Designer Crush – Kit Kemp

Happy New Year!

I want to kick off the year highlighting a wonderful British Interior Designer called Kit Kemp. In this blog post I wanted to dissect her design skills and show you how she looks at a project and goes about implementing the design all described by herself in her recent book.

She and her husband own a string of hotels one of which is featured here called The Ham Yard Hotel, tucked away behind Picadilly Circus in London

Kit Kemp

On a recent visit to London I went there with some wonderful friends to have afternoon tea – I suggested Ham Yard for our Tea as I also had a hidden agenda!  I wanted to see first hand the interior design by Kit Kemp.  I was not disappointed and can’t wait to go back to stay there with my family during the spring break!

Afternoon Tea at the Ham Yard Hotel

Afternoon tea was served on the tableware which sprang from an original design by Kit Kemp for a fabric and adds to the uniqueness of the place. I would love a set of this myself!

Mythical Creatures Tableware designed by Kit Kemp

In her recent book she says that storytelling is at the heart of whatever she designs. She quotes that it is how she dresses, and thinks when she is working with craftsmen or configuring new spaces.

Cover of “Every room tells a story” by Kit Kemp
Kit Kemp
Kit Kemp

As an interior designer one never stops researching, learning, and observing and I bought this book recently as I love to find out how other designers see the world, and what they find.  I appreciate the philosophy of finding the stories behind the fabrics, craftsmen/women and artists that produce the works we live around. Interior design is, lets face it, not rocket science. It does, however, shape our psyche and being happy and content influences how we feel about ourselves and those around us.

The Ham yard Hotel London

KK describes the main challenge of building such a new hotel in the heart of London was how to link very large areas together over half an acre/ 2000m2 of space. KK used her wonderful array of fabrics, wallpapers and sourced unexpected accessories on this project.

Externally an elegant courtyard with a mature oak tree to give instant gravitas and shade in the summer.  Small shops fringe the courtyard to give a village feel. The facade is of Portland Stone (I think) with large Crittal metal windows to give as much light to the rooms as possible. The Courtyard is linked by a pavement lit at night to Denman Street.

Inside the hotel KK linked the spaces using materials of stone, wood, alabaster and organic pieces. She repeated this concept throughout each area in different ways but with a common thread of eccentricity and boldness.

Ham Yard Reception Desk

The woven loom effect sculpture above the desk is there because ultimately the loom is a starting point for much of KK’s work. This art installation was done by Hermione Skye O’Hea a Chelsea College of Art graduate. The idea was to contrast such artisan work with the modern white walls and create a visually simulating and unexpected element. Where colour and thread was at the heart of the building.

Through from the Reception the Library has alabaster chandeliers and light sepia coloured wood planks link the library, reception, restaurant and bar.

Library at Ham Yard



The pavement lights lead the way through to the Ham Yard Village
The pavement lights lead the way through to the Ham Yard Village from Denman Street photo by me
  • Design from all periods was incorporated and the common theme seems to be an element of quirkiness, colour or pattern combination that links the pieces. This has a juxtaposition effect of enlivening the senses.
Restaurant at the Ham Yard Hotel

To prevent the restaurant from being too deep and dark the further you get away from natural light – a wall of Martha Freud’s glowing ceramic pots inserted into niches creates light and calm at the end of a busy space. Contrasting light and dark floorboards sectioned up the spaces. The Willow fabric used on the walls and pillars acts as an acoustic damper and even though it is intricately patterned it forms the perfect backdrop for by Scottish Artist Bruce McLean.

Ham Yard Hotel

Large bespoke crystal and metal light fixtures made by artisans in Firozabad, India,  fill the huge ceiling voids to create warmth and intimacy. Above on the left in large perspex boxes hand embroidered fabrics are draped over poles to provide dividing walls to divide the space and create smaller areas within. Just seen top right a large carved wooden screen divides the area there.

Around the corner the bar area was inspired by work by Ras Ishi a wall of tiny paintings within larger frames was balanced by wooden crates wall mounted and painted with African tribal patterns. These serve to hold bottles and create an eye-catching wall.

The Bar at the Ham Yard Hotel

This area of the bar nicknamed the Shade Bar after its array of lamps make from old plastic bottles and woven rafia.

The Shade Bar

The crittal windows to the right house a conservatory with glass ceiling much more neutral in tone with an outdoor feeling stone and pebble floor and wood tables and sculptures. A further element of clever marketing is that only hotel residents can use it….

The Orangery at The Ham Yard Hotel London
The Orangery at The Ham Yard Hotel London
The Orangery at The Ham Yard Hotel

Kit Kemp places a large emphasis on colour and texture and manages to blend many fabrics, wallpapers and decorative items together that just should not work but that do work brilliantly.

As it that was not enough, there is a bowling alley called The Croc after the name the ball makes when it hits a pin.

Bowling Alley at The Ham Yard Hotel
Bowling Alley at the Ham Yard Hotel
Disco area at The Croc

Life-size wooden crocodiles hang by the disco area, lamp bases are made from old pins, shoes were bought on eBay and form an artwork inside perspex cases.  The actual bowling apparatus is 1950’s from Texas and refurbished.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about this wonderful interior designer and understanding some of why her designs work so well.  I will make another post in Spring let you see some of the rooms and suites;-)

Thanks for reading.

Amanda x

Footnote: I have not been paid or sponsored in any way for writing this blog, all photography is from Kit Kemp “Every Room Tells A Story” except the one I took and all opinions are my own.