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Portfolio: Kelly Hoppen

At age 16, Kelly Hoppen designed a friend’s kitchen, and that was the start of her London practice...

At age 16, Kelly Hoppen designed a friend’s kitchen, and that was the start of her London practice. Early on, she was given a book about David Hicks, the British society decorator, and she devoured everything she could find on him. But the South Africa–born designer was too busy learning on the job to need mentors; she soon developed her signature style of restrained elegance, employing muted tones and simple forms to create comfortable, understated environments. Today, Hoppen entrusts that trademark aesthetic to the 40-person team at her namesake interior design firm, which is currently engaged in some 50 projects around the world, from sleek yachts to expansive estates. She also designs furniture and decorative objects and sells them through her web site—a venture she launched years after Wedgwood approached her to create variations on the centuries-old brand’s classic patterns. The film industry may soon be calling as well: She is reading scripts in the hope of creating movie and theater sets. “As a Leo, I crave diversity and I love to design,” Hoppen says. “Give me a project and I’m bouncing off the wall.” 

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What are your thoughts on color and texture?

I’ve always had a strong preference for pale tones, and especially taupe, but I often contrast it with black. Splashes of jewellike color can be used as accents, like spice in a sauce. Texture is critically important—no matter how beautiful the surfaces, it’s essential to feel them. You have to hit all five senses in every room. 

As a modernist, how do you view older styles? 

I prefer to work with people who have got a past. It’s so important to draw on one’s heritage. With a beautiful Georgian house I would always retain all the original features but mix those with modern elements to give it the Kelly Hoppen style. It all depends on the art and the pieces of furniture clients have had for years and want to reinvent.

Is every job one of a kind?

I have a signature but each project is different. If people want the classic Kelly Hoppen brand, that’s as easy as fried eggs on toast. It’s the other projects that light my fire: getting inside people’s heads, finding out how they live. I just completed a house in Connecticut that infuses the traditional New England character with influences from the East. Whatever the themes, the beauty of great design is not noticing everything at once—things should creep up on you.

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Made to Measure

England is a bastion of bespoke traditions, and Hoppen’s passion for that design legacy is evident in the spaces she fashions for her global clientele. Each project bears the mark of the craftsman, be it one-of-a-kind furniture, millwork, or architectural elements. Her new home in west London is no different. “We’ve been working on it a year, and there isn’t one piece in it that you will see anywhere else,” she says. “I searched the country for artisans who could make the pieces I wanted.”

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Forces at Work

What keeps Hoppen enthused and searching for fresh challenges? “It’s a bit like being an athlete, and I’ve worked for many,” says the designer. “What makes you want to win that next race? They say it’s never the same, even though the goal hasn’t changed. The day I lose that urge, I’ll stop working.” In addition to tackling a widening range of commissions, she is overseeing her flourishing online products company. Having the right setting is key. “When I’m in my new [6,400-square-foot] studio I’m in heaven,” says Hoppen. “My team—I call them my soldiers—runs these projects like no one else. I used to do everything myself, but I’ve learned that some tasks should be left to people who do them better.”

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Sharing the Goods

For more than three decades, Hoppen has been dressing all manner of spaces and infusing them with her quietly distinctive palette and tailored layers. To share the designs she has long been creating for individual clients, she launched her eponymous product collection, which includes furniture, linens, and fragrance, last year. As a tastemaker, Hoppen continues to explore new territory—and expand her brand. “I wanted to redefine the bathroom,” she says, referring to her recent work with Apaiser, the Australian bathware manufacturer. “I knew they could achieve high quality and use pulverized marble. I showed them things that had inspired me—including a set of fluted bowls I had designed for Wedgwood—and that turned into a tub. We created the collection incredibly quickly and launched them in London like stand-alone sculptures.” 

Details available at apaiser.comkellyhoppeninteriors.com

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Kelly Hoppen’s Top 10

SHOPPING: Notting Hill in London is my favorite area to shop. It is so unique and has lots of small shops, which I am a big fan of as it is so important to support small businesses.

❖ FASHION DESIGNER: I like [Alexander] McQueen because I admire designers who have a classical eye in terms of body form and at the same time push the boundaries for body form and texture without being too clever. 

❖ PROJECT: All of my projects are fabulous. I am especially proud of the Lux Belle Mare resort in Mauritius.

❖ FURNITURE: Anything by Ron Arad or Christian Liaigre.

❖ MATERIALS: I particularly like using linens and leathers in my designs. I also love silks and velvets that are slightly damaged so they look 

like they’re worn.

❖ RESTAURANT: Cipriani in New York and the Beaumont in London. When I’m in the countryside, at my home in Oxford, I love to go to 

Daylesford organic farm.

❖ DESTINATION: My new love is Mykonos. 

❖ TIPPLE: I can’t say no to a little Grey Goose vodka, and I also love Caipiroskas.

❖ MOVIE: Saving Grace. I got it in my stocking at Christmas. 

❖ GADGET: My GoPro. It’s really useful when I go around markets to gather inspiration.

Kelly Hoppen Interiors, +44.207.471.3350, kellyhoppeninteriors.com  

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