Inside the home of Kelly Hoppen
How do the creators of the homes of the rich and famous choose to decorate when free of their clients? And what do their own living spaces say about these influential designers? The FT’s Alexander Gilmour visits the home of leading interior designer Kelly Hoppen.
Filmed by Liam McCarthy. Directed and edited by Josh de la Mare.
Kelly Hoppen, MBE, is one of the most celebrated interior designers in the world. She discovered her calling at the tender age of 16 when she designed her family friend's kitchen. She has never looked back. Instantly recognisable, Hoppen's work spans more than 40 years. She has designed homes, yachts, jets, bars, and tower blocks. Her style is a fusion of east meets west, clean lines, and neutral tones. She is the so-called queen of cream. Welcome to the house of Hoppen.
Here we are in Kelly Hoppen's house. I've never been in a place like this before. It's completely amazing. I feel like I've stepped into a Bond film. When you bought it, did it look more or less like this?
Nothing like this. I literally walked through these doors into what was a complete derelict building with rubble and mess.
Like actual rubble.
I mean, there were no walls, no ceilings. It literally was nothing. And I literally ran from one end to the other just screaming, going, I cannot believe it. I want to buy it today.
I've read that you have an outsized imagination, that you can go into a derelict building and just see it like that.
Yeah, so basically--
Is that what happened here?
I immediately came in and knew exactly what I wanted to do. Immediately, and within--
So you saw what we have here. You saw--
In my head.
--in that opening moment.
Because I have this ability. I'm very dyslexic, but I have this photographic memory. But I also have the ability to design something in my head.
I created all these runners and [INAUDIBLE] and structures. So for me, it was all about creating the lines. So when you come in from the entrance hall, this shelf will run all the way into the other room over there. And then you look at textures. I wanted to have a six-meter sofa, which was insane.
I think it's the biggest sofa I've ever seen.
It's probably the biggest sofa I've ever seen.
Maybe, it's the biggest sofa in London.
I've always wanted to have a table as big as this. And it looks insane. But once you start inviting loads of people from all walks of life, we have these dinners about every six weeks. And it's interesting because your home has changed in the sense that you're always around a kitchen. Whereas in the old days, it was very much a kitchen, a dining room, a living room. You only used a special living room when you had special guests.
My only worry is that if you ever invited me, I'm quite clumsy and I might splash wine all over your white sofa.
Well, then you'll never get an invite for dinner. Look, it happens--
I mean, you must have clumsy friends who spill things on beautiful fabrics. Is that a problem? [INTERPOSING VOICES]
Really, we're all quite grown up, I think. But it all looks immaculate because I'm that kind of person. But if something spills, you get it cleaned. The home is something that fits you personally. So you just said to me, if I came for dinner and I spilled red wine, well then, if you're designing that, and that's how you feel you want a more relaxed environment, then you design your home around that.
Plastic sheeting. And that could come back into fashion. This room in here is probably one of the rooms we use the most. We're in here every single day. We're great movie watchers, TV.
Watching yourself on movie?
No, but I mean, for us, this is like our room. This is where it's cosy. And I designed these big chairs. And I like the way it looks, things and rows, things very equal, very symmetrical.
So most evenings, you could be found snuggling up in your snug--
Yeah, most people think --
--watching Absolutely Fabulous
--we're out every single night. Yeah.
When you were a dragon on "Dragons' Den," did you watch episodes of it?
Yeah, I still watch it. I think it's a great show. And I don't like watching myself back on television. But I'll watch other shows.
So we are in the dragon's den.
You are in the dragons den.
This is the dragon's den.
Very good. I like that.
This is the actual dragon's den.
All right, that's the best thing you've said all day.
Oh, thank you. I try hard.
Very good. It's Actually the lion's den.
How would I know for certain, if I walk into one of your spaces in Hong Kong or New York or here, how would I definitely know that it's you, and it's not someone else?
Well, you just would.
Well, partly, maybe, because of your use of color.
Well colour and this kind of grid system, there are certain things that I will use a lot of like the sort of panelling over there on the wall. The colour is a big give away as well.
Yeah, so from the beginning, did you know that the taupe, beige, these muted colours were your colours?
Yeah, of course.
Always, from the moment when you were 16?
I was obsessed with the colour taupe. So the first things I did, there was a great shop in Great Portland Street. And they used to sell all the kind of fabrics that went underneath upholstery. And I was obsessed with fortuny, because my mother had taken me to Venice, and I had gone to see the fortuny fabrics.
And so I started to design using sort of utilitarian calicos and ticking, but then adding shots of beautiful fortunies. And that is how the style became mine. And then I went to America and saw what they call the mushroom. And taupe suddenly became my signature.
Do you ever wake up one morning and just think no more taupe.
I want-- well, you're wearing a beautiful red dress.
I like to live in neutral interiors. And I believe that we get bored very quickly. And I like to put colour. Like next month, I might have amazing pink flowers on the table.
There seems to be a fine line between design and actual art. Your lights seem to be-- they could be sculptures.
It was really important whatever was there looked good from above as well as underneath. And I wanted to have something that was big enough, but also was transparent. So I kind of just--
They look like a great sort of bubble.
They've been called a lot of things.
Have they? Can we go upstairs?
This might be my favourite room in your amazing house. You've designed everything, I believe, including the bath, the light.
Tubs. I think bathrooms are really important in a house.
Beyond just washing.
100%. It's the whole sort of east meets west philosophy, which is what I started 40 years ago as well. There's time for you. So your home is very much broken down into the space that you share with people and friends and family. And then there's a bathroom, which is very private.
Other designers also say that their philosophy is east meets west. What does it mean?
So for me, it was the simplicity, the harmony, the levelness of the East that I loved. The textures, the minimalism-ish. Not a minimalist, but that kind of purist feel. And then what I loved about international design, so to say France and Italy, was that frivolous movement and madness of one piece that was very eclectic or vintage.
You've said you want to create spaces which are soothing. Is that right? I don't know where I'm going with that.
You're so soothed, you're falling [INAUDIBLE]. I've [INAUDIBLE] you out. And it's simple.
[INAUDIBLE] It's beautiful
You're very lucky I've let you into my bathroom.
I feel very lucky. All right, well, I'm not letting you into my bedroom [INAUDIBLE].
So yes, there is a little bit of colour in here. Will sort of shock you.
So this is just a small guestroom, but it's cosy. So again, this is about scale. So it's a small room with low ceilings. But I put the biggest oversize bed in here because that, actually, kind of makes it feel bigger.
Having a big bed makes a small room bigger.
Yeah, so you might as well do that and actually kind of frame it and have a beautiful old vintage light and vintage bedside tables.
And here's one of your famous runners.
Yes, well, here is a perfect example of a runner going across, and runner down the centre, runner here, runner here. There are runners everywhere.
You see you want to touch everything because it's all about texture.
It really is, yeah.
I saw you walk in--
No, it's beautiful
--and see the leather and then the texture there. It's the same way as you taste food and you to digest it. it's the same. And whether it's translucent glass to heavy to metal to leather to lighting, and that's how you create the layers.
In essence, what is the perfect bedroom?
Of course it is. But I mean, a bedroom is for sleeping in mainly.
The most important thing in a bedroom is a comfortable bed. Right? For me, it's the bed. It's the textures, the feeling, and a television.
We have it. It's done. It's done.
Kelly, it's been an honor and a privilege to be in your house.
Thank you very much.
Thank you so much.
No, it was a pleasure.