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Although his home base is in Beverly Hills, California, Kalef Alaton has a client roster filled with international addresses. His specialty is residential design, and his first remarks on the subject have to do with the role of the client. Mr. Alaton favors a collaborative design process, one in which the client is enthusiastic and involved. "The client," he is quoted as saying, "is my inspiration." From there, inspiration comes from travel (he has lived in cities throughout the world, citing Paris and Rome as favorites), from books and from art magazines to which he has subscribed for more than 25 years.
A cultural polyglot, Mr. Alaton was born in the Middle East, educated in Europe and today speaks five languages. Early on he studied painting and sculpture in Paris with the intent of becoming an artist, but when just 16 years old he changed plans. From that point, he chose design as his metier and studied with the Russian designer Oscar Mourinsky. He came to the United States originally to work for a large design firm, but instead founded his own venture in 1973 with partner Janet Polizzi. Today, Mr. Alaton's tastes tend toward an eclectic mixture of elements. He may shop in Europe, but he also designs custom pieces, especially seating, and tends to use materials indigenous to a project's site as well as to the skills of local craftsmen. An Alaton interior is not easily come by. According to the designer, he allows two years for completion of any commissioned project.