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Kelly Preston

Kelly Preston

Kelly Preston is a former model turned actress and is the wife of John Travolta. While the view from the outside looking in is that she's merely part of the glamorous Hollywood scene, in truth, Kelly is an admitted homebody at heart and prizes her leading role as mother and wife more than any she's cast to play on screen.

The Interview

Kelly Preston is a former model turned actress and is the wife of John Travolta. While the view from the outside looking in is that she's merely part of the glamorous Hollywood scene, in truth, Kelly is an admitted homebody at heart and prizes her leading role as mother and wife more than any she's cast to play on screen. With Travolta, Kelly is raising their two children - Jett, age 16, and Ella Blue, 8-plus juggles the running of three households, with homes in Los Angeles, Florida and Maine. She's also tireless in her support of causes and fund raising initiatives, especially those committed to improving children's health and development. Kelly embodies the qualities of a "statement maker"-originality and authenticity, integrity and moral courage. And, she was a natural choice to be tapped by Karastan for its 2008 "Make A Statement" national advertising campaign. Our Karastan interviewer sat down with her at her Los Angeles home and was able to peel away the celebrity façade to give you a better glimpse inside. We hope you'll enjoy getting to know Kelly Preston.

Interviewer: By the time you were 14, you had lived on three different continents-Hawaii, Iraq and Australia--with a cast of varied family members. How did you form a concept of home?

Kelly Preston: We were gypsies. But a home is wherever you are. And, we realized that as long as you have your family, you can create a home wherever you are.

Interviewer: Tell me about your childhood home in Hawaii.

Kelly Preston: We had different homes there, but my favorite was a great big run down country house that someone had given us. You know when you cut a house in half and ship it some place on a truck? Well, a man was going to tear down a house and it was going to cost him a lot of money so he gave it to my mother and father and aunt and uncle and they carted it to the North Shore--a gorgeous big surf haven. Then we plopped this wonderful old country house down on the beach and filled it with furniture from the Salvation Army. It was really a kids' home, and on weekends, we'd have 11 kids at a time.

Interviewer: What was the style of the house?

Kelly Preston: Well, I was a kid so I wasn't exactly paying attention, but it was a rambling, sort of ranch home that had tons of windows and bedrooms. All the kids slept in one huge bedroom with sets of bunk beds and we were allowed to decorate any way we wanted. So we painted on the walls, and did graffiti, and anything we did was fine because everything was inexpensive and from the Salvation Army. We'd also play this game called Don't Touch the Floor, where you'd have to make it from one end of the house to the other, jumping from couch to chair and crawling along the walls. We had the best time.

Interviewer: Do your 16-year old son Jett or your 8-year old daughter Ella play that game here in your Los Angeles home?

Kelly Preston: No! The spaces are too big. And I've tried! You could walk with one foot on the wall and the other foot on the wall, but the arched doorways are too wide.

Interviewer: How would you characterize the style of your Los Angeles home?

Kelly Preston: The bones are Mediterranean Spanish, with tile floors, high-beamed ceilings, rounded, arched doorways, palazzo doors that open out and tiles outside, but it also has some eclectic qualities.

Interviewer: In the living room, I see patterned pillows on a patterned couch that sits on a patterned rug. Do I sense a theme?

Kelly Preston: There are textures in the fabrics, in the rugs and in the dark carved woods. And coming from Hawaii, I tend to go barefoot a lot, so I like comfort under my feet and a sumptuous rug made with wool or natural fibers does that for me.

Interviewer: What links the homes you have in Florida and Maine together with this one?

Kelly Preston: Us. Our family. We're comfortable in each home. And each home is definitely a family home. We have no prohibitions about our kids jumping on the furniture or the beds. Our thought is you make a home where nothing is too precious or too significant so that if something breaks, well, you shouldn't have put it at a kid's height. You put the precious things up higher.

Interviewer: What one word describes all three houses?

Kelly Preston: Comfortable.

Interviewer: And your definition of comfortable is?

Kelly Preston: You feel invited into a room. A home might be angular or stiff or so highly decorated and elegant you think, oh, my god, what if I spill something? Can we go now? Can we sit outside?

Interviewer: Where did you pick up your sense of design?

Kelly Preston: I've always had a sense of design. I like to create my own space.

Interviewer: What is your first memory of a space you created?

