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As summer fades to fall, we find ourselves dreaming of bold, sexy, glamour-packed interiors –in other words, the work of designer Kara Mann. The Chicago-based designer has a knack for high-drama sophistication –think ink-black walls, antique carpets, velvet upholstery, and drapes for miles –all in a palette of luxe neutrals that feels timeless and of-the-moment at once. No wonder clients coast-to-coast are clamoring to hire her. While Mann’s well-publicized projects range from lakefront estates to Palm Beach villas, our favorite of her designs is, naturally, her own show-stopping closet. Crafted out of a spare bedroom, the dramatic space is the perfect home for Mann’s enviable (and edgy) wardrobe –and proof that she has her priorities straight.
Here, the Midwest’s brightest talent talks leather pants, Prada pumps, and how fashion inspires her award-winning work.
How would you describe your personal style?
Feminine with a little bit of a rocker edge.
How does the way you dress influence the way you design?
I always look to fashion for inspiration for interiors. I get inspired by current color trends and specific materials, and [I’ll] figure out a way to incorporate that into my interiors. You know, I love using leather, I love to wear leather; I love to wear deep, rich colors, I like to design with deep, rich colors. I tend to be a little bit more monochromatic with a punch of color in both the way I dress and in the interiors I do. There’s always a luxuriousness about what I wear or what I design.
What’s the most frequently worn item in your closet?
My Chrome Hearts leather pants. What’s not to love? They are awesome. Fit is always really important, and they are like the perfect cut. I can put them on on a ‘skinny day’ and feel great; I can put them on on a ‘fat day’ and feel great. They’ve got patches and a silver medallion at the cuff, which seems pretty intense, but actually you just put it on with a simple black cardigan, and it’s sort of an understated look. [Our Signature Hangers are designed to handle every material –from leather to knits –with style.]
What designers can’t you live without?
I’m totally obsessed Isabel Marant right now. I love the whole bohemian rocker vibe that she has. All I can think about is her!
Which pieces will you get rid of?
I have several pieces by a designer by the name of Agatha, and she does super low-rise, tight-as-hell pants that are super rock ‘n’ roll. I love those. I have a Christian Dior men’s tuxedo that I will never part with. It was from when Hedi Slimane was designing. Anything that is Rick Owens [from] back in the day – I was obsessed with Rick’s stuff, although now it’s a little bit everywhere. I have a pair of these snakeskin Prada pumps –I don’t even remember what year they were from –but I will put those things on. They are a disaster, but I love them. I think they get better as they get worn in.
Tell us about designing your own dream closet.
I took my second bedroom and changed it into a closet. It’s very me. I painted the walls a black-brown. I live in a vintage apartment, so it had beautiful picture molding, and I actually had mirror inset into all of the picture molding. All my clothes are behind sleek, minimal doors –which I like, because while I try to be organized, things can get a little chaotic. It’s kind of this push and pull between this classic architecture and dark, rich colors. It’s definitely got a rock ‘n’ roll vibe. It’s got this beautiful vintage rug and leather campaign chair from Tom Ford. There’s no decorative lighting, just recessed lighting, so it’s really kind of simple and pared down and all about the clothes. It’s actually not huge. It’s not enormous. It’s very compact and well put together.
What are your must-have closet features?
Drawers for jewelry lined in velvet, designed almost like a display case so you can just look down and see everything in there. And definitely a massive shoe section, where the shoes take up the entire wall and are so easy to see. [Check out our Travel Jewelry Case – the next best thing to having your own personal display case!]
Whose closet would you raid if you could?
I would raid Kate Moss’s because she rocks.