Never in Annie’s wildest dreams did she think that she would be able to collaborate with Kit Kemp, Founder and Creative Director of Firmdale Hotels and Kit Kemp Design Studio. A trailblazing visionary, Kemp noticed a gap in the market for a more personalized hotel experience over 30 years ago and has been changing the industry ever since then. You could say she is the originator of the boutique hotel! Having won awards for her 10 hotels in New York City and London (with another hotel in the Big Apple on the books for 2023), it’s clear this hospitality powerhouse knows how to use her eclectic, colorful, and cozy British style to create spaces that make you never want to check-out. Creating a collection filled with her signature style has been a true joy, and we knew we had to sit down with Kemp and get all of her secrets!
In this latest installment of House Rules, Kemp welcomes us into Rossferry, her family’s colorful tropical retreat on the Caribbean island of Barbados. Perched on a bluff overlooking the region’s famous turquoise waters, the property is absolutely majestic. But it did provide Kemp with a host of challenges when she first got the keys. “It was a well-loved house, but the island’s notorious salty winds, insects, and rudimentary plumbing had taken a toll and it needed a total rebuild,” she says. The result? An inviting oasis that shows off Kemp’s beloved kaleidoscopic palette with a dose of that easy-breezy Caribbean charm. Read on to discover her 9 house rules for creating a beyond magical home:
Follow a Decorating Motto
“When decorating, I always follow my 5 ‘Cs’: Color, comfort, craft, curation, and character,” Kemp explains. “It is all about creating rooms that make a statement about you. Our homes can restore, rejuvenate, and be the central hub of joy and activity, so I design rooms that are welcoming and embrace all the senses. I believe the best rooms never want us to leave, they have a certain something that captures the imagination and stays with us forever.”
Anything Can Be Your Inspiration
“Magic has always been an inspiration for me,” says Kemp. “I love how references to a whimsical world of mythical creatures and fairy tales—especially in a luxurious space—remind people that design doesn’t always have to be serious. It is always an adventure to create a new room.” At Rossferry, Kemp looked to the magical surroundings of Barbados and worked them into the house through the use of raw materials like driftwood, beads, coral, and light-washed wood flooring.
Let the Textiles do the Talking
“Textiles are an endless source of inspiration for me—I collect them when I travel,” notes Kemp. “They can tell a story about the craftsperson, country, and so much more.” Kemp is known for her transportive designs with color, but look a little closer and you’ll notice that nearly every surface is covered in a textile, from the headboards to the walls.
A White Quilt Sets the Stage
Another thing to notice when looking at Kemp’s interiors, especially her hotel rooms, is that every single bed has white linens—and there’s a reason for that. “I always use a white quilt to give that breathing space, which is so important,” she explains. “Whenever I see a white bed, I just feel like diving into it! But it also gives me the opportunity to add character and play with color and pattern through the bed skirt and cushions.”
Serene Maximalism = Scale + Balance
““I love a bold interior, but not a frantic one,” Kemp explains. “Colorful doesn’t have to mean overwhelming. Stick to one color on the wall or a solid curtain fabric, and then add in pattern and texture. The key to a great interior is to curate the space so there’s a balance to it all.”
Don’t Be Afraid of Pink!
Just like in our latest House Rules with blogger Megan Zietz, Kemp believes that pink is a magical color to use in a home. “I actually love pinks because they just always feel so warm,” she explains. “There’s a certain shade—Indian pink is what I call it—which is really almost verging towards a purple. It’s so hot that it makes you feel good and it’s not overly feminine and works in many spaces.”
Use the Rug as a Focal Point
“I use a statement rug as I would a feature wall. It becomes the focal point and the rest of the room can fade away,” says Kemp. In Rossferry’s entry, she uses the Graphic rug from her latest collection to do just that. “I love this piece in a hallway because it’s a place to say, ‘I have arrived.’”
For Freshness, Turn to Nature
Another trend in Kemp’s interiors is her use of green and other natural elements to really marry the indoors with her external surroundings. “I just love nature,” says Kemp. “Whenever I walk into a room, I go straight to the window and look out. And it’s almost as if my interiors and exteriors are merging together.” In Rossferry, Kemp uses small details like seashell picture frames and driftwood tables that speak to the island beyond. She even drew inspiration from the terrace’s foliage by selecting a bright lime color for the house’s shutters.
Be True to Who You Are
Above all else, Kemp believes that your home should reflect who you are. “You want to create an interior that has character and says something about you, not a nameless designer from a hundred years ago.”
Quick Fire with Kit Kemp
Greatest extravagance: Owning five dogs.
My Ideal Day: Opening the curtains to a green vista overlooking treetops to the sea, then yoga on the balcony. I’d read the papers, then go see my old horse Lonny for a ride. Lunch with a few friends under the shade of a pergola, then a walk with my husband and the dogs. An evening drink under the stars and a light supper. Wow, that sounds perfect!
Most Treasured Possession: A book my mother gave me. It is a dark green leather-bound book with lovely woodcut black and white illustrations by artist Norman Hepple. It is called ‘Gone to Earth’ by Mary Webb and was published in 1917.
Biggest Influence: Working beside talented enthusiastic people is always inspirational and gives me energy and ideas and opportunities. There is lots of laughter too when you are on the same wavelength and making good progress in a project.
Qualities to Look For in a Friend: Nothing like a good friend but I spend most of my time talking to cushions. They always give the right answer.
Feel Good Ritual: A shower and washing my hair first thing in the morning.
Guilty Pleasure: A caramel stick of toffee called ‘CARAMBAR.’ It’s the kind of toffee that pulls all your filling out and renders you speechless for a few minutes while you chew. Guaranteed to keep me quiet.
Current State of Mind: I love my life.
Was this article helpful?