London is championing the crafts, the quality of materials, the detail and precision of skilled craftsmen. Experienced designers harness crafts to create unique pieces that give depth and character to interiors. These crafts are the modern decorative arts, future heirlooms and antiques, they help the creative world and interiors stay beautiful. Worth championing and so the great and the good were out in full force…
Including me, I went off to hear Kit Kemp and Christine Van Der Hurd in conversation. A powerful pair who know how to collaborate, their designs celebrate the sensory power of colour and texture, our global heritage and the bespoke possibilities of commissioning craftsmen and artists. Listening I was really struck by the compositional rigour, the intensely structured interplay of colour, scale, pattern and global folk references woven together both at ‘home and hotel’. Ground rules you might say.
A hotel bedroom. Note the colour inserted into the valance kick back. The picture frames. Headboard. The arrangement of colour in graphic blocks.
A sitting room in Kit’s house, where the artwork is at the heart of the interior scheme and a piano (out of sight)…art and music, great combo right.
A suite at Ham Yard uses several framing elements to define the space: those colourful back rests, the floor rugs and then the geometrical interplay of rectangles along the rear wall.
Kit Kemp’s spaces are uniquely hers, something which Firmdale has turned into the cognescenti’s hotel brand, championing her exuberantly idiosyncratic English style. Her aesthetic is inimitable, something which Christine through Vanderhurd shares, their synergy is based on common values and mutual understanding.
Kit describes Christine as the ‘chicest person I know…a brilliant colourist…‘. Above are examples of Christine’s designs across woven, printed and embroidered textiles.
Each collaboration produces unique results, despite years of sampling and thousands of coloured yarns – the infinity of colour requires new samples for each of Kit’s rooms. Christine’s ‘infallible eye’ skilfully develops these over several samples deliberating woven structures, material and scale. The detail and precision of this are vital to the quality and longevity of the finished product and scheme. And what schemes.
A densely layered suite at Ham Yard: woven carpet, embroidered fabrics over the sofa and fuchsia chairs, printed fabrics on the curtains (and a final blue chair ) then look beyond and printed fabric becomes framed artwork on the walls. Here several elements play with scale over the different textures. Zoning in on one element: Christine’s woven tribal carpet uses a hand spun hemp yarn for an organic feel within the block design. It’s all in the details…
In Covent Garden you can see how the colour and pattern graduates, embroidered fabrics appear over the chairs in different densities, printed curtain feel neat and then the pattern becomes an abstract presence once overscaled in the rug. It’s the rug that anchors EACH space, without it, the scheme would float, it grounds the schemes.
At Ham Yard, the headboard’s embroidery is scaled to complements its size and shape, picked out with orange piping. Once again the ‘grounding’ carpet is woven, the curtains printed, here the walls are covered in fabric, but do you start to see a few ground rules underpinning these schemes?
The drawing room at Crosby Street in NYC two identical rugs anchor each seating area, both overscaled florals. An embroidered Vanderhurd fabric reflects Kit’s love of 3D fabrics on 3D shapes to accentuate their sculptural presence. The chunky woven stripes and patchwork sofa layer up behind the vibrant velvet chesterfield.
The drawing room in London hits the spot too, can you spot some ground rules?
These interiors invite you to relax, they spill over with interesting things, that offer a seemingly casual harmony, comfortably layered and evolved. Kit’s well honed aesthetic has captured customers’ hearts and won several design awards. So if you love the Firmdale hotels, who doesn’t? and you lust after Vanderhurd’s vibrant creations there are a few ground rules. A ‘do try this at home’ checklist for bold interior statements.
Embrace your location, got a caribbean hideaway? make like Kit who used colours of equal vibrancy to the exotic locale, off set by a neutral textures here coral stone walls, driftwood pendants and rope lamps further connecting the interior to the landscape. That back wall has mirror framed vintage fabrics, the mirror expands the pattern increasing their presence within the scheme.
Outside sea, sky and ceiling are turquoise…Kit says she is more frightened of beige than any other colour.
There’s lots of London references at Ham Yard (particularly the Queen who is after all in residence down the road) …
I might make a collage like the one below, which is in the lift playfully layering images of London and Ham Yard, linking space and place and forming a visual moodboard for the hotel/ your /my interior:
When it comes to creating the graphic lines within a scheme Kit likes to break the rules, to play with scale:
Firmdale is well known for its statement headboards which dominate a bedroom. My friend did this recently to great effect and we all want to stay over (but the cat gets there first -everytime).
In Ham Yards basement Dive Bar, a tricky space with no natural light a fabric design ‘rik-rak’ was overscaled and appears on the rear wall with a giant mud chandalier in front of it. Check out the cheeky neon diver just splashing the wall …
In the restaurant a huge sunburst mirror energises the wall.
While In the entrance a Venetian console has a giant painting over it, which both enlarges the space and plays against the traditional console/painting arrangement. Note the smaller scaled rik rak below.
Ham Yard is on a larger scale than any previous Firmdale hotel and Kit skilfully wove together her signature elements over half an acre of ground floor space with epic results, the common thread: hand crafted pieces and folk art.
The reception takes place under a giant loom installation reflecting Kit’s passion both for textiles and artisan work.
Walk round… and behind this area the cream wall reflects and bounces the vibrant juxtaposition of Anatolian rug, modern art work and sculptural chandelier, look closely and spot the colourful marbles in the balustrade.
Kit’s interiors tell a story and part of this tale is conveyed by ‘words and pictures’ as Kit says, a wall of books is the best wall covering a room can have. I like how she often takes the dust covers off so that the books are softer and more textural in the shelves.
Library Ham Yard
Artwork is deeply personal and Kit is mistress of the witty reinvention and stand out framing to make pieces sing.
Beetles in embroidered frames again crisp checks and over mother pearl bedside.
1000’s of penny passementerie butterflies gathered and framed in perspex.
Dog framed and embraced by … dog food labels … yes really.
Kit creates visually compelling artwork both through the framing and quantity:
The bowling alley at Ham Yard has a wall of vintage bowling shoes scoured from eBay and framed in perspex boxes.
Lovely Robina Jack plates are set into perspex boxes against black felt so that they really stand out in the drawing room at Ham Yard.
Where 3 ships -not 1- come sailing home and next door there are 3 lamps in 1…
Finalé of the (my) multiple- moments … an installation of clocks in front of the lifts… because everyone in London is always in a hurry. It’s so many things at once: striking, surprising, thought provoking, humorous and CREATIVE.
In fact, I might have to sit down in the Shade Bar next door and just take a moment and cup of English tea to absorb all this, book in hand.
Indeed you could fill a book (and several blog posts) with just Ham Yard and Kit has pretty much done that, Every Room Tells a Story, is not only a beautiful picture book but also openly generous with sources and design advice. In it she explains I like to weave stories with colour and pattern, objects and art is how I try to incite a visitor’s curiosity and keep them moving from one room to the next. Working with artists and designers like Christine weaves their meaning and stories into an interior space that draws you deeper into the experience. This is what makes Firmdale hotels so interesting to stay in and this is why when creating our homes Kit’s words of wisdom resonate, let the conversation continue and her ground rules could just let your creativity go bold.
Kit Kemp and Christine Van der Hurd in conversation at London Craft Week.
*Every Room Tells a Story. book by Kit Kemp