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Number Sixteen in South Kensington, London

Design

The secret to gardens 

Happenings

  • Words Kit Kemp
  • Date 09 Apr, 2019

A room needs people to come alive. I have a feeling that whenever a door closes, a room visibly sighs and goes to sleep.

Maybe that marks the difference between interior design and exterior landscaping: consider the inanimate stillness and silence of a vase gathering dust in an empty interior; in the unnoticed garden, the plants continue their uninhibited growth.

Wherever we have outdoor spaces in our projects we make them into a celebration. Rooms should always be so intriguing that it takes more than one visit to absorb them, rather like reading a book that doesn’t reveal itself immediately. A room with a view can be relaxing for the eye; a room with French windows flung wide open into a garden is perfection. Gardens change colors with the season, they lure you around corners and hold a little bit of mystery in their growth and reproduction.

01 Design Threat Garden

Little mosaic details at Crosby Street Hotel, New York

02 Design Threat Garden

Meadow Suite at Crosby Street Hotel, New York

Gardens do not necessarily have to be on the ground floor. We have a Meadow Suite on the second floor at Crosby Street Hotel in New York. It is a secret bower, complete with trees and a lawn. It is so unexpected in the center of downtown Manhattan that it is very popular with our guests. Here, we also have chickens on the roof and a vegetable garden growing heritage tomatoes. The chickens are named after the bridges of New York and they lay blue eggs. In recognition of our ecological approach to the building and running of our hotel, we received the first Gold LEED Award in New York, of which we are very proud.

I think one of life’s joys is to be able to entertain and dine outside. This can be difficult with the weather in London, but we are all like lemmings when the weather permits—running outside to the sun. At Ham Yard Hotel, the very first purchase we made, even before the foundation was laid, was five fully grown 30-foot oak trees for the inner courtyard. It has been very worthwhile, just to see people sitting under the trees quite unaware of their provenance and story. They add greenery to a very built-up part of central London. We’ve also created a vegetable and herb garden on Ham Yard’s rooftop, complete with beehives.

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Bar at Crosby Street Hotel

Number Sixteen in South Kensington has a garden that spans the back of several stuccoed townhouses. After re-landscaping the garden several years ago, it has matured into a beautiful ‘room’ in its own right, with mulberry trees shading breakfasting guests in the summer months and our own nearly tame robin.

At the bottom of my own garden, I have a shepherd’s hut. It is my shed on-wheels—a romantic folly where I work. I arranged for John Harman, the local thatcher, to thatch the roof for added character and Melissa White painted murals inside. My five dogs come and visit me regularly there during the day.

The following is an extract from Design Thread, published by Hardie Grant with photography by Simon Brown. In her third book, Kit shares the inspiration behind her creative process: whether it’s a house in the country or a city pied-a-terre, a hotel suite or beach bar, her unique eye for design shines through. Buy your copy here.

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