Brightly printed linen designed by Kit for Christopher Farr transforms a book-lined corner

Article by Pattie Barron, Photography copyright Simon Brown.

Ten shades of taupe might be utterly tasteful, but as interior designer Kit Kemp says, “You can make a room so tasteful that it’s forgettable.” The unforgettable interiors she and her design team create in hotels and homes world-wide are renowned for their richness in colour, pattern and glorious detail – with not a hint of taupe in sight. Most importantly, each interior is unique, though many of the tricks used by Kit – and revealed in her new book Design Secrets – can be templates for making our own homes more characterful and, as she says, fabulously different.

Diverse textures in a room are essential because without texture, interiors can look flat and cold, says Kit. “Layering textiles always helps to make rooms come alive. Fabrics that are rich with natural imperfections and texture within the weave are an easy and immediate way to imbue a space with understated luxury. A blend of linens and wools, weaves and prints lends depth within a room as the raised surfaces reflect light and create shadows.”

A bedroom is given the Kit Kemp treatment with an oversized bedhead and a crisp, tailored edge to curtains

It’s the small details – an ornate embroidered cushion on a brutalist chair, sparkling beads trimming a lampshade, hand-painted picture frames – that make a room interesting, believes Kit. Curtains can be given a luxe detail by accenting the ‘leader’ – the vertical – edges, so that at New York’s Crosby Street Hotel, crisp white linen bedroom curtains get a kick of colour with an edge of green and navy zigzag collage. Bands of jumbo ric rac in both black and white add drama to soft pink paisley curtains while, for a more masculine interior, formal grey linen curtains are piped in leather cord and edged in a panel of fiery orange.

Oversized patterned fabric headboards are a Kit Kemp specialty that create maximum impact in bedrooms, with the bonus that choosing a print or weave at the start of planning a room can help inform the room’s colour scheme. If you have a gorgeous textile piece you’d like to use that isn’t wide enough, simply make up the width, as Kit does, by pairing it with complementary panels on either side. Adding detail might include contrast piping or using metal upholstery studs to define the edges like a frame, while upholstering the edge in a plain contrast fabric ‘lifts’ it from the wall, making the headboard really pop.

Collections of quirky objects grouped together, like these soda bottles, can make a witty focal point

If you have a room with less light than you would like, Kit’s sunny solution is to add rays of light in the form of “golden touches”: displaying gilded works of art; using sunburst mirrors and sunray wall lights to act as windows, and hanging paintings in gilded frames, which she says are a good way to warm up a white wall.

Another way to warm up any wall is to line it in fabric – a favourite device of Kit’s, as well as using beautifully patterned wallpaper. “I like using linen because it is comfortable yet effortlessly chic, cocooning – absorbing sound and adding warmth – yet tailored and hard-wearing.” She also uses blue denim, which would be a great choice for a cosy den, and in a London drawing room, she lined the walls with a striking red-and-white linear fabric, then continued it in the floor-to-ceiling curtains as well as for a pair of statement armchairs.

Displaying collectables to add a personal touch is nothing new, but Kit makes it an art form by, for instance, mounting a series of vintage carver plates bought on eBay onto black felt backgrounds and encasing each in Perspex. “Often a single object on its own doesn’t have much impact,” she says, “but when displayed as part of a collection, it can be transformed into the most interesting feature in a room.” A solitary basketwork pendant light isn’t thrilling, but a group of them, suspended at different heights as Kit has done at London’s Ham Yard Hotel, creates a sensation.

Bookcases and shelving can be transformed by adding effective backdrops. In a small study, Kit places antique mirror behind bookshelves to create the illusion of more depth and space, while she might give simple white shelves a shot of glamour with a background of boldly patterned wallpaper.

The take-to-your-home message from Camp Kemp is loud and clear: “It’s the devil in the detail that makes a room memorable.”

Kit Kemp: Design Secrets (Hardie Grant, £25), available from all good bookshops and online.


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