Although his home base was in Beverly Hills, California, Kalef Alaton had a client roster filled with international addresses. His specialty was residential design, and his first remarks on the subject had to do with the role of the client. Alaton favored a collaborative design process, one in which the client was enthusiastic and involved. "The client," he was quoted as saying, "is my inspiration." Further inspiration came from travel (he lived in cities throughout the world, citing Paris and Rome as favorites) and from books and art magazines to which he subscribed for more than 25 years.
A cultural polyglot, Alaton was born in the Middle East, educated in Europe and spoke five languages. Early on he studied painting and sculpture in Paris with the intent of becoming an artist, but when just sixteen 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. Alaton's tastes tended toward an eclectic mixture of elements. He shopped in Europe, but he also designed custom pieces, especially seating, and tended to use materials indigenous to a project's site as well as to the skills of the local craftsmen. An Alaton interior was not easily come by, as he allowed two years for completion of any commissioned project.