March 2018: Kit Kemp is a multi-talented designer, perhaps best known for bringing her distinctive style to Firmdale Hotels where she is design director and co-owner with her husband. Alongside these projects she finds time to design successful collections of textiles, homewares, and other products for a select group of manufacturers. Her most recent collaboration was with UK company Wilton Carpets and she is currently working on a fabric and wallpaper collection with Andrew Martin. Kit Kemp’s next design-related trip will take her to Dallas with Chelsea Textiles, to showcase an embroideries collection.
When was the company founded? 1985
How many staff? 1200
Where is it based? London and New York
What is your latest significant achievement/project of note? The Whitby Hotel, which we opened at the beginning of last year. It is just off 5th Avenue by Central Park. I also recently completed a collection of carpets for Wilton Carpets. They are the oldest carpet company, but with the latest state-of-the-art looms. Right now I’m working on a new project with Andrew Martin designing a fabric and wallpaper collection.
I’ve just discovered… Collect – The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects, created by the Crafts Council. I presented an award there for ‘One to Watch’ and discovered Jerome Pereira. His unique sculptures juxtapose grounded timber with the delicate lightness of hand dyed silk; a combination I’ve never seen before. The subtle arrangement of colours and textures look so delicate but have a strength that looks lasting.
Who inspires me… Vanessa Bell, who was a member of the Bloomsbury Group. She was the sister of Virginia Woolf and an artist and homemaker in her own right. She was one of the original members of the Omega Group of Artists and Craftsmen, who created artefacts for the home. The group was created by Roger Fry, who brought the first Post-Impressionist exhibition to London. At the time it was derided by the public, but Fry and Bell were influenced by Cezanne and Picasso. The Omega Group created wallpapers fabrics carpets ceramics and murals. But the artists were not allowed to sign their names – the Omega mark was all that was allowed. It took the home far away from heavy Victorian and Edwardian influences, to a much lighter and colourful feel. Vanessa had a very distinctive colour palette that works so well in British interiors, with our depth of light throughout the seasons. She was a serious artist with a sensitivity and humanity in her work that I most admire. Everything in her home at Charleston in East Sussex was joyfully painted and thought through to achieve a comfortable and welcoming environment. Her talent has lasted over the years and is still a joy to the eye.
I’ve always been a fan of… Mixing colours and patterns in an unusual and surprising way… and breaking the rules! Creating spaces that are memorable, but most of all comfortable to live in.
My highlight of the last 12 months… Opening The Whitby Hotel in New York was a big project, because it was a new build that had to be completed lock stock and barrel. Getting to grips with the Firmdale online shop, so we can sell our furniture and design products. We have also designed some wonderful weaves with Michal Silver of Christopher Farr Fabrics that have just been launched on to the market. Working with Wedgwood to create a new dinner service called Sailor’s Farewell has been lots of fun.
My next design trip is to… Dallas, where Chelsea Textiles are showing my collection of embroideries in their Showroom. I am really looking forward to be with Mona Perlhagen and Jenny Simpson of Chelsea Textiles. They are so creative and good friends.