Designer’s Boho Chic London Home Holds Own Against LFW Runway

Though Kit Kemp designs interiors, she and her work could stand up against just about anything that worked the runways at London Fashion Week, which wrapped up yesterday. Kit’s London chic boho townhouse, located on a private square near historic Hyde Park is a case in point.

If you can drag your eyes past her snazzy, lavender suede go-go boots and that jazzy yellow scooter Tim buzzes around London on, check out the front door—an arching bronze piece that dates from the 1950s.

It looks just as gorgeous from the inside—the door, that is, though “gorgeous” applies to the entire interior. “I like to create interiors with a sense of adventure,” Kit says. “With every room, I want to pique people’s curiosity, to encourage them to come in and enjoy poking around.”

As you can see, she kicks that aesthetic right off with an antique Swedish mirror, French beeskep and Italian commode.

Getting the light right

“My first consideration in designing any space always starts with how the light comes into the room,” she explains. “How light reflects at certain times of the day really affects the way color in a room changes.”

With that in mind, the couple renovated the house a few years back. The biggest change? The drawing room moved to the front of the house, while the kitchen and conservatory/dining area moved to the more private back, where there are views of and access to the garden.
“My style is carefree and colorful—color always makes me want to smile—but this is balanced with neutrals because I need it to feel calm, too,” Kit says. “I want to be able to come in, shut the door, and for my home to feel magical. It’s important that where I live feels extremely personal to me.”

Though Kit admits they don’t use the drawing room so much, it’s still chock full of her finds, such as the antique wood panels seen behind the artwork. She cleaned them of their grime and hung them in strips throughout the drawing room.

“The room is somewhere else to put beautiful fabrics and flowers,” she says. “Every time I get a new fabric, I stick it over the arm of a chair…I love fabric and texture and fabulous pieces of art, not necessarily expensive.”

“I am always playing with a collage of color, pattern and texture, with handcrafted details such as appliqué and needlepoint,” she explains. “I love details that give the sense of the hand of the person who made the stitches in a cushion or carved the curves of a table leg. It makes an interior feel more human, and these pieces help to tell a story.”

Living spaces

Kit says the pink pop of color in the foyer makes her happy as soon as she opens the door. And the clock, which she admits is falling apart, she keeps because she loves its shape.

What stands out to me here is how the view into the living room is staged to create a figurative, terraced garden. Standing in the foyer with the floral walls is like one tier, seeing the floral sofa in the next room is the second tier, and beyond it, out the French doors, is the actual garden. Breathtaking!

“I like to fill a room with whimsy and curiosity,” Kit says. “But it always has to feel more than a sum of its parts. Even something simple, such as a little collection of hairpins found in Africa or a few children’s toys, still has to look glamorous as well as being calm and personal. It’s this mix that makes my house feel like a home.”

The sofa fabric continues onto the dining room walls, where it lends a whimsical touch to the collection on top of an antique console table. “I try to weave a thread of a story through the collections I group together,” Kit says. Paintings are by Meninsky, Winifred Nicholson and Max Ernst.

Kit and Tim chose this informal, sun-filled area to function as their only dining space since they mostly entertain at one of their hotels. You can see why they wanted to renovate the home to take advantage of the great view here and the garden access. Did you notice that the dining room wing chairs are upholstered in the same pattern as the foyer wall treatment?

Kit relaxes at home by cooking, and Tim gets to watch (and taste) from the wing chair that’s upholstered in French tea towels, of all things. A local carpenter custom-built the oak kitchen to fit its barrel-shaped proportions.

I don’t usually drool over kitchen design—I like mine modern, clean and functional—but I could make an exception for this kitchen. It’s absolutely one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. And I’d kill for that Aga stove, wouldn’t you? The chandelier is pretty spectacular, too.

“Whatever materials you design with have to feel good,” Kit says. “You can’t go wrong if you design with your five senses. My style is about achieving a balance between what’s colorful and what’s neutral and restful.”

An evolving canvas

“I’m more of a showman in commercial properties,” Kit claims. “At home, I’m a little more reserved. But I also use it as a bit of a laboratory.” 

These two photos of the same space are the proof in that pudding. See how the room has evolved: different chairs by the window, different pillows, and a throw draped over the sofa in the left-hand photo that’s missing on the right.

And here the change is bigger still. It’s the same room as the previous photo, but the sofa, chair and coffee table on the right are completely different. The area rug is gone, but some of the pillows and art stayed. “It’s always changing,” she admits. “It’s a complete indulgence, and I’m all for indulgences.”

Me too. I just wish my pocketbook would learn to keep up!

Kit’s addiction to experimentation doesn’t stop with the drawing room, however. While Anna Raymond’s art hangs in both versions of the living room, all the upholstery changes. Some pillows have moved, while others have been switched out. The coffee table retains one sculptural element but has been otherwise restyled.

And what happened here? The chairs in the right photo are from Kit’s Anthropologie collection, so my guess is they were only brought in for this shoot as a way to plug her line when the photo ran in a London newspaper. But it’s fun to see how the room looks with vastly different pieces, isn’t it? Kit often dresses as vibrantly as she decorates, and the sweater she’s wearing fits right into her collection.

The designer explains her obsession with textiles: “When I was young, my mother had these great big drawers of fabrics. She taught me how to sew when I was 11 or 12, and I was off. When I left home it was with a sewing machine under my arm and not much else. I’m always learning and constantly curious.”

And her curiosity is an inspiration to the rest of us. I never tire of looking at Kit Kemp rooms.

Kit likes to decorate with seasonal flowers, so this sweet bouquet of hellebore, muscari and fritillaria is just the ticket for late February. But if, like me, your bouquets are hidden under mounds of white stuff, this picture will have to do. I hope a visit to Kit’s bright and colorful abode tides you over until spring. (PS: 23 days and counting!)

All information and quotes for this post were drawn from the following sources:

Get more Kit!

Kit’s first book, A Living Space, features her London townhome, while Every Room Tells a Story, her latest book, profiles her Barbados vacation home. Both books feature interiors from Firmdale Hotels.


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