Designer Kit Kemp’s favourite room

The co-owner and design director of Firmdale Hotels reveals her inspiration for the dawn-to-dusk room in her eclectic London home. Photography by Jooney Woodward

Kit Kemp has filled the space with flashes of colour
Kit Kemp has filled the space with flashes of colour | Image: Jooney Woodward

Ours is a postwar house near Hyde Park. It’s not a glorious high-ceilinged London house like the ones you imagine at all, but has this very spacious area on the ground floor that was originally a formal dining and sitting room. Interior designer Robert Kime visited one day and said, “I’d advise anybody to make the best room in their house into the kitchen.” It was like a light went on in my brain. Even though I’m in the business of designing interiors every day, sometimes you need someone to come in from outside and tell you what to do.

Eclectic objets abound
Eclectic objets abound | Image: Jooney Woodward

We added the conservatory about five years ago and extended the space into an L-shape, and now it’s an all-day room. There’s a fireplace at one end and an old 1950s green Aga at the other, so it’s cosy in the winter. It’s almost too warm in summer – we have to open all the doors and windows. From the kitchen, you turn left into the conservatory, which has a big, old wooden dining table.

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There’s so much in this room that I really love. On the coffee table are some tiny painted bronzes by the Spanish artist Ramiro Fernández Saus of a zebra and a tiger walking across a field – they’re just really whimsical. I love colour, and even when I try to do something monochromatic, it bursts into colour. Over the fireplace is a wonderful artwork by Anna Raymond, which is very cheerful in bright, bright pinks. I like putting this kind of soulful art cheek-by-jowl with expensive paintings such as our Ivon Hitchens. It makes the room come alive.

The Lost and Found fabric on one chair was designed by Kemp and Christopher Farr
The Lost and Found fabric on one chair was designed by Kemp and Christopher Farr | Image: Jooney Woodward

The fireside chairs complement the art and are upholstered in a fabric by Raoul Textiles – represented by Turnell & Gigon at Chelsea Harbour. It’s an exuberant paisley design in vivid colours – not at all traditional. If I have mirrors in a room, I like them to be old and fogged like the ones either side of the fireplace. It just adds a little bit of age and mystery.

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At the kitchen end of the room, there’s a really lovely old wing chair covered in Lost and Found – a fabric I designed with Christopher Farr that’s woven in Belgium. It’s so nice to test out my fabrics at home to see how they work. I have a very rigorous test – my five dogs after a long walk. We’ve got three generations of spaniels: the grandmother and her brother, the mum and two of the puppies that we couldn’t bear to part with. They’re just divine and no house is a home without dogs. Didn’t John Fowler say the best interiors projects were those that, once finished, had a Labrador running around – only then would they feel like home?

If I do love a room, I hate changing it. It’s coming to the point where this room will have to be changed, though, as we haven’t painted the place for 15 years. It’s my love affair and I really don’t want to, but I won’t put everything back the same, either. I’ve got to come up with something else I’m going to love equally – it will be very difficult.

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