In Conversation With Kit Kemp

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Photo Courtesy of Kit Kemp

UK-native Kit Kemp wears many hats. The renowned homeware designer, author, and co-owner-slash-creative director of Firmdale Hotels opened her first property, Dorset Square Hotel, in 1985 with her husband Tim. Together they have grown their business exponentially since, expanding to 10 hotel properties between New York and London.

As the creative force behind the hotels, Kemp has won many awards for her designs, including House & Garden’s Hotel Designer of the Year, The Crown Estate’s Urban Business Award and CN Traveller’s Best Hotel in the World for Design. To celebrate her talent, BG is opening a newly designed loft space on the 7th floor featuring a wide range of her homeware collection. Ahead of the launch, we sat down with Kemp to find out more about her design process, how she started her business, what the biggest challenges are when designing a new space and more. Read the Q&A below and visit us on 7 to see the space starting this Thursday, April 18th through August.

Bergdorf Goodman: Can you tell us how your career in interior design started?

Kit Kemp: I started my own company called Barnacle, then met my husband, Tim. The first hotel we opened was the Dorset Square Hotel in 1985. We were both very young and never took no for an answer.

BG: When designing a new space, where do you draw inspiration from?

KK: Each project is different, and should speak for itself—it should never look like a formula. Of course there will be a thread that runs through every project. There should be a consistency of thought that runs through a building and shows itself in the interiors.  As a designer my biggest inspiration is textiles—organic pieces, remnants, colorful threads, ethnic, ancient or contemporary, colorful or monotone, linen, wool, dyed or natural. I love them all. My chief inspiration is a love of texture and color and a passion for work by local artisans.

BG: What are the most important steps to take into consideration when designing a new space?

KK: If there is an existing room to stand in I think about the light and the shape of the room, the aspect and period of the building. If there is no existing building and I am working from plans, I think of the position and take inspiration from a beautifully textured fabric or piece of art. A historical reference is also a good starting point, whether it be Frank Stella or Charles James Fox. When there is a thread it is much easier. At Crosby Street Hotel the design was ‘Art Inspired by the Written Word’ and then somehow dogs came into the picture.

 BG: What is the biggest challenge when designing a new space?

KK: It is a luxury to design an existing interior space. The real challenge is to design one where the building is still a figment of someone’s imagination. To grow with the project, visualize, and make it look so right when completed that no one thinks I have done anything at all.

BG: How did you go about decorating your own home?

KK: Home is where you should be able to surround yourself with the things you love, where you can mix it all up, old and new, like a sort of design porridge. My house has a bit of a homemade look, which I like. I don’t think homes should be too tailored. It’s like baking a cake. I don’t want it to look like I bought it in a shop—it should have bits falling off the edge! A home should tell a story about who lives there and that’s what my house is like.

BG: What is your dream collaboration and why?

KK: Always the next one.

BG: What was your first memory of Bergdorf Goodman?

KK: Glamour and a beautiful cocktail dress with a big bow on the front.

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