A Bloomsbury Q&A with Kit Kemp, MBE.
Eminent Interior designer, Kit Kemp is the Creative Director and designer of Firmdale Hotels which she founded with her husband in 1985. With 8 hotels in London and 2 in New York, each space encapsulates Kit's creative Bloomsbury and Charlestonian inspired interior vision.
Kit has kindly loaned her own work, Portrait of Mary Hutchinson by Duncan Grant, painted in 1915 for our current exhibition Charleston: The Bloomsbury Muse. Intelligent and cultured, Mary Hutchinson was a writer and great patron to the Omega Workshops. As a regular visitor to Charleston, the portrait was possibly finished during her stay at the house in 1917. Philip Mould & Company are delighted to have had the pleasure of including this portrait in Charleston: The Bloomsbury Muse. Philip Mould & Company interviewed Kit to learn more about her Bloomsbury Group inspiration, and how this painting came into her collection.
PM&Co: It is well known that you cite Vanessa, Duncan and Charleston as your core inspirations, but can you pinpoint a moment which ignited your interest in Charleston and its characters?
Kit: Much of my work is involved with breathing new life into old buildings or giving character to new buildings. Charlotte Street Hotel was reconstructed on the site of a dental warehouse in Bloomsbury. At the start of reconstruction, I realised there was nothing in the immediate area celebrating the Bloomsbury Group. This was my starting point and opened the door to a whole new adventure and exploration of their lives and time. The more I absorbed the more I was inspired by their lives their friends Art and Omega Workshop.
PM&Co: Do you have a favourite room at Charleston?
Kit: I love the Dining Room with the painted Dining Table and can imagine all the conversations taking place around the table at mealtimes. I love the stencilled and hand painted wall decoration in charcoal. Cate and Nash Robbins from Much Ado Books invited me into the Kitchen one day. The Kitchen is always the heart of the home so I love this room too.
PM& Co: You have kindly lent your portrait of Mary Hutchinson to our exhibition Charleston: The Bloomsbury Muse. What attracted you to this work?
Kit: This was a present to me from my husband. I had come to an exhibition of Bloomsbury art and fell in love with this portrait hung upon an easel at the back of the Gallery. The very contemporary use of colour and the mood of the piece made me stop in my tracks. There is something about the works of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell that sits so well in an English light. The colour palette they use is perfect. Bold colours are used but never frantic or jarring.
PM&Co: Charlotte Street Hotel has a collection of Bloomsbury works on display - do you have a favourite?
Kit: There are two panels painted on wood in the Library by Vanessa Bell and also a small painting of a bowl of flowers by Roger Fry that I particularly love, the fabric he paints in the background is particularly lovely.
PM&Co: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to bring the Bloomsbury look into their home?
Kit: Think of texture. Without texture interiors can look flat and cold, so layering rough with smooth, cosy with sleek embellished or carved with clean and plain is important. Gravitate towards handblocked fabrics that are rich with imperfections and texture within the weave. This all lends depth within a room as the raised surfaces reflect light and create shadows. The Bloomsbury Group truly loved colour - dusky blues, artichoke greens, damask rose, burnt orange and aubergine that are both moody and uplifting.
PM&Co: If you could acquire any Bloomsbury work of art or piece of furniture, which would you choose?
Kit: There is a painting that Vanessa Bell painted in 1913 called The Model it is oil on canvas, very strong and very beautiful.