Kelly Preston: My father built an A-frame house before my brother, who is six years younger than I, was born. And for Christmas, when I was seven, they let me decorate my room all by myself, picking out a matching set of a canopy bed, a chest of drawers and a bedside table.

Interviewer: What was your decorating motif?

Kelly Preston: When you're seven you go for the princess bedroom! So it was a white canopy with eyelet fabric, and antique-painted side table with a matching chest of drawers.

Interviewer: How do you and your husband John Travolta split the decorating decisions?

Kelly Preston: We are lucky enough to have similar tastes. Our tastes meet and match and we inspire each other. We're not afraid of bright colors, at all. We love corals, deep plush velvets, deep greens, yellows, turquoise, and chartreuse. Fun, fabulous colors that are rich, alive and vibrant. We did this house together, but I let John take the lead in the Florida house because that house was his dream. It's where he keeps his planes. As a little boy, he'd watch the planes flying over his home and I think he always thought that everybody would eventually have a jet parked outside their house. We do live a "Jetsons" life, where you get on a jet and go somewhere. That's very much us.

Interviewer: Is there a room in this house that's yours only?

Kelly Preston: I have a little space I created here that's my flower room, where I make flower arrangements. I love to arrange fresh flowers. But instead of Hawaiian flowers, I love the English garden flowers, like hydrangeas, roses, peonies.

Interviewer: Did being raised in Hawaii influence your sense of design?

Kelly Preston: The vibrant colors, for sure. And that the outdoors can be part of the indoors, which is a consistent theme in all of our houses. We have lots of light and lots of windows, so seeing the trees, bushes and flowers are part of the décor. And, I love leaving the doors open, having the fresh air come in. I like lots of sunshine, and keeping it alive. And-kids laughing and running through the house yelling-I love all of that. People are the life of a house. You can fill a house with all the objects you want and decorate it up to the teeth, but children make it a home.

Interviewer: What is the best home event you've ever had?

Kelly Preston: Well, I love celebrating the holidays, decorating and cooking. I love baking, cookies, pies, cakes, cupcakes...

Interviewer: I thought you only ate organically.

Kelly Preston: Oh, no, no, no. We eat everything. We're not, like vegans! We're organic, meaning if we eat chicken, it's free range, and steak, the same way. But are you kidding, we are sugar maniacs! Let me clarify that. The organic does not come anywhere near the desserts. I do not do healthy desserts. Desserts are in its own category of enjoyment. No healthy desserts, that's an oxymoron Uh, un. Pies. Chocolate chiffon pie. Cherry pie. I just made a cherry pie for Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, two types of chocolate pie. We do cookie bake-a-thons, where everybody will choose their own cookie recipe and take their own corner in the kitchen. Oh, it's a mess! But it's beyond fabulous. We'll get more than 7 or 8 people at one time.

Interviewer: Is your signature dish more or less desserts?

Kelly Preston: There are certain dishes that Johnny loves. I make a great beef stroganoff... Home made pastas...Asian dishes, from growing up in Hawaii. But then, I do love to bake. So it's both sweet and savory. I like to do the whole dinner. You know if I'm pregnant because I'll make fried chicken and spaghetti and three pies. It's that nesting thing. But even when I'm not pregnant, I'm always nesting.

Interviewer: As opposed to needing solitude, you seem to like people around you.

Kelly Preston: Yes, I definitely love to have the house full of friends.

Interviewer: Your ideal party would be?

Kelly Preston: Come over and let's hang out in the kitchen and cook something. I just put a fireplace into the kitchen where there used to be a cabinet. Who needs cabinets? I put all the dishes in the pantry and labeled them all. I like everything to be organized so that I can be spontaneous.

Interviewer: Do you think of your house as a refuge or a place to entertain?

Kelly Preston: Mostly as a refuge, because we have so much going on in our lives. Sometimes it's just us as a family, but sometimes we have fun bringing people in and having wonderful dinner parties for eight, a perfect number. I'm having a pajama party with 40 girls on Sunday.

Interviewer: And they're 8 years old?

Kelly Preston: No, no, they're all my friends, except some are bringing their kids. They have to arrive in pajamas, and we'll have candy, grown-up food and kids' food. I do this every year.

Interviewer: What was the impetus?

Kelly Preston: I have a core set of girl friends. They're what fuel me. They're really important, so when we get together, they bring their kids. We have tea parties out on the patio of my flower room, where I use different china and teapots and fun tablecloths. If Johnny is home, we do barbeques; it's intimate, 15-17 people, everybody brings their kids.

