Travel | Diary of a Somebody

Kit Kemp

Why creating a hotel is like a game of chess

Kit Kemp

November 17 2011
Kit Kemp

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

“Mucky” stood in front of my desk today looking as if he had been mugged, with a huge bump on his forehead and a graze across one side of his face. I have become quite used to his appearance after his weekly rugby match for the Old Whitgiftians in South Croydon. He looks after our warehouse, assigning spaces for machinery, building works and my stock of moveable furniture. (It is fair to say, I am pretty good at filling up warehouses.) We filled two in Jamaica, Queens just outside New York, when we were completing the Crosby Street Hotel in downtown Manhattan because I wanted, as if by magic, everything to be in its place – across all 14 floors, from the bar, restaurant and cinema, to the meeting rooms, reception and bedrooms – from day one of opening the hotel.

At the moment we are working on our Ham Yard hotel project in Soho (London), just behind the Piccadilly Theatre. It is a new-build, entailing shops, the hotel, an underground car park, bowling alley, theatre, brasserie, orangery, and bar. I am most excited about the outside space. We have earmarked six 20ft oak trees to go into the garden area and I would love a rill of water to run through the garden to bring the outdoor and indoor spaces together.

There are many meetings with planning and council authorities, and also with our chosen architects, Woods Bagot, about the buildings. It is a long and patience-testing slog to get everyone in agreement, and cannot be hurried. The flow of the building has to be right, from accessing the hotel’s amenities to the events spaces in the basement and on the rooftop. I am also fine-tuning furniture layouts and detailing doors and ceilings.

Not one brick has been laid, but this is the stage when concepts are formed and I can start thinking about collecting art and artefacts. Tim, my husband, has always been a brilliant chess player, and I am sure one of the main reasons for his success is being able to think many steps in advance. We have a completed project in mind, and nothing is forgotten along the way.

I went to look at some newly refurbished rooms at the Knightsbridge Hotel today in Beaufort Gardens. The Carol Sinclair sculpture in the lobby looks good teamed with a Tom Stogdon slate table. Rooms 501 and 401 have just been finished in soft greys and a dash of fuchsia. A happy note to finish on.