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Kit Kemp
Queen of the Unexpected

001 Kit Kemp

Words Vidula Kotian

Whimsical, eclectic, and always hard to pin down, Kit Kemp has much in common with the hotel interiors she’s spent a career fashioning into stand-alone pieces of individual expression. Like her, they are anything but static.

Interior designer Kit Kemp MBE has been creating inspiring, vibrant, and playful interiors for almost three decades, forging an internationally acclaimed reputation for her unique hotel spaces as co-owner and Design Director of Firmdale Hotels, with her husband and business partner, Tim Kemp. Kemp’s hotels are fashionable buzzwords ingrained into the vernacular of London and have become dearly loved destinations. In 2009, she took Firmdale’s signature style across the pond, opening of Crosby Street Hotel in New York’s SoHo and The Whitby Hotel in Manhattan’s upper Midtown district in 2017.

002 Whitby Art

“A hotel’s design is a living thing, in a way. And with interiors, it’s transitory and subject to passion.”

Kit Kemp

Bold colors, contrasting fabrics and patterns, and one-off pieces bought at art fairs and galleries around the globe make up the mélange that has evolved into the Kit Kemp look. Whether there is a category or catchall phrase to sum up that look is something Kemp herself is deeply doubtful of. Suffice it to say, her aesthetic is constantly changing, influenced in equal parts by local characters, neighborhood histories, and the indomitable, frivolous, and multifaceted spirit of its originator.

003 Ham Yard Room

Kemp, a trained graphic designer, but self-taught interior designer, explains how it all started. “Tim and I both hated staying in hotels and we wanted to achieve something that was rather different from a formulated, cellophane-wrapped experience, which is what we felt most hotels gave us at that time.” She continues, “I always felt confident designing our first place. You know what it’s like when you’re young: it’s like giving a child a Picasso and telling her to copy it—your ignorance carries you through. I was confident and bossy even then, I wasn’t going to let anyone else do it.” Since then, Kemp’s nine-strong, in-house design team, which includes two of her three daughters, has tackled each of her increasingly ambitious projects to great acclaim.

004 Whitby Terrace
005 Whitby Dining

As well as her thriving interior design studio, Kemp has created embroidered fabrics for Chelsea Textiles; a fabric and rug collection for Christopher Farr; a bone china service for Wedgwood; a collection of furniture and home products for lifestyle store Anthropologie; and a bespoke range of bath and body products, Rik Rak, available in all Firmdale hotels. She has also recently published her second book, Every Room Tells a Story. Her latest project in New York, The Whitby Hotel is an oasis of color, curiosity, and calm. Every floor of the hotel offers a vibrant adventure through craftsmanship, art, stumbled-upon pieces, and bespoke detailing.

“I have always loved handcrafted things—with each piece, the touch of the human hand adds to and completes its story. I’ve also found craftsmen often do things with a better finish than some artists.”

Vivacious and self-effacing, Kemp gives off the air of one who has changed little since her days working in the office of a Greek shipping company on Syros or delving into London’s wicked nightlife. That was before she met Tim and before she unleashed her considerable talent onto a notoriously fickle industry.

007 Crosby Street Hotel Vases
005 Ham Yard Bar
006 Ham Yard Chair

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