Tuesday, December 1, 2015

‘Always be bold’ a la Kit Kemp (2/4)

When it comes to color, pattern and texture, few can match interior designer Kit Kemp. Her latest book, Every Room Tells a Story, sets out some great examples for us boho aficionados to study and learn from.

Yesterday we heard from Kemp the design storyteller, adventurer and memory-maker. She is perhaps best known for her bold use of color but warns it's only "one tiny part of the story." So we'll begin there with what she has to say about some of her favorite color tricks and see where it leads.

...as I look at my colour palette when I am designing, 

my eye keeps straying back to blues.


—Kit Kemp 



Simon Brown

This room could be the poster child for bold, yet who among us wouldn’t like to plop down in those fun sofas and put our feet up? The space is built around the Indian folk-art cabinet (left), painted a myriad of colors. The sofas shout the colors in the cabinet from large-scale upholstery, while the area rug whispers in our ear with a smaller-scale geometric. All together they bring life to the dark, moody blue denim walls.


Simon Brown

This example is from the London Knightsbridge Hotel—one of many Kemp co-owns with husband Tim. The mirrored wall over the bar tricks the eye into thinking this colorful room continues on and on (aha! how to do bold beyond color!), while bright yellow leather on the fire fender and chair tops provides interesting bolts of solid color in the lower half of the room.

Cushions and dining chairs feature a red Provencal-style fabric, which contrasts with the bold denim plaid of the sofas (William Yeoward’s Acri ). My favorite element, though, is the ikat pillow in the center of each sofa, which seems to mediate between the bold/modern of the sofas and the dainty/traditional look of the other throw pillows.


Simon Brown

The abstract painting above the stone mantelpiece is by Dire Straits’ John Illsley and functions as the calm center of this room. I love how Kemp used empty book sleeves to create “breathing spots” on alternating bookshelves--another unusual touch. And those ikat-inspired lampshades on those “polka dot” lamps are the bomb! 


I like to break the rules…

It makes my job so much more interesting and fun.




—Kit Kemp 




Simon Brown

In the Terrace Suite at London’s Ham Yard Hotel, Kemp built on a base of blue with pops of pink that run from the light-filled drawing room through to the master bedroom. Framed fabrics by Australian artist Shilo Engelbrecht flank the doorway and make the upholstered headboard beyond appear as one more gorgeous piece of art. The hot pink fabric on throw pillows and chair is one of Kemp’s designs—Ozone for Christopher Farr.


Simon Brown

Inside the bedroom, a chambray fabric on walls softens the space and, with liberal use of white, adds to it restfulness. I like the pop of color in the bedskirt pleats—so military!—and also how Kemp enhanced the impact of the pink by bracketing it with red and orange in the drapery print. 

Speaking of red… 

Red is that very special colour artists return to time and again to create 

an accent that catches the eye and secures the observer’s attention. 

Red can bring a room alive but doesn’t have to be used 

in large doses to be effective. That is why when I say 

‘just add red,’ I mean just a dash and not a dollop. 


—Kit Kemp 


Simon Brown

Like here, where florals and geometrics collide in happy harmony with just a bit of red to connect them. I love the gray-and-white linen look of the wall as well.


Simon Brown

Kemp says black, white and red is one of her favorite color combinations, and the sitting area in Room 101 at Haymarket Hotel demonstrates why. “It’s a lasting classic combination but still looks contemporary, and there are so many fabulous ways to combine them together." The colors in the framed Indian quilt over the sofa contrast with the room’s predominately black, white and red scheme to bring the entire color palette to life.


Simon Brown

The cloud wallpaper that unites sitting and sleeping area also makes us smile when we notice the airplane in the embroidered headboard.


Simon Brown

But don't be fooled, despite what Kemp says, her interiors have it all—personal, interesting, glamorous AND luxurious. When can I move in?


…being bold…is also about playing with scale…
Being bold in difficult spaces can bring them suddenly alive.


—Kit Kemp 



Simon Brown

The enormous scale of the art over the black sofa in Haymarket Hotel’s lobby is supported by the Phillippe Hurel console tables flanking it and offset by the dramatic, swirling Tony Cragg sculpture. Compare the “after” photo above with the photo I found on the Internet of how the lobby looked before the addition of the red (below).


Simon Brown
Vive le difference, huh? I absolutely love the red and black against the yellow walls. Such a striking combination and not used nearly enough, which is so bold of her, don't you agree?

Check back tomorrow for 'Kit Kemp creates crushworthy beds,' a romp through the smashingly whimsical upholstered headboards in Kemp's book.


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