Style | The Aesthete

Kit Kemp talks personal style: Part Two

The hotel owner and designer concludes her digest of desires.

May 14 2010
Maria Shollenbarger

My style icon is Gustav Klimt. Because, of course, formally he was a painter of excellence, but he was also all about decoration, all about ornament. I love everything from the Secessionist period.

In my fridge you’ll always find carrots and celery for making juice, Activia yoghurt and wholewheat bread, which I bring up from Lymington in the New Forest.

The people I rely on for grooming and style pivot around a woman called Julia at a shop in Lymington called Stanwells. She has cultivated a perfect eye for me, from T-shirts and jeans to designer pieces. Basically, everything she picks I love, and I buy. 13 High Street, Lymington, Hampshire SO41 9AA (01590-610 074; www.stanwells.co.uk).

The last music I bought was Dexter Porter. In fact, he gave me his CD: he’s a waiter at Crosby Street [Hotel] but is also a sort of lesser-known, but quite popular, jazz vocalist in and around downtown New York. He’s so gentle and lovely and he sings classic jazz, which I love. He’s coming over to Ronnie Scott’s at some point. I think I’ll one day be saying, “I knew Dexter when...” www.dexterporter.com. www.ronniescotts.co.uk.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Iván Navarro, who I just saw at [New York’s fine art fair] The Armory Show. He’s Chilean and works out of Brooklyn. He works with light; neon mostly, but other lighting techniques as well. My answer to this question would be different in two months – perhaps in two days – but right now, the next piece of art that I buy will be his. www.thearmoryshow.com. www.ivan-navarro.com.

My favourite room is my kitchen in London. We decided to turn the best room in the house, which was the sitting room, into the kitchen. It was [interior decorator] Robert Kime who suggested it, and bless him! It faces the garden and has a conservatory, and is in fact very large, but, more importantly, it’s a positive space and it has revitalised the whole house.

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in isn’t a city, actually. I wouldn’t choose the city, I’d live in the countryside. But if pressed, I’d say some quartier of Paris. Montmartre, or somewhere like it that’s supremely romantic – candles in bars, bohemian men. But the fact is that if it were to become a reality, I’d probably hate it.

The thing I’m eyeing to buy next is a round table with a grey marble top, and legs that are worked so they look as if they have scales, like serpents. It’s at [antiques store] Guinevere. I don’t know if it’s 18th or 19th century, or Italian or French. But I want it. 574-580 King’s Road, London SW6 (020-7736 2917; www.guinevere.co.uk).

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Jao Camp in Botswana, in the Okavango Delta. You sleep well above the ground in these sort of treehouses. I loved being up so high; and at night-time the hippos sometimes come and rub their bottoms against the tree, and your whole lodge shakes a bit from it. It gets quite cold at night in the winter and you sit round the fire; I felt like a Girl Guide. www.wilderness-safaris.com.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home was a suitcase full of Argentinean rugs. They’re quite homemade-looking, very quirky, with handles woven into the top of each one. I had them staple-gunned to some antique chairs, which are now in the Crosby Street Hotel.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Biarritz. The Brocante de la Reine Victoria, which is a market on one of the main roads, has unclassifiable but great shopping. I get the best furniture there too. 9 Avenue de la Reine Victoria, 64200 Biarritz (+335-5922 1414).

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a dressage rider – a dressage goddess. I only started riding when my children did; it was my childhood dream but I never got my own horse. I think you have to honour some of those dreams as an adult. I’m glad I did this one; I get so much pleasure from it.

See also

People, Interview