker
A protégée of legendary California designer Michael Taylor, it is not shocking that Tucker has developed a unique aesthetic that is inviting and comfortable and yet supremely elegant. It is just as perfectly suited for the California lifestyle as it is for clients abroad. The studio works on everything — from grand family estates, cozy mountain lodges, and upscale beach houses, to country villas and luxury penthouses. They pay attention to every tiny detail of a project, designing custom furnishings and upholstery, procuring specialized lighting, and curating exceptional art and antique collections — all of which reflect their client’s individual style and needs.
1) Steven Volpe Design
550 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
Where they work: Internationally
Steven Volpe Design has spent the last 30 years helping his clients live beautifully. Since founding his interior design firm in 1987, he has worked with tech titans and international connoisseurs, such as for Silicon Valley philanthropist Bita Daryabari. And he extends his portfolio beyond residential work, including such projects as Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop MRKT in San Francisco. Prior to launching his own firm, Volpe worked for several accomplished designers including with Eleanor Ford and legendary San Francisco decorator Anthony Hail. He has been including on the AD100 numerous times and one of Elle Decor’s A-List. Volpe has contributed to several showhouses, including the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, and his work can be found in the pages of prestigious industry publications and included in numerous books.
“A protégé of Anthony Hail, San Francisco–based Steven Volpe has continued the esteemed decorator’s legacy of crafting refined Old World-influenced interiors while bringing his own forward-looking ideas to bear. Volpe, a champion of cutting-edge design, fearlessly mixes arresting pieces by luminaries like Zaha Hadid, Joris Laarman, and Marc Newson with 20th-century treasures and choice antiques to create historically grounded homes animated by the new and now.” – Architectural Digest
Although Volpe’s practice is based in San Francisco, he works for clients as far as New York, Paris, London, Antwerp, and beyond. He applies his “thoughtfully modern” design aesthetic to high-end homes, with a design sense informed by his immersion as a young designer in European techniques, history, and theory when he lived in Paris. Along with his staff of eight, the firm constantly tries to bring new elements and inspiration to their designs from travels, constant study, and the ever-changing context of their projects. In addition to his interior design work, Volpe runs Hedge with cofounder Roth Martin — an adventurous and compelling San Francisco design gallery highlighting innovative work.
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About Our Rankings
This list takes a range of ranking criteria into consideration, including but not limited to: work history, customer satisfaction, awards and recognition, geographic area of work, cost, building permits, and clientele. We spent over 40 hours researching local contractors before calculating the final ranking for this post. If there is additional information about your business that could affect these rankings, please fill out this form and we will take it into consideration
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If you are thinking about building a custom home, we recommend checking each builder’s license with the local licensing board, speaking to past clients, and using our bidding system to get competitive quotes from at least 3 contractors. Getting multiple bids is the best way to ensure you get a fair price and that bids include the complete scope of work.