Carson Kressley Talks Ballard Designs At The Breeders Cup

While many people don’t associate horse racing and stylish furniture, Ballard Designs and Carson Kressley teamed up in November 2023 to prove otherwise, creating a chic space in the Trophy Lounge during the Breeders Cup at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California. While Ballard Designs has been around for over 40 years, it’s a brand that might not be a household name in the region just yet. But that’s about to change.

I recently spoke with Kressley along with Dominic Milanese, Ballard Designs Vice President of Retail to talk about bringing Ballard to the races as well as opening the furniture retailer’s first Southern California location.

Design Comes In First Place

While Kressley is an ambassador for Ballard, creating this space was certainly in the stars for the tastemaker who many don’t know is an accomplished equestrian himself. In addition to other accolades, he was a member of the United States team at the 1999 World Cup Equestrian Games in South Africa.

The space Kressley created for the event certainly ranks amongst the most charming spaces ever to be designed in the middle of a raceway. With wicker seating and plush throw pillows—it is an ideal respite amidst the excitement of the race and the bustle spectators.

In addition to the sofas and chairs—Kressley also chose a wood coffee table topped with an antique-style horse. With layered rugs underneath—it exuded with charm yet coordinated with the venue itself.

“Santa Anita has a very 1940s vibe. I knew the color story of the walls for cream and kind of a sea foam green. And you’ll see that repeated throughout the grounds here and their awnings and all of the trim colors. So I want to use that color story,” he told me.

“So we grounded the space with a sea foam colored indoor/outdoor rug. I thought that wicker felt very 1940s and I thought about celebrities like Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford, and Grace Kelly coming here over the years. So I want it to feel a little bit retro. And I think the wicker does that.”

The rest of the design, including pillows was just as intentional said the RuPaul’s Drag Race judge. “The Awning Stripe pillows look like the striped awnings on the grounds. So it really feels like it was bespoke, just for Santa Anita.”

A space like the one Kressley designed could easily be re-created just about anywhere combining the refined aspects of the equestrian world with the fun of race day.

Partnership With Ballard Designs

The partnership between Kressley and the brand is quite a natural fit. “Ballard gives me all the tools and things I need to be my own decorator. With custom upholstery options, I can pick the silhouette of a sofa and then put my spin on it with the fabric. So I think it’s about designer accessibility for everybody,” he explained. “Years ago, you either had to hire an interior designer, or you had to shop at maybe not as nice of a furniture store. And Ballard provides that missing link that nobody else has, where you can get designer quality furniture, and you can customize it yourself.”

Ballard Takes San Diego

In addition to partnering with Kressley, Ballard Designs is finally expanding to Southern California. While the brand currently has twenty stores nationwide Milanese told me many of the brand’s customers are located in Southern California. While online shopping is convenient, current devotees and new customers alike will finally get to experience Ballard in person.

It hasn’t been an easy search. Milanese shared the brand has been on a years-long hunt for “just the right space.” Ballard is currently building its first location in the Solana Beach area of San Diego. There are also plans to open up additional stores in both Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as ultimately up and down the entire coast.

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