ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Global Design -

Who is she? Kit Kemp MBE needs no in­tro­duc­tion. As cre­ative di­rec­tor and co-owner of Fir­m­dale Ho­tels, the award-win­ning de­signer has been cre­at­ing unique, vi­brant and in­spir­ing in­te­ri­ors for al­most three decades. Hav­ing trained in graphic de­sign, she then worked for a ship­ping com­pany, which al­lowed her to visit places such as Columbia, Gu­atemala and Mex­ico, where she col­lected ideas and brought back fab­rics and rugs. Next, she worked for Pol­ish ar­chi­tect Leszek Now­icki, who be­came a huge in­flu­ence. It was, in fact, Now­icki who first in­tro­duced her to Tim Kemp, her now hus­band and co-owner of the Fir­m­dale group. ‘He was a de­vel­oper and was up­grad­ing some of his prop­er­ties,’ ex­plains Kemp. ‘He’d been work­ing on ho­tels of­fer­ing stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion, so we de­cided to do some­thing dif­fer­ent and have a go at cre­at­ing a small bou­tique place to­gether.’ As well as stylish ho­tels, Kit also de­signs tex­tiles, fra­grances and home­wares, and has writ­ten two in­te­rior de­sign books. What’s her style? ‘I’m al­ways look­ing for ideas wher­ever I go,’ says Kemp. ‘Pri­vate homes, mu­se­ums and art gal­leries all in­spire me, but my big­gest thing is tex­tiles – rem­nants, colour­ful threads, eth­nic, an­cient, con­tem­po­rary, colour­ful or mono­tone. I love colour, and I like my in­te­ri­ors to look care­free.’ Or­ganic, nat­u­ral pieces play a big part in her work, as does travel. A sense of dis­cov­ery through each space is im­por­tant, as is hav­ing a clear iden­tity for ev­ery project. ‘I look at ev­ery­thing afresh. Ob­vi­ously in­te­ri­ors will dis­play our sig­na­ture, but they should be of this mo­ment, not of yes­ter­day’s mo­ment. With good de­sign, you

shouldn’t be able to imag­ine it from the start – it should be­come larger than your orig­i­nal idea,’ she says. ‘The key is to al­ways be cu­ri­ous. The whole look of a ho­tel should be an ad­ven­ture for the senses. Most im­por­tantly, though, it should make peo­ple smile.’ Which ho­tels has she de­signed?

Kemp’s first ho­tel, Dorset Square, opened in Lon­don in 1985. ‘It was re­ally great fun work­ing on the de­sign, even though I had no for­mal train­ing,’ she says. ‘I meet peo­ple now and they say, “When I’ve done my de­sign course”, or when I’ve done this and that, but some­times, you’ve just got to get on and do it!’ Since then, along with hus­band Tim, Kemp has ex­panded her port­fo­lio to in­clude no fewer than ten prop­er­ties in both Lon­don and New York, in­clud­ing the Covent Gar­den Ho­tel, the Char­lotte Street Ho­tel, the Soho Ho­tel, Ham Yard and her most re­cent ho­tel project, The Whitby in up­per mid­town Man­hat­tan, which opened to the public in Fe­bru­ary 2017. What is she work­ing on now?

Al­though there are no more ho­tels on the hori­zon at the mo­ment, Kemp is al­ways work­ing on her next big project. A third in­te­rior de­sign book is due for re­lease in April 2019, while a sec­ond col­lec­tion of china with Wedg­wood, called ‘Sailor’s Farewell’, will be out later this year, as will an ex­cit­ing new wall­pa­per and fab­ric col­lec­tion for An­drew Martin. fir­m­dale­ho­ ➤

‘The whole look of a ho­tel should be an ad­ven­ture for the senses. Most im­por­tantly, though, it should make peo­ple smile’

Pri­vate room in The Whitby Ho­tel

The Whitby Ho­tel, New York

Ham Yard Ho­tel, Lon­don

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