A colour­ful life

The in­te­rior de­signer Kit Kemp brings the same vi­brant, eclec­tic style to her Caribbean hol­i­day home as she does to her bou­tique ho­tels.

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENT - By Fiona McCarthy. Pho­to­graphs by Si­mon Brown

Ho­tel de­signer Kit Kemp’s beau­ti­ful Bar­ba­dian bolt­hole

When Kit Kemp re­treats to her fam­ily’s hol­i­day home in Bar­ba­dos each win­ter, es­cap­ing the mad bus­tle of run­ning and de­sign­ing the ever-ex­pand­ing bou­tique-ho­tel em­pire she founded with her hus­band Tim in 1985, she al­ways has great plans to plough through lots of life ad­min, ‘but, of course, noth­ing ever gets ticked of the to-do list, and by day four, I re­alise I haven’t done a thing,’ she says, laugh­ing. In­stead, each day, af­ter a long walk and a break­fast picked up at the lo­cal mar­ket – ‘There’s a French man who bakes the most won­der­ful bread and we’re spoilt for choice with trop­i­cal fruit’ – she lies down some­where quiet, ‘pre­tend­ing to read but re­ally go­ing to sleep’. Then it’s time for a quick swim or wa­ter ski, and an early sup­per, ‘just af­ter the sun’s gone down’.

This eleg a nt house, set on a high hi ll­top over­look­ing the Caribbean Sea, has a dra­matic en­trance: a long co­ral-stone drive­way lined with sa­bal palms leads up to pair of 18th-cen­tury carved In­dian doors, from which you can see straight through the house and out to the bright-blue wa­ter be­yond. As it is a down­time desti­na­tion for fam­ily and friends, Kemp wanted to cre­ate large open­plan spa­ces for en­ter­tain­ing and loung­ing, while bed­rooms are mainly lo­cated in ca­banas out­side

‘The mon­keys are very in­quis­i­tive and seem to no­tice ev­ery change we make to the house. Re­cently one hurt his hand, so he dipped it in the pool’

the main house. ‘It’s a place to switch of and sleep so well with the sea air,’ she says.

Most rooms are open to the el­e­ments, and hum­ming­birds buzz around the high, pitched ceil­ings, de­signed to al­low the air to fow through freely. A fam­ily of Ba­jan green mon­keys are also fre­quent vis­i­tors. ‘They’re ver y in­quis­i­tive and seem to no­tice ev­ery change we make to the house and come to check it out; re­cently one of the mon­keys hurt his hand and it was fas­ci­nat­ing to see him dip it in the pool. I love to watch them walk along the fence lines; they make it look so easy,’ Kemp says.

By day, the in­ten­sity of the hues – turquoise, rasp­berry pink and lime green – that she has used on the tong ue-and-groove ceil­ings, wood­work, over­sized shut­ters and up­hol­stery res­onates with the trop­i­cal land­scape out­side. ‘You just can’t get colours hot enough – in this light ev­ery­thing looks bleached out,’ she says. The bo­hemian mood of the

house is ‘in­side out’, a theme Kemp re­it­er­ates in her work, bring­ing na­ture into fab­ric de­signs and cre­at­ing rooftop ter­races, com­plete with bee­hives or chicken houses, at the Fir­m­dale ho­tel g roup’s prop­er­ties in Lon­don and New York. In her hol­i­day home, small de­tails such as seashell-stud­ded frames and lamps, and drif twood ta­ble bases em­pha­sise the con­nec­tion with is­land life.

Tex­tured co­ral-stone walls pro­vide a calm back­drop for a broad mix of fur­ni­ture and tex­tiles, fea­tur­ing many of Kemp’s prints for the fab­ric houses Christo­pher Farr and Chelsea Tex­tiles. Fur­ther in­ter­est comes from art­work by the likes of Breon O’Casey and Ramiro Fer­nan­dez Saus, and un­usual pieces in­clud­ing mud-bead chan­de­liers and dec­o­rated chests of draw­ers by the Biar­ritz-based artist Mimi. And al­ways, there is a cer­tain ir­rev­er­ence.

‘I don’t like my de­signs ever to get too se­ri­ous; they need to make you smile,’ Kemp ex­plains.

At night she lights dozens of storm lanterns around the house, be­fore set­tling down with a cock­tail that is ‘usu­ally fendishly made with too much rum if my daugh­ter Min is around’, she jokes. ‘It’s a treat to sit on a sofa in the open air, un­der the stars, lis­ten­ing to the crick­ets and war­bling tree frogs with a cool­ing drink in hand,’ Kemp en­thuses. ‘It gets dark early but stays warm, so it’s a sarong-only dress code. And when the sun goes down, the beat of Caribbean mu­sic starts to foat across the bay, bring­ing the party to us.’ Kit Kemp’s se­cond book, Ev­ery Room Tells a Story (Hardie Grant, £30), is avail­able for £25 with free p&p from Tele­graph Book­shop (0844-871 1514; books.tele­graph.co.uk); fr­m­dale.com

The hall­way Above a long 19th-cen­tury fruit­wood con­sole ta­ble hangs a se­ries of art­works by Breon O’Casey (breon-ocasey.co.uk). The shell sconces are by Porta Ro­mana (por­taro­mana.co.uk). The lounge room De­sign­ers Guild’s Is­land Hibis­cus was used for...

Kit Kemp in a bed­room suite at Crosby Street Ho­tel in New York, part of the Fir­m­dale Ho­tels group that she runs with her hus­band, Tim. The ex­te­rior 18th-cen­tury In­dian carved doors, such as th­ese open­ing into one of the satel­lite bed­rooms, are used...

The out­door sit­ting/din­ing room has three sides open to the gar­den and views of the sea. The ceil­ing is painted in In­dian Ocean and the shut­ters in Al­chemilla, both by De­sign­ers Guild (de­sign­ers­guild.com). The be­spoke rug is by Chris­tine Van Der Hurd...

The out­door sit­ting/din­ing room

Two so­fas are up­hol­stered in Fathom by Christo­pher Farr (christo­pher­far­rcloth.com). A cus­tom-made mud-bead chan­de­lier from Mud Stu­dio, a rough wooden ta­ble and side ta­bles with drift­wood bases con­trib­ute to the or­ganic, breezy am­bi­ence. The mas­ter...

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