People often ask me how my signature look was born. East meets West. Clean lines and neutral tones. Charming warmth and sumptuous opulence. These elements sit at the core of the Kelly Hoppen style. But why?
Let’s rewind to 1975 and start at the beginning…
East meets West
I was 16 years old and loved design. My parents were hugely passionate about art, design, music and fashion, so I grew up immersed in creativity. I was obsessed with how people lived. When we were out in the car I would look through people’s windows with fascination, trying to imagine how they lived in their homes.
My relationship with the East began in a shop on Portobello Road. There was this old Chinese trunk. It was deep ox blood red and I fell in love with it. So, I spent every penny in my pocket and bought it. Keen to understand the country that it came from, I poured over books on China in my local library. My intrigue spread to Japan, Thailand and Asian design in general. The minimalist serenity and linear lines brought a harmony and peace that resonated with me. In the years that followed, I travelled to Asia often and felt that tranquillity and calmness with every visit.
I also adored, and was of course influenced by, British and European design. So, I began experimenting and playing around with a global fusion. I hadn’t realised it at this stage, but the East love the West and the West love the East. This is why I have become so popular in Asia. Researching designers, like John Stefanidis, who mixed blue and white china with very ornate British interiors, I began to shape my own look. For me, everything hinged around texture.
In the early years, I took elements of Asian design that were very obvious. My runners and bands were based on the Obi belts worn by Japanese women and the borders of traditional tamati mats. The East meets West style really came from travel and my imagination. It wasn’t until 1997, when I published my book East Meets West, that I named and owned the style.
The look has evolved of course. Each space that I design today combines Eastern simplicity and order with the best of contemporary Western design to create harmony and balance. There’s nothing more modern than design that brings our busy, pressured lives back into sync. And that’s a very personal thing. I must understand a client’s character, look and the atmosphere in which they like to live. Only then can I mix textures, styles, colours and cultures to create a space that makes absolute sense to them.
Clean lines and neutral tones
When I started out, I had a limited budget to spend on my own apartment. In my hunt for affordable materials I stumbled across a shop on Great Portland Street that sold calico, mattress ticking, rough linens and hessian. The textures were delicious. These fabrics, designed for use underneath upholstery, weren’t normally on display in people’s homes. To me, they had so much to offer. I began using them in my interiors and mixed them with rich silks and Fortuny prints to create a juxtaposition of fabrics.
It was these natural materials and neutral tones that formed the basis of the Kelly Hoppen design. Taupe and linen became my signature colours. My name became synonymous with neutral backdrops and splashes of colour. Everything that I created came from the strong belief that the simple lines of the East and a bias of neutral colours create a peaceful living environment.
Charming warmth and sumptuous opulence
Warmth comes from texture and lighting. Even a minimalist room can be warm and inviting if you incorporate comfortable seating and a sense of engagement and inclusion. A room’s design must also deal with scale. Large rooms with lofty ceilings can make you feel like a small ant in a big world. Lighting is key to bringing those walls in and the ceiling down to create a comfortable living space.
It’s design that creates atmosphere. We’ve all had that sense of not feeling right when we walk into a hotel room or somebody’s home. We know when a space hasn’t been pieced together well.
Opulence for me isn’t about lavish items in a home; it’s that incredible wealth that you feel inside when a space nurtures you. It’s beauty too. My design style is in some ways a dichotomy — I want a room to be nurturing and beautiful in equal measures.
You and design
So that’s my look. Do you know yours? People look at spaces and are daunted by them. But your home is like your body. You can’t pick up any pair of jeans and look right in them. You must choose the correct, size, cut, style and colour for you. And that’s something that we manage to do. We imagine how we want to look, and we find clothes to suite that look. Designing a room uses exactly the same part of the brain that we use to dress ourselves. We imagine that space in the same way. Yes, there are lots of rules to follow but essentially, good design comes from understanding the spaces that you’re creating. It’s much more than choosing fabrics and placing furniture. Design is about layering and I liken it to finding the right ingredients. You keep going back to your favourite restaurant because they use a combination of spices and ingredients that taste great. A home needs to taste right too. It must fit your personality and how you want to live within it. Just as finding that little black dress takes time, so does designing interiors. There is an art to it and a process.
I believe that, with support, everyone can create a home that they love to live in. The interior design process is very accessible when you break it down. I’ll be explaining this in detail in my next post — How to Approach Your Interior Design Project.