Sweet Disposition: Tamara Kaye-Honey

The Dossier: NAME: Tamara Kaye-Honey. TRADE: Interior designer. VIBE: Madcap estate sale meets Alice in Wonderland.  WHEREABOUTS: South Pasadena, CA.

Mere minutes have passed since we've entered Tamara Kaye-Honey's South Pasadena store, a trove of faux fur-upholstered cane-back chairs, offbeat painted portraits, gilded bar carts, and Murano lighting fixtures, and she has already connected the unspoken dots between her former career as a buyer for Bergdorf Goodman and her current one as decorator and owner of three-year-old boutique and showroom House of Honey. Flipping through her copy of Rare Bird of Fashion, a tome dedicated to the sartorial leanings of 91-year-old style icon Iris Apfel, she lands on an earmarked page. "I mean that is a room," she insists, admiring the senior star's owl spectacles, ornate Jimmy Galanos coat, and Indonesian death mask necklace. "You can just dissect this into flooring and wallpaper and lighting."

DOUBLE PLAY Though she was steeped in interiors at a young age (her mother flipped houses and her aunt owned an antique shop in her native Nova Scotia), Kaye-Honey only fell into design as a second vocation, having satiated her desire for a career in fashion, and relocated from New York to Pasadena in 2003. She unwittingly launched her business with the renovation of her own midcentury home in the same year. "It started with play dates with my daughter Phia," she says. "Parents would come over and see our place, and I'd end up doing their houses."

FUNNY GIRL Honey's aptitude for what she dubs "The New Vintage," a mix of eccentric antiques with modern elements, quickly earned her a devoted following--one she attributes to an emphasis on wit:  "My look has to do with humor--a bit of silly." This playfulness is evident in Kaye-Honey's weakness for the whimsical work of Danish ceramicist Bjørn Wiinblad and Italian artist-cum-interior designer Piero Fornasetti, and her penchant for well-crafted retro games as objets d'art: think Bakelite dominoes and Maitland Smith backgammon tables. "It can probably be traced back to boarding school in Toronto," she says of her fetish for the old-timey diversions. "It was stagnant."

THE BIG FINISH Of course, the militarized atmosphere of her education wasn't all bad; she met her husband Ryan there, and the Spartan restrictions may have planted the seed for her rule-breaking approach, a method that sees her blindfold a classic bust with a '60s Vera Neumann scarf, or pair a metal wall Agape sink with a Shakespearean portrait. "When I finish a room I have to add a final touch of something unexpected," she admits. "To give it that cheekiness--your great grandmother's closet mixed with your crazy aunt kind of thing."

Check out our favorites from House of Honey's 1stdibs collection below.


Photographs: Andrew Arthur