Blog, book review, Book Reviews

KIT KEMP design threads

This, Kit Kemp’s third book, and it is about weaving together spaces that are dynamic and diverse in their own right, but with a thread of creative connection running through each and every one, so as to create a house or hotel that resonates as a harmonious whole. The book explores the outside spaces that have become rooms in themselves – places to sit and breathe and just be. In contrast, the fun of designing an hotel’s event spaces is in creating rooms that entice, inspire and transport you to somewhere else altogether. The townhouse and pied à terre featured here are proof that you don’t need to have huge rooms to create interesting spaces –it’s about playing with light and interesting textures, mixed in with all your favourite things, that make it feel so personal and perfect.

As she says in her introduction

‘I like my interiors to capture the imagination in some shape or form. When you leave a room, something should stay with you, making you want to return, if only to recapture that magical spell all over again.

My interiors might have a handwritten and distinctive style, but it is an adventure to create a new room.

There is always a new fabric or craft to discover, a new vista to be revealed, a little treasure to unearth.

Most of all, I want a room to last – if it is lovingly created and beautifully detailed, it will forever be a joy. Happy moments and treasured memories are integral to our comfort and surroundings.

To be curious is important. To want to pick up a plate and turn it over to see where it’s from or touch an interesting fabric on a curtain or footstool, to feel the raise of its weave and the softness of its yarn, is all part of immersing yourself in an object’s story.

I love to watch the people in our hotels stop in their tracks to look at something that’s caught their eye. I’m always looking for pieces that tell a unique story –maybe of a person or a time in history, of a particular handcrafted technique, or even just something with a combination of colour or pattern, or a found object re-purposed in an unusual way, that takes you unawares.

These are the ‘design threads’ I like to weave throughout all the interiors I design, whether it’s a living room at home or a bedroom in a hotel, a pied à terre or writer’s escape in a shepherd’s hut at the bottom of the garden.

A beach bar inspired the Caribbean vibe of the showroom I was asked to design for Turnell & Gigon in the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour. The folkloric motifs that pepper so much of

what I do, from fabrics with Chelsea Textiles to room murals created in collaboration with artist Melissa White, have now come full circle in a new collection of fabrics and wallpapers with Andrew Martin, a second dinner service with Wedgwood and even the interiors of my own colourful little shepherd’s hut. Nature has always provided huge inspiration for the way I team colour palette and pattern, so it’s always a joy to ‘bring the outside in’ to many of the rooms I design.’

Kit quotes Virginia Woolf’s book, A Room of One’s Own, As well as giving us one of the greatest feminist debates about women and fiction, equality and women’s rights, it also left us with the valuable notion that, if you do not have a comfortable room and feel at ease with your surroundings, it is much more difficult to be creative.

Creating comfortable, functional and well-designed interiors is not rocket science, but it is very often misunderstood and underrated. Having a pleasant and happy room of one’s own is important for our wellbeing. To be able to turn the key in the lock and find oneself surrounded by much-loved objects and the colours that make us feel cheerful must surely be one of life’s greatest luxuries. To illustrate the point, Kit’s first chapter

explores an elegant townhouse in London. It is colourful and

finely detailed to make the most of every space. There is a winding path to the front door painted in ‘Invisible Green’, where tumbling plants and climbers soften the entrance. The sash windows are painted a softer green against the white of the walls. The French windows in the drawing room lead out to a small round table, perfect for drinks on a sunny evening.

Inside the front door, in contrast to the green outside, is a bright yellow walling fabric by Pierre Frey, disguising the cupboards for storage and coats

For the second chapter of the book called Making an Entrance Kit chooses to show case her design for The Whitby Hotel in Manhattan. Apart from negotiating the engineering and architectural plans, her major concern was to create a space that would pique the curiosity, delight all the senses in an adventurous and colourful way, and make visiting or staying a worthwhile experience.

The book shows her designs for both Wedgewood and Andrew Martin. A Manhattan Penthouse, a pied à terre , gardens, a Beach Bar and creating a collection are all featured. And a final chapter called Sleeping Around. Another plus for me is the book is dotted with recipes in the same way that Nora Ephron’s ‘Heart Burn’ novel was. This book will take pride of place on your coffee table and is a total inspiration if you are doing up a house or even just a room.

By Kit Kemp with Fiona McCarthy

Photography by Simon Brown

Published by Hardie Grant

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