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;

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...”

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.

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;

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.

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