Designing Women

BY Phebe Wahl | December 1, 2017 | Feature Features

The legacy of the ladies of Kemble Interiors extends from the Mizner mansions of Lake Worth to Manhattan, spreading their deeply rooted Palm Beach style sensibilities and a grace that is sure to endure for generations to come.
Interior designer Celerie Kemble at a client's home in New York

“PALM BEACH HAS been my home for six generations,” explains Palm Beach native Mimi Maddock McMakin, whose family has been planted here for more than 120 years. “I love everything about it,” she shares. McMakin raised her family in the second-oldest home on the island, where she still resides: the deconsecrated church known as Old Bethesda-by-the-Sea, which faces the lake on Maddock Way. The church was originally part of a large estate owned by the Maddock family and McMakin is descended from Henry Maddock, who built the Duck’s Nest in 1891 on the lake. “Sentimentality keeps a family together,” says McMakin. “Our grandchildren sell lemonade under the same tree I did.”

The deeply rooted love is mutual among the Palm Beach community, who have embraced the designing duo and are grateful for their style-setting mark on the community. Founded in 1982 by McMakin, and later joined by daughter Celerie Kemble, Kemble Interiors has had a hand in the restoration of many of the iconic Addison Mizner- and John Volk-designed historic estates and private clubs of the area, as well as notable projects across the globe. “I have been rearranging furniture since I was a very little girl,” says McMakin. Currently, the pair have turned their talented eyes toward rearranging The Colony Hotel. “It is such an honor to be a part of it,” says Kemble, who recalls the old Lilly Pulitzer fashion shows around the pool and some funny nights in the bar in her college years. “My mother and grandmother used to get their hair done at Walter’s Coiffures,” she says. “Treasured memories are what keeps a little town continuing into the future,” adds McMakin.

“I was happily oblivious and took everything my mom did for granted,” admits Kemble of her late-developing interest in interior design. “It wasn’t until I went away to boarding school that I realized how ideal the environment I grew up in Palm Beach was,” she shares of her experience leaving Palm Beach Day Academy for Groton boarding school. “I didn’t know the world wasn’t as magical as the one my mom had created at the old church,” Kemble says. “You are born if not materially spoiled, you are born experientially spoiled,” Kemble says of her childhood in Palm Beach. “I live in New York now and raise my children here, and contrasting it to the childhood I had is kind of depressing,” she says with a laugh.

Today, Kemble runs the New York office of her family’s firm. The Harvard graduate has published several design monographs and created a variety of to-the-trade collections with the likes of F. Schumacher, Henredon and Maitland-Smith—and will soon launch her debut collection with Arteriors in the spring. “You will see a lot of scalloped designs and wicker and bamboo,” says Kemble of her upcoming Arteriors collection that is largely inspired by Palm Beach. “It is going to be an interesting mix of natural materials and more feminine forms,” she says.

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