Beige is beautiful
Kelly Hoppen has turned her name into a global brand that is coveted for its interiors, furniture, home accessories, books and more
Kelly Hoppen is a household name. The South African-born Brit is interior design’s answer to the “starchitect,” moving in celebrity circles and creating homes for the likes of Victoria Beckham. She is known the world over as the queen of beige, having taken it from boring to beautiful—and she practically owns the rights to a certain shade of taupe.
Hoppen started her career at just 16, when she was given the opportunity to design a family friend’s kitchen. She has gone from strength to strength since then, receiving an MBE in 2009, starring in BBC Two’s reality show about entrepreneurialism, Dragon’s Den, and releasing a series of books on interior design. Her current projects include the Lux Belle Mare hotel in Mauritius, Pearl Yacht 65, Lodha Estrella, a 55-storey tower in Mumbai for Yoo and Abhinandan Lodha, and luxury homes in Hong Kong, Beijing and Taiwan.
Meeting her in person on a recent Hong Kong visit, it was easy to see how she has built such a name for herself. Hoppen is not only a talented creative, but also a shrewd businesswoman with an eye for sound commercial ventures. Ultimately, however, it is her enduring passion for what she does that makes her tick, and her ability to blend styles to perfection that keeps the Kelly Hoppen empire growing.
You recently debuted your e-commerce store, kellyhoppen.com. What inspired you to go digital with your products for the home?
My partner [former IT businessman John Gardiner] had been retired for 10 years, and he said, “Kelly, you’ve got an incredible brand, why have you never done an online store?” The truth is, I’d just never had the time. And I think it takes a certain kind of brain to set up a strategic plan and get the right people involved. He said he’d quite like to do it, and it’s been great. I’m left to be the creative and he’s built this incredible machine that never lets us down.
Is it difficult to work with your partner in love?
The interiors and products are in one studio, and the dotcom is elsewhere. John is doing something totally different, so we don’t really cross paths. And at least I know I’m working with someone I can trust with my life.
You’re working on 52 projects in countries all over the world. How
does the design process differ?
Each culture is different, and yet everybody’s needs are the same. Everyone wants comfort, they want to feel at home; they want to feel soft and nurtured.
Why does Asia inspire you?
My first book was East Meets West [East Meets West: Global Design for Contemporary Interiors, originally published in 1997], so it’s always been in my blood.
I started coming to Asia regularly six years ago, and I’ve now built a very good, loyal fan base here in terms of my product and my books.
People started calling me about doing developments in Taiwan, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and the calls just started coming in quicker and quicker and quicker. The clients here are very much at the forefront, and they have considerable resources to build unbelievable buildings.
There’s a part of me that lives in this world, even when I’m not here. I need to connect in order to do what I do… if I was working somewhere I didn’t have a connection with, I don’t think I could do it.
How have tastes evolved in Asia?
Two years ago, I had this epiphany when I was flying back from Beijing and I thought, “I know how to do this.” The luxury that originally I was being asked to do was not very “me,” so I had to educate some of the clients that I was working
with. I had to say, “I promise you, this is going to work, it’s just different.”
Now, the world is not a big place anymore. With the internet, everybody knows everything and they’re more discerning. I look at other projects in Asia, and I see everything that I could get in the UK or Europe.
I have to constantly make things, design things, go vintage, or find new people to make things.
What else is happening in the world of Kelly Hoppen?
We’ve got two retail stores opening in London. We’re also looking for partners in Asia that we can work with. We get so many hits in China on kellyhoppen. com, but it is very expensive to ship products. We’re looking at warehousing here, and retailing.
I’m also reading a few film scripts at the moment. You look at the homes that are designed for film, that’s something I’d like to get into.
I’m working with the Prince’s Trust, and I was in Africa recently for Comic Relief, talking with amazing inspirational women.
You are an incredibly busy woman, how do you juggle everything?
I don’t know, and when you start to think about it, it makes you feel ill. But I like to be challenged, and it will be 40 years next year that I’ve had the business. If I didn’t do something different every day, I think I’d climb the walls.
I eat as much alkaline as I can. That’s my daughter’s [Natasha Corrett of alkaline lifestyle brand Honestly Healthy] influence. And I exercise almost every day. I have two personal trainers in London, and when I’m abroad, I get up at 6am and run for half an hour. That’s my meditation.
And I sleep a lot, believe it or not. John and I also just love to be at home. We entertain a lot, rather than go out. We’ve got a house in the country, which is John’s and which I’ve done up, and we’re building a new home for ourselves in Notting Hill. We found an amazing old auction house—it’s my new love at the moment.
this page hoppen was recently commissioned to turn this mount street, London apartment into an office and second home. she used clean lines, warm neutral tones and luxe textures to create an inviting space
opposite, Clockwise Kelly hoppen in one of her tastefully designed rooms; her signature use of soft, neutral shades to create an understated but elegant ambience
Clockwise From left an image of the yacht taken at sea; one of the cabins designed by Kelly hoppen on board the luxury Pearl Yacht 65; the indoor saloon