Whimsical, wonderful and distinctive… Kit Kemp’s look is now so iconic that it has become a style in its own right. In her hotels in London and New York, and in her homes, she creates captivating spaces using colorful fabrics and wallpapers, eclectic accessories and exciting pieces of art or craft.
Each visit to one of her rooms reveals new and interesting details to discover. Speaking to us for the Homes & Gardens podcast, The Well-crafted Life , Kit Kemp delves into some of her design secrets and inspirations, focusing on how she enhances her own homes and elevates her everyday.
- See: Kit Kemp's interior design tips – a masterclass
1. The power of color
Any fans of Kit Kemp’s interiors and hotels – and readers who have enjoyed seeing Kit Kemp's house – will know them as joyful spaces that are drenched in color and pattern. 'It’s amazing how color can spice up your life and spice up your home,' she says. 'I personally choose warm colors and like to work with a warm palette. When I walk around my home I see that there are lots of reds and golds and autumn colors.”
Kit is also passionate about introducing texture. 'Another special thing is using texture and fabrics in the right place, like putting a heavier weight weave on a sofa and then you can have a lighter weight or found fabric as cushions or curtains.” Fabric walling is something that you also see time and time again in Kit Kemp’s interior design schemes.
2. Collections and memories
It’s the finishing touches and eclectic objects that really make Kit Kemp’s rooms sing. She looks to reference treasured memories and collects objects on travels in order to bring an air of sentimentality to a space.
'There are rooms that are rather nostalgic In my home,' she says. 'I have things that follow me around and that I love. They are things that I have collected, often from travels. For instance, from Papua New Guinea I have a couple of huge shields that stand in one corner and will always remain.'
Kit approaches the design of her hotels as she does her homes, similarly filling them with objects of meaning and personal value. These pieces, as well as bringing in character, have a design function, too.
'I think it’s important in rooms to have focal points, but not a huge focal point like a chandelier or fireplace, but decoy focal points. Mine in my favourite room at home is a weathervane of a fox that I actually bought for Tim’s birthday one year.'
In her hotel bedrooms, you often see a mannequin, covered in the same fabric as a headboard perhaps.
3. The joy of craftsmanship
Kit Kemp is a passionate supporter of makers, both new and established. These people bring the personal, soulful and joyful spirit to her rooms.
'I like to think small, I don’t like to think big. I like to talk to craftspeople as much as anything else. If you make a basket and you make the same design 10 times it comes out in 10 different ways. It’s never the same twice and I love that individuality of craftsmanship.'
4. Working with natural materials
Although we often discuss Kit Kemp’s rooms as jewel-like spaces filled with color, pattern and art, it’s important to acknowledge the role that natural materials play in her schemes.
'It’s raw materials that bring a home together,’ she says. 'I love wood because it doesn’t matter how old it gets; the more it’s polished and the more worn it gets, the more beautiful it is. And I also love materials like alabaster, because it lets the light come through it. A glow of a chandelier made from alabaster is quite magnificent.'
The softness of alabaster also means it can be carved into elaborate shapes.
5. Making something special out of something quite ordinary
Although at first glance everything in a Kit Kemp room seems exquisite, one of her strengths is taking something quite simple and displaying it in an usual way in order to elevate it.
'I love perspex because with perspex I can make incredible clear frames. I can take an old embroidery or an old Indian piece of workmanship and then frame it in perspex to make it more contemporary. The same with plates, I love Robina Jacks’ plates and I don't always want to use them on a table. I think they’re like artwork so I'll put them on black felt and in perspex and then put them on a wall as a collection, and suddenly they become really fascinating.'
Indeed, when asked about her design inspirations, Kit particularly mentions Vanessa Bell for the way she transforms simple things. 'I can tell exactly who my design hero is,' she says. 'Vanessa Bell, who was part of the Bloomsbury Group. She created a home at Charleston that wasn’t about designer pieces it was about painting it yourself, making do, making something special out of something quite ordinary.'
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