Ya gotta have heart

When WAG made a recent visit to the Kerri Rosenthal design studio and showroom in Westport, the namesake artist and interior designer was not on hand, but her spirit was
more than evident.

From the moment we spotted the bright interior through the large picture window, we knew we were in the right place, a signature yellow heart enlivening the wall near the entrance.

We first met Rosenthal for a profile that ran in January 2016, when she was creative director for a Weston-based interior design firm, and were checking in to catch up on the Westport woman’s story since then — and the story is, she is one busy lady.

A major installation kept Rosenthal on the go in the early days of the new year, but one late morning, Nancy Sharpe, who handles sales and marketing, gave us an impromptu tour of the relaxed-yet-sophisticated destination for Rosenthal’s signature style.

It started with a warm welcome and continued on to a walk through the white-walled space, starting with its art gallery. There, Rosenthal’s original works hang alongside limited edition prints and art translated onto Plexiglas for the most modern framing treatment. There is the signature “Drippy Heart” design, photographs and even phrases (“Sunshine is a frame of mind”). Nearby sat her “Blocks of Love,” signed works from 2- to 12-inch squares that again depict Rosenthal’s work and serve as ideal gifts.

“It’s basically taking the art off the canvas,” Sharpe said of the many incarnations of Rosenthal’s trademark heart, with its latest interpretation — a gold “In My Heart” — introduced for the season of romance.

The space also showcased Rosenthal’s own fabric and pillows created with imported Belgian linens and produced in America, as well as her wallpaper. Throughout, there is her furniture — the Romeo chair, introduced in 2018, is a standout — along with her “Floor Blocks,” cozy and casual seating. Nearby is her latest splash, Paperless Wallpaper, ingenious decals that create an instant look and were a highlight of an award-winning playroom design that brought Rosenthal plenty of attention.

Rosenthal would later share that she “started in retail and worked my way up, starting a new wholesale division for Oilily, a super-creative Dutch children’s fashion company. I was able to use all of that knowledge and experience to open my own shop/gallery in 2016 in Westport.”

There are also mugs and candles such as “Love That Burns,” bags and necklaces and more, much with heart motifs and others with her dots.

Rosenthal’s fashions range from the best-selling “Loved” sweaters in 100 percent cashmere (new color combinations are introduced each year) to T-shirts and sweatshirts to hand-painted denim and khaki jackets. Rounding it out is a selection of clothing by other designers that, Sharpe adds, is “handpicked” for it being able to “keep our vibe, our ethos.”

The space, those white walls serving to let the designs shine further, includes both a design studio and office space. Opening here a year ago, it tripled the original, nearby studio and has already found an audience.

“You can’t help but smile when you see Kerri’s stuff,” Sharpe said.

2019 will feature monthly pop-up events, some devoted to showcasing complementary designers such as jewelry artists but also more unexpected elements such as live entertainment.

As Sharpe says, it’s about creating a destination and a community, “not all about
‘Buy Kerri Rosenthal.’”

Rosenthal did take some time to answer a handful of questions from WAG — and we look forward to catching up with her in person again soon.

Until then, we have memories of the charming Westport destination to bring that smile.

Tell us a bit about going out on your own — how it came about, when you launched in Westport and how it’s been going?

“Going on my own and opening the first Kerri Rosenthal retail/gallery space in 2016 was just the next logical, creative step for me. I love interiors and now have even more projects than ever, but it was just time to expand creatively. And, I now have great interior design space where I can showcase all of my new textiles and wallpapers as well as work with my design clients.”

Even when WAG first met you, your art was a big part of the sophisticated-with-an edge work you were doing. How do you feel your art has developed these past few years — and how rewarding is it to have your own work within some of the interiors you create?

“My art is part of me and, as I evolve, so does it, and really that is exactly how it should be. My art is always going to be happy and interesting and a reflection of my life and what inspires me.”

Do you ever have a typical day? How do you integrate all the elements of what you do — the planning, the design, the installations and, of course, your own art?

“There is no such thing as a typical day but since you asked…. In a typical day, I usually work with a combination of interior design clients and art clients, and a banner day is getting into my art studio to paint as well. Spending time with my family usually comes at dinnertime and that’s when I can let go and just be.”

Hearts are a big motif in your work. How did that come about — was it by design? And what do you hope that signature element brings to an interior?

“I knew when I painted my first Drippy Heart that it was a good thing but really had no idea that it would take off the way it has. Drippy Hearts can be seen in homes all around the world and they are still a big part of my retail collection as well.

“The Drippy Heart is a symbol of love and who wouldn’t want that in their home?”

Kerri Rosenthal is at 1 Sconset Square in Westport. For more, visit kerrirosenthal.com.

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