Q&A with Kit Kemp

(Photo courtesy of Firmdale Hotels)
Name: Kit Kemp
Resides in: London (See her gorgeous home in our September issue!)
Occupation: Interior designer, author, and co-owner of Firmdale Hotels.
Known for: Her playful use of pattern and texture in some of the world's best-loved hotels, including the Soho Hotel in London and the Crosby Street Hotel in New York City.

How would you describe your style?
My palette is diverse, but my style is about achieving a balance between what’s colorful and what’s neutral and restful. You need only one really inspiring piece in a room.

When did your passion for design begin?
When I was young, my mother had these great big drawers of fabrics. She taught me how to sew when I was 11 or 12, and I was off; when I left home it was with a sewing machine under my arm and not much else. And when I met my husband [Firmdale Hotels co-owner Tim Kemp], he was so involved in what he was doing that the only way to see him was to become involved as well.

Have you ever lived in an interior you’d now be embarrassed to admit to?
I wouldn’t say they live up to my current standards, but I lived in some pretty great apartments. I became a whiz on the sewing machine—when you’re young you think you can do anything. So I recovered my sofas and worked on my hallways. People always wanted to come over to my apartment, even if they were just sitting on a cushion on the floor.

What are your favorite elements to design with?
I love woods and natural textiles. I tend to stay away from very shiny things and plastics. Of course, whatever materials you design with have to feel good. You can’t go wrong if you design with your five senses.

(Photo © Simon Brown)
Whom do you turn to for inspiration?
Fashion and design have become more and more connected; I’ll rip a page out of a magazine because I love the way an outfit has been put together. I love Christian Liaigre, John Stefanidis, and Alidad, but also minimalist work such as John Pawson’s. I’m always learning and constantly curious. There’s so much talent out there that it keeps me on my toes.

How does your style at home differ from your work style?
I’m more of a showman in commercial properties because you need to make an impact and keep people in a space. At home, I’m a little more reserved. But I also use it as a bit of a laboratory.

Is a project ever “finished” in your mind?
I always want to keep things moving along in our hotels—people like to see change and involvement over the years. My own house moves along in the same way. When I’m “finished,” I’m done for a while, but then I’ll see a fabulous fabric, and once you change one thing you have to change something else. But I try not to move the furniture—otherwise I’ll drive my husband mad. And I don’t touch his study.

What’s your best design advice?
Be true to yourself and your vision. Never be influenced halfway through a project and change course. You need to have the boldness to stick to your ideas and tell anyone who doesn’t like it to buzz off.
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Livingly: Style