Worldwise: British Design Icon and Hotelier Kit Kemp’s Favourite Things
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Worldwise: British Design Icon and Hotelier Kit Kemp’s Favourite Things

By Tracy Kaler
Thu, Apr 27, 2023 8:54amGrey Clock 3 min

“Cities are really just a series of villages sewn together,” says Kit Kemp, founder and creative director of Firmdale Hotels, an assortment of boutique luxury properties in London and New York, with an addition—Warren Street Hotel—opening in Tribeca in 2023. “We like to think of our hotels as part of that village feel.”

Kemp, along with her husband, Tim, also owns eight restaurants within the properties, and the Caribbean hideaway, Rossferry, on the prestigious Sandy Lane estate in St. James, Barbados. Each Firmdale hotel has a deep connection to its locale, with Kemp aiming to avoid the culture of sameness, she says. “In large hotels, you know what to expect, but if you know too much about what to expect, you don’t feel what it’s like to arrive.”

Kemp’s upbringing near Southampton, England—perusing street markets every Saturday—largely impacted her design sense and style. “Being a port, there were so many different nationalities,” she says of her hometown. “I used to find it exciting to see that vitality and street life.”

That liveliness carries into her design work. Her bold use of colour and pattern, impeccable attention to detail, and whimsy, readily seen in her vignettes and table settings, are signatures. “I have always been scared of beige,” she muses.

The designer has a keen eye for placing art; her properties feature impressive and sometimes avant-garde collections. Combing the galleries she visits on her travels, Kemp sometimes frames unusual objects, making art out of the unexpected. But textiles are perhaps her greatest influence. “Every textile tells the story of where it comes from, whether Guatemala, India, Mexico, or the Baltic countries,” she says. “That gets my creative juices going.”

Penta recently chatted with Kemp, who shared her favourite things.

The person who inspired me to do what I do is… Leszek Nowicki, a Polish architect I worked for. He had a very organic way of working and an unusual eye for design inside and out. He also loved vodka.

The one thing I can’t live without in my home is… Jugs of flowers and hopefully a garden I can pick them in. I find it very restful and fulfilling to collect flowers and put them into an assortment of jugs bought in junk shops.

If I were to buy a piece of art it would be… by Joe Tilson, who has an upcoming exhibit at Cristea Roberts Gallery in London. He was originally a pop artist in the 1960s and broke every rule in the book. He was also a great craftsman and carpenter, so he combined art and carpentry in his work. He loved mythology and was interested in harmony with the earth and sustainability way before anybody else.

What I love about London is… walking to my design office from my home every day down Exhibition Road, through Imperial College and past the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, and Natural History Museum, seeing all the people about to visit the exhibitions. Every age group on a day out in London every season of the year, emerging from the Tube station or off a red bus. Every day is a holiday.

The restaurant in my hometown I love to take a visitor to is… Brumus Restaurant in the Haymarket Hotel in London. It is named after our dog Brumus. Also, the restaurants in the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. We love to go to the ballet and eat in the intervals and take friends there.

A passion of mine few people know about is… I have taken piano lessons for the last 15 years and am still having trouble with “The Woodchopper’s Song.” No talent, but my granddaughter of 14 months is a great help and joins in when I play.

My favourite hotel in the world is… Il Convento in Puglia because you walk through the kitchen to get to the dining room, and there are sacks of apricots drying, Kilner jars of delicious things, and the best bread in the world. Athena McAlpine, the owner, sits in a deckchair in her bathing costume and a man-sized shirt overseeing the proceedings in the most elegant way. At night, there are a million candles. It is romantic.

If I could travel anywhere right now, it would be to… Bujera Fort in Udaipur, India, because Richard Hanlon, a friend, built it himself. It’s a cross between a fort and a palace. It is a masterpiece.

If I could have a meal anywhere with anyone, it would be… Salvador Dali. Maybe we could go up in a hot air balloon that had a huge mustache painted on the side with a pair of lips underneath. We would have lobster and land on Lord’s Cricket Ground to listen to the wonderful sound of the crack of the cricket ball on the willow cricket bat. All the players would be wearing old-fashioned caps and immaculate white baggy trousers and shirts with SD monogrammed on them.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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Going warm and fuzzy for the 2024 Pantone Colour of the Year

Prepare yourself for the year of the peach

Fri, Dec 8, 2023 2 min

Pantone has released its 2024 Colour of the Year — and it’s warm and fuzzy.

Peach Fuzz has been named as the colour to sum up the year ahead, chosen to imbue a sense of “kindness and tenderness, communicating a message of caring and sharing, community and collaboration” said vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, Laurie Pressman.

“A warm and cosy shade highlighting our desire for togetherness with others or for enjoying a moment of stillness and the feeling of sanctuary this creates, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz presents a fresh approach to a new softness,” she said.

Pantone Colour of the Year is often a reflection of world mood and events

The choice of a soft pastel will come as little surprise to those who follow the Pantone releases, which are often a reflection of world affairs and community mood. Typically, when economies are buoyant and international security is assured, colours tend to the bolder spectrum. Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Israeli-Gaza conflict and talk of recession in many countries, the choice of a softer, more reassuring colour is predictable. 

“At a time of turmoil in many aspects of our lives, our need for nurturing, empathy and compassion grows ever stronger as does our imaginings of a more peaceful future,” she said. “We are reminded that a vital part of living a full life is having the good health, stamina, and strength to enjoy it.”

The colour also reflects a desire to turn inward and exercise self care in an increasingly frenetic world.

“As we navigate the present and build toward a new world, we are reevaluating what is important,” she said. “Reframing how we want to live, we are expressing ourselves with greater intentionality and consideration. 

“Recalibrating our priorities to align with our internal values, we are focusing on health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, and cherishing what’s special — the warmth and comfort of spending time with friends and family, or simply taking a moment of time to ourselves.”

Each year since 2000, Pantone has released a colour of the year as a trendsetting tool for marketers and branding agents. It is widely taken up in the fashion and interior design industries, influencing collections across the spectrum. 


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