“I’ve got this phrase that keeps running through my mind,” says British interior designer Kelly Hoppen MBE, curling up on a giant cream sofa. “‘If you can imagine it, you can design it’.” And when it came to her new home in West London, she did just that, imagining, designing and creating it in just 15 months.
Even for Kelly, who has spent four decades making beautiful houses for exacting clients, such a short turnaround is remarkable. But being her own customer proved to be relatively straightforward – at least at the drawing board stage.
Since moving into her brand new home, Kelly says she finally feels like she has arrived. “This is very ‘me’ – I like neutral colours and I like vintage furniture and I like clean lines, and this house has all of that.” Prior to that, she had experimented with living in a London townhouse just a few blocks away, but hated it. “It was just all so up and down, so compact – I much prefer wide, open spaces,” she explains. And so when she came across a sprawling auction house with double-height ceilings for sale she knew straight away that she wanted to live in it.
The living room is awash with neutral shades, which include Kelly’s signature taupe
Although it took Kelly just a few days to come up with the design of her dream home, bringing the derelict building up to her standards of living took time. “We had to start from scratch, digging trenches and doing all of the drains. There were these enormous pillars that hold up the whole thing right in the middle of the space and so we had to very carefully work around them. At some point, we had to build a massive structure to support them, so they were effectively just floating in mid-air.” Finalising the internal details once the structural work was complete was also a lengthy process and one that has perhaps helped Kelly to empathise with her clients, some of whom require over 1,000 sketches before they can settle on any one element. “I drove myself crazy. I had this great big drawing board that was for my house and every day I would go up to it and change something. Right up until the moment when my team were saying ‘You have to order this today or else you can’t have it’ I was changing things.” But eventually the tinkering and the tweaking paid off and the completed project is nothing short of show-stopping.
Kelly insists that she has strayed away from her preferred palette of neutrals - on this occasion breaking up a monochrome scheme with shots of bright orange
The property features six bedrooms, six bathrooms, six dressing rooms, a gym, underground parking and a stunning open-plan living space that impresses from every angle. There is also a rather glamorous laundry room, lined with black and white prints, that is her current favourite spot. As might be expected of ‘the queen of taupe’, the décor is largely neutral – black, white, cream, mushroom, grey and nude form the over-arching scheme, although she insists that she pushed her usual boundaries on quite a few occasions. “I used to be much more angular but there are quite a few bulbous things that I’ve designed throughout the house. Also, I would never have mixed metals before but I’ve used quite a lot of rose gold with silver which is really new for me.” And the bedroom of Helena, the daughter of Kelly’s partner John Gardiner, is painted a bold, high-gloss orange, which certainly breaks out of the Kelly Hoppen mould.
Throughout her home renovation, one of the points that Kelly was most fastidious about was finding and designing elements that were not only unique but that would also support emerging British talent. She says,
Along the way, she came across a sculptor who used to work for Anish Kapoor with whom she collaborated on an enormous marble statue, and Matt Stanwix who created a number of bespoke items for her. Niamh Barry was another find and one of her contemporary lighting creations now hangs above Kelly’s bathtub – “She usually works with bronze but I really wanted a nickel one so she made it for me.” The flooring that runs throughout the house was also locally sourced and it took six months to get the colour just right – the final approved version is a beautiful honeyed shade that looks like a very expensive head of highlights.
Despite its oversized proportions, the house still retains a sense of intimacy and privacy
Creating the perfect sanctuary into which to retreat has been vital for the ever-busy Kelly. At any one time her studio is working on 40 different design concepts, with projects ranging from a 60,000 square-feet private home in Hong Kong to a superyacht in collaboration with Pearl Yachts. In addition, she has just launched a furniture collection with Resource Décor consisting of precisely 102 pieces that are inspired by her travels. There is also an eyewear range, a self-tanning line, a bath collection with Australian brand Apaiser, a wallpaper collection with Graham & Brown and an innovative design to stop heels from sinking into grass that she has been helping to launch, thanks to her role as a business mentor on British television program Dragon’s Den. Not to mention her ninth coffee table book, set for release this autumn, which will form part of Kelly Hoppen Design’s 40th anniversary celebrations. Looking at her youthful features and that trademark leonine mane it is hard to believe that she has been in business for so long – admittedly she began her career aged just 16, but 40 years is still a huge feat. There will be a retrospective, she confirms, along with the book that will be largely visual and will summarise her most important projects to date. “But first,” she says, “I’m going to throw a big, big party.” And with that, the petite designer slips off her oversized sofa and disappears into her cavernous new home, ready to get started on her next mega project.
Words: Polly Sweet. Photography: Mel Yates
This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Harper's Bazaar Interiors