Interviewer: Being so publicly recognizable, is it hard to create a private space?

Kelly Preston: Not really. We live up here in the hills where it's so quiet you don't hear the neighbors, and it's so private you don't have much traffic and we have enough space.

Interviewer: Do you carry tokens of your past with you?

Kelly Preston: Not with me, but I have tons of photographs, in the hall, on tables, in bookcases. All over the house. And my dad just passed away a couple of years ago and I have really special things he gave me. One is a Plexiglas heart on a little stand that says something like, to my dearest daughter. It's heartbreaking to me, so "him" trying to find something special for me. I love it and I've kept all of those kinds of things. Plus all the things my kids have made me, every single piece of art, and the Color-Me-Mine pottery they painted, the plates and vases and figurines and frames-they're scattered everywhere!

Interviewer: So the first creative thing you did sounds like decorating your own bedroom.

Kelly Preston: Oh, no, it was crafts, and I'm still doing them with my kids: pottery, watercolors, finger-painting, things with Popsicle sticks, cotton balls, feathers, beads, sequins, rhinestones. Up until I was about 13, I used to make craft gifts for all my friends.

Interviewer: Is there a personal stamp in this house that reflects you?

Kelly Preston: The choices I make. Like, most recently, I wanted a kind of Connecticut kitchen but it had to work in a Spanish Mediterranean home, so marrying the styles was very interesting. I added a fireplace and used distressed wood for the front. I smoothed away some of the arched doorways, and added more updated tile. But the hardwood floors in the kitchen were the key to keeping the old world feel. Before starting, I bought about $500 worth of books, and tore out pictures of things I loved-that cabinet, that mantle. And working with a designer, we put it all together. I love the Connecticut style glass fronted cabinets, yet I needed to make it Mediterranean, so we made it green inside of the cabinets, and even though it looks like it's white on the outside, it's not, it's a green.

Interviewer: Sounds like part of the homes is the process of creating them.

Kelly Preston: Absolutely.

Interviewer:When you're finished, do you move?

Kelly Preston: No, no. no. A lot of the time, we won't change the design. Maine has stayed the same for years.

Interviewer: When you look back, has your style changed?

Kelly Preston: I've always been eclectic and I've always collected antiques. Things that speak to me, that warm my heart, I mix in. That green side table from South America is primitive and chipped on purpose, and it might not technically fit into a Spanish Mediterranean house, but it works. I don't think everybody would put it here.

Interviewer:What do you consider classic and timeless?

Kelly Preston: Antiques. You can love them today, but in 20 years, they're still going to be antiques. They will remain classic. And you can never have enough windows, light and fresh air coming in. Comfort is classic and timeless.

Interviewer:What has no place in your home?

Kelly Preston: Chemicals. Toxic cleaning products. And a lack of a sense of humor. If we're going to refurbish something, we don't use particle board because it gasses off. We only use non-VOC paints. When we're doing a movie, we rent somebody else's place for three months. And the same restrictions apply there. Recently we stayed in a hotel and they had just re-varnished the furniture. We had to leave immediately. I don't like to smell the cleaning products. They say air becomes 300% more toxic than the air on a freeway if you clean with solvents and toxins. And you can clean just as well with natural products. We purify our water, and we don't use pesticides in the garden and we eat organically as much as we can. Those are the key areas you can take care of easily to stay healthy and have your kids grow up healthy.

Interviewer:What other parts of you are evident in this home?

Kelly Preston: The sense that any moment you can be outdoors. It's keeping the windows and door open, with kids running in and out of the house. That reflects the way I grew up in Hawaii. I spent most of my childhood outdoors and was limited to the amount of TV I was allowed to watch. And believe me, Saturday morning cartoons were a huge deal! But other than that, we were either swimming, or bike riding, or playing in the neighborhood, or mud pie making. And that's how we're raising our kids.

Interviewer:Are they OK with that?

Kelly Preston: They love it. And they're allowed to watch some TV, even though they prefer movies. Ella, of course, loves the Disney channel.

Interviewer:Do you do anything to unwind?

Kelly Preston: Well, I don't drink.

Interviewer:How do you regenerate?

