Kit Kemp is a self-taught hotel designer whose fashionable and vibrant design distinguishes the Firmdale Group from other brands Photo Credit: Haymarket Hotel
Kit Kemp isn’t just a hotel designer; with her husband Tim she’s also a successful hotelier and part-owner of Firmdale Hotels. But her design credentials have been key to establishing the group as a fashionable brand in the crowded London hotel market.
Kit is self-taught as a designer, and her style is quirky and full of character. There’s nothing impersonal about her interiors – they’re striking, but comfortable too. Not quite as outré as Anoushka Hempel, not as theatrical as Philippe Starck, she combines elements of the traditional English room – well upholstered armchairs, wood panelling, charming watercolours – with a bright colour palette and a few well chosen statement pieces to create a style that’s cosy without being smothering.
The Haymarket Hotel is possibly Kit's most daring decoration project Photo Credit: Haymarket Hotel
The Haymarket Hotel is perhaps the most dramatic of the Firmdale hotels – lots of bold patterns, it looks to me a bit like Liberty on steroids. White-painted bookshelves with finely bound books and a marble framed fireplace look utterly traditional English, but the purples and blues, squiggly designs, and bright pink striped cushions, plus contemporary art on the walls, bring it bang up to date and give it a more vibrant feel.
The Soho Hotel shows how Kit Kemp creates light and space by painting the walls in pastel colours, while adding bright accents to wake the room up. For instance, suites have chairs and stools upholstered in fabric that’s licorice-allsort striped in lime green, fuchsia, red and white, and the rugs have a similar bright pattern.
The Soho Hotel has all the hallmarks of Kit Kemp's exquisite style Photo Credit: The Soho Hotel
Kit Kemp isn’t afraid to mix two of the same type of pattern – for instance a big tapestry flower pattern in fuchsia and gold, with a flower print in more sober white and pale pink. It takes a sure hand to do that without the effect becoming too busy and overloaded with detail, but while a Kit Kemp interior is always full, it’s never stifling.
Pastel wall colours with surprising patterns characterise The Soho Hotel Photo Credit: The Soho Hotel
You might characterise the style as ‘English eccentric’ – it’s not deadeningly tasteful, not chintzy, and certainly not heavy. It’s not colour co-ordinated in that rather impersonal way some hotels have – there are bright colours, and there are colour themes, but a lime green sofa might have a contrasting purple stripe, or a mainly yellow room might be set off with black-and-white details. At Number Sixteen, for instance, the lobby’s bright fuchsia is complemented by more muted, calligraphic style flower paintings on the wall, and the traditional sofas contrast with a gleaming dark marble circular table that is a hundred percent contemporary.
The Dorset Square Hotel is the newest Kit Kemp design creation shortly to be unveiled Photo Credit: Dorset Square Hotel
Kit Kemp believes strongly that “hotels should be living things, not stuffy institutions.” So it will be interesting to see what the Dorset Square Hotel in Marylebone looks like when it re-opens shortly. Firmdale bought it (actually bought it back – it was their first ever hotel) last year and spent the intervening period refurbishing it to what we’re assured will be a more urban and up to date style than the ‘country house’ décor it started with.