Tips from the top: interior designer Kit Kemp’s London


This posting is part of a guidebook to London from FT Globetrotter

The ideal strategies to check out London are by going for walks and biking. I could stroll through the town for hrs, along its very little streets and byways, marvelling at the assortment of fascinating architecture. The United kingdom cash is a selection of villages ready to be found out, each with its own individual character. I notably get pleasure from the several specialist outlets and exciting markets across the metropolis, and I like to capture a glimpse through the windows of people’s households: the facades that line our streets can be practically identical, yet each interior is special and tells its personal story. As a designer, a great deal of my get the job done is about breathing new daily life into outdated buildings or giving character to new kinds, and my creative approach depends pretty a great deal on my surroundings and having in my town.


I wander to work each day along Exhibition Road in South Kensington, with the Victoria and Albert Museum on just one side and the Natural Heritage Museum on the other. These two structures give much pleasure to so numerous men and women each architecturally and since of their outstanding reveals and academic lectures. The Normal Heritage Museum, opposite our design and style studio, is Alfred Waterhouse’s Grade I-outlined terracotta-clad masterpiece. It opened in 1881 and is renowned for inspiring creating design and style that celebrates the natural planet. Creatures carved into the walls look both equally mythical and true. My youngsters utilized to enjoy in the gardens when they had been at university nearby. They accepted it as portion of their childhood and I hope will be motivated by it usually.

The front of London’s Natural History Museum
Kemp’s structure studio is reverse London’s Natural Historical past Museum © Shutterstock/Coward Lion
A statue of Alfred the Great in Southwark, south London
A statue of Alfred the Good in Southwark, south London, which was co-restored last yr by the Heritage of London Trust (HOLT), of which Kemp is a trustee © HOLT

I enjoy seeking up and observing the beautiful architectural aspects that make London so specific, from stained-glass windows to statues and fountains. I’m pretty much inspired to do so by the perform of a charity that is shut to my coronary heart, Heritage of London Rely on (HOLT), for which I am a trustee. It is an unbiased heritage charity, established up in 1980 by the Higher London Council to rescue historic structures and monuments. The initiatives are in every London borough and are varied. On HOLT expeditions you are frequently granted accessibility to areas you would in no way generally be authorized in. I frequented Alexander Pope’s grotto beside the Thames around Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. It is concealed under a active key street, wherever it as soon as would have been nestled in gorgeous countryside beside a dwelling that is now demolished. It is in the process of a great deal-required renovation.


London is a jewel box of creativity. The greatest place to discover reducing-edge style is at the CAA (Modern Utilized Arts), on Paddington Street in Marylebone, for craftspeople and a blend of unique objects for the property. Commissioning artists and makers to create bespoke parts for my possess dwelling and the lodges I layout is a luxury for me. I treasure pieces that are touched by someone’s hand and infused with their coronary heart, holding an inherent which means considerably outside of shopping for one thing off the shelf. It is crucial that we protect a sense of humanity in almost everything we do.

Furniture and a wall textile in The New Craftsmen showroom in Mayfair
The New Craftsmen showroom in Mayfair — Kemp’s go-to location for ‘great parts of British craftsmanship and person style and design you will not uncover wherever else’ © Jasper Fry

I love to take a look at The New Craftsmen at 34 North Row, Mayfair, for wonderful items of British craftsmanship and personal design you won’t come across anyplace else. I also normally try to go to the Royal Academy’s summer season clearly show just about every yr I particularly delight in looking at the students’ perform and assembly the artists of the potential.

As a designer my greatest inspiration is textiles — organic and natural pieces, remnants, colourful threads, ancient or modern, vibrant or monotone, linen, wool, dyed or normal. I love them all. I typically go to The Fabric Shop on Portobello Road for intriguing parts of boiled wool.

Jean Nouvel’s 2010 summer pavilion for the Serpentine gallery © Dennis Gilbert-See/Alamy
Last year’s Serpentine pavilion, designed by the Johannesburg-based Counterspace Studio
Past year’s Serpentine pavilion was created by the Johannesburg-based Counterspace Studio © Goddard on the Go/Alamy

Just one of my favourite components of London are the inexperienced spaces that stretch across the city and url collectively like a necklace: Hyde Park, Environmentally friendly Park and St James’s Park. I like looking at the summer pavilions getting developed every single year by unique architects outdoors the Serpentine gallery in Kensington Gardens former designers have included Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry. They are erected each spring and there is often exhilaration when it is about to be opened in June. Absolutely everyone has a different view and wildly different kinds are established.

Food and flowers 

The interior of the River Café
The River Café: ‘Magical in the two the summer season and the winter’ © Richard Bryant/Arcaid visuals

We are extensive-phrase enthusiasts of the River Café, the Italian cafe on the Thames that grows fresh ingredients on its terrace. It is magical in both the summertime and winter. Some of my favourite dishes are the wild mushroom risotto and the Dover sole — and the Chocolate Nemesis cake! Lots of of the world’s most perfectly-recognized chefs put in time in the kitchen area there with owners Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray, so you often experience like you found out them 1st.

We appreciate Japanese foodstuff and Engawa, which is part of Ham Lawn Village and reverse our Ham Property Resort in Soho, is regular and authentic. We have their amazing bento bins, which are served with such class and artistry. They look and style attractive.

Kemp likes to head to Columbia Street Flower Market in east London on Sundays © Aleksandr Faustov/Alamy

Columbia Street Flower Market (on Sundays) has an abundance of bouquets all in one avenue. It’s a treat to take in the excitement of the stallholders. Bouquets are a good way of promptly adding colour to a space. I like popping into the fantastic artwork galleries in Shoreditch as properly, these as Blue Mountain School, a store, gallery and amazing eating experience all in a person.

Kit Kemp is founder and imaginative director of Firmdale Hotels and Package Kemp Structure Studio

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