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How to Embrace Maximalism and Decorate Your Home like the British

London-based interior designer Kit Kemp shares her five tips to achieving an Anglophile’s dream house.
IMAGE COURTESY FIRMDALE HOTELS
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Even the most spartan New Yorkers and Angelenos—those who adorn their airy white interiors with a single Monstera leaf—can admit to having a soft spot for British design. Its quintessential cheerfully painted walls, mismatched prints, (and shockingly unmatched book spines) conjure indulgent afternoons of tea and cake, and cozy evenings at home.

“I think somehow design got to a stage where it was like paint-by-numbers: the sleek sofa, the black and white painting on the wall, a lot of monotone interiors," says British interior designer Kit Kemp, who also owns Firmdale Hotels. She is known for her eccentric interiors that are at once polished and madcap: The Whitby and Crosby Street hotels in New York and Ham Yard Hotel in London. Here, her guidelines to take a decorative leap that is more Notting Hill than Space Odyssey.

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In the Whitby Hotel, Kit Kemp layered bright artwork on top of printed wallpaper and then threw in some potted hydrangeas as well.
Photo by COURTESY FIRMDALE HOTELS.

1. Use color

"Color makes people happy and it is easy to use once you get used to it. I think we gravitate toward using it more in the UK because of that gray British light, but that applies to winter anywhere. Think of your interiors in every season and pick colors that bring you joy—it shouldn’t be too flat.”

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Playful art and totems make a hallway infinitely more interesting.
Photo by COURTESY FIRMDALE HOTELS.

2. Throw in "a bit of nonsense."

“I love clean lines and technology as much as the next person, but it can get too serious. I don’t think we need to apologize for a bit of decoration or embellishment. The British are more experimental. It’s important to be bold, but not frantic, when you are decorating.”

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A custom embroidered headboard draws from medieval tapestries.
Photo by SIMON BROWN.

3. Be whimsical, but do it right.

“I like whimsy—it comes from a love of Folk Art and craft. There is a fine line between naïve and childlike, but that is where expertise comes in. For example, I love animals, but I’ll look to Medieval tapestries or hunting scenes.”

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Fifty-seven baskets hang above the bar at the Whitby Hotel.
Photo by SIMON BROWN.

4. Show off personal collections.

“For the Whitby Hotel in New York, we hung 57 types of baskets above the bar. I started collecting baskets on my travels because baskets are used in so many countries and then I got the idea to hang them. It was fascinating because the men who were helping to hang them up all came from different places and they began swapping stories about which baskets were used in their families and how.

Anything can look interesting once you