Kelly Preston: I love a great massage, and I love taking baths. I have a great bathroom in Florida that I made into a sort of indoor/outdoor Asian spa with tumbled travertine tile. The doors open to an enclosed garden with bougainvillea, a fountain, and ivy covering the wall, so it's a private sanctuary.

Interviewer:Looking back, there are different accounts of how your career started - that a photographer discovered you. How did it really happen?

Kelly Preston: A wild duck, or maybe somebody's pet duck, flew into my aunt's pool in Hawaii and I thought, if you have lost this beautiful duck, you're gonna want it back because it is not that common. So I was nailing up some signs and a photographer stopped by and said, 'Hey, would you like to model?' I was like, right. But I took the guy's card and my uncle, who was very big and imposing, went and checked the guy out and he was kosher. So the guy took photographs and from them, I got a ton of different commercials. I did Sunkist, McDonald's, 7Up. I was on all the billboards and the boxes for the Sony Walkman, and for Japan, I did ice cream, soda, Cutex nail polish. I was 16 and 17, and I was able to pay my way through college.

Interviewer:What was it like all of a sudden to go from a carefree young girl to a scrutinized model? Did modeling in Hawaii have the decadence associated with it, as it does in urban cities?

Kelly Preston: No, it is much more natural to be a model in Hawaii, and most of it was outdoors. For the McDonald's commercial, I was riding horses, playing by a campfire, and jumping off a tree into a stream.

Interviewer:Did modeling give you the acting bug?

Kelly Preston: Absolutely. I was volunteering, teaching at a pre-school and also teaching young Korean kids how to speak English. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I also thought I might go into advertising. So I did an internship with an ad agency. My brother and I were blessed because we had a very wealthy aunt who helped us go to Punahou School, which gave us amazing opportunities. Part of the program at Punahou was called career exploration, and working at the ad agency was part of that. You would do half of your day at what you thought would be your chosen profession. I found out after the internship, I didn't want to be in advertising.

Interviewer:Is this true, after you moved to Los Angeles and studied at UCLA, you got a part on a TV series ("Capitol") on your very first audition, and you didn't even have an agent?

Kelly Preston: Yes. I told the casting director, 'I'm looking for an agent.' I didn't even realize it was difficult. And I said, "But this agent is trying to send me out on auditions and sign me! What do I do?' The casting director said, 'Sign on.' And I got the part! I did a lot of guest starring roles on TV and some movies.

Interviewer:Then you did Bonnie Grant.

Kelly Preston: Which one was that?

Interviewer:Your character's name on "The Experts."

Kelly Preston: Was that her name? Yes, where I met that fabulous man.

Interviewer:And who would that be?

Kelly Preston: My husband, my handsome husband. That's so funny I don't remember her name. But it was 20 years ago. That was the first time we worked together and we just did it again, 20 years later. A movie called "Old Dogs," with our daughter, Ella. It was like passing the torch. She's been asking to be in our movies for years.

Interviewer:What would we find most surprising about how you live?

Kelly Preston: Johnny stays up late and wakes up late. So the kids are on a later schedule, as well, though not as late as he is. So we have midnight barbeques and pool parties. We're night people.

Interviewer: When it comes to home life, what makes you feel safe and well cared for?

Kelly Preston: My kids and my husband. The home is really so much more about them than things and stuff. Our life primarily revolves around them and creating time as a family.

Interviewer:With three homes, is it hard to establish continuity?

Kelly Preston: No, every house is outfitted so you can just step in. They all have the same foods we like. The only thing we don't have is clothes in every home. The kids grow out of their clothes so quickly, I bring their clothes. And me, I'll be into a favorite pair of shoes, or a coat, or some jeans, so I'll travel with suitcases. All the toiletries are there. All the sheets are there. We have really soft sheets, John will even travel to hotels with our own sheets, they're so soft.

Interviewer:So what's it like to have a jet parked outside your door?

Kelly Preston: It's cool! (She laughs.) Beyond cool. You never get used to it. It makes anything possible. It makes life exciting and fun.

Interviewer:Do you think people assume you're unapproachable because of-

Kelly Preston: The jets? Well, a bit. But within that is a family-oriented life style. I just got a big bonus by marrying a pilot.

Interviewer:What do you hope others will understand by visiting your home?

Kelly Preston: I'm just like everyone else. You become more accessible when people get to know you a little better. They learn personal details about you and then they think, 'Wow, she's not so much different than me.'