Kit Kemp, Design Director of Firmdale Hotels, is known for creating spaces that grab your attention and leave you longing to linger. She is the master of the quintessential boutique hotel, curating hyper-customized environments where contrast and layering are essential, and art and antiques have a strong presence. With eight hotels in London and a few spots in New York City, her unique vision continues to expand.
I had always wanted to visit a Kemp-designed hotel, so while visiting London we planned a high tea at Firmdale's Charlotte Street Hotel with my husband's aunt and uncle from Switzerland. His "tante", Michele, has great taste and has introduced me to some great designers like Sarah Lavoine, whom herself has designed gorgeous boutique hotels in Paris.
We enjoyed the tea service in Oscar Bar, a vibrant, mural-lined room that gives a nod to a time in English history when authors like Virginia Woolf were active. I was in awe of the attention to detail that went into the concept of the space, making it unique to this hotel alone.
Kit collaborated with Wedgewood for a series of tea cups, saucers and pots with motifs pulled from "Mythical Creatures," a pattern she originally designed for Chelsea Editions, a textile collection celebrating the rich tradition of English embroidery. I appreciate her ability to see a clever motif and play with its application in new ways, from an embroidered cloth to a quaint tea cup.
After tea, my husband's aunt and I introduced ourselves to the manager of the hotel and he kindly gave us a tour of the common areas and main suites. He generously spent over a half hour sharing insight into Kit's design philosophy and attention to detail and her low-key, friendly relationship with her employees.
Kemp is committed to an awareness of where her products are made and contributes to the communities in which artisans reside. She is also focused on reviving skilled craft from local workshops in England. Her young daughters even jumped into the design of the Charlotte Street Hotel with the idea to take scraps from all of her projects and have a local studio make patchwork animals with them. We took home two adorable puppies for our children made from the remnants of some of my favorite fabrics.
Galbraith & Paul's textiles, one of our favorite Philadelphia-based textile lines, were used on several chairs in their cozy den and library.
The rooms we toured were just gorgeous and personally touching, as they featured many lines that I consistently use in projects; companies who are not just design partners, but also friends. For instance, the grand headboard in this room was covered in "Fathom" by Christopher Farr Cloth, a line that Kit has collaborated with for some of our go-to fabrics.
Each guest room showcased the power of layered graphics and textures, bound by a common thread of color.
As the hotel manager continued our tour, I pointed out several appearances by Seema Krish textiles and told him of our close relationship with the phenomenally talented San Francisco-based designer. He told us he's preparing to move to New York to manage a new Kit Kemp designed hotel where Seema's fabric will also be featured!
Upon our glimpse around the accommodations at Charlotte Street Hotel, it was clear that no two rooms are alike - each fabric finds a unique application in a layered conversation of color, texture and print. As Kit has so appropriately named her book, "Every Room Tells a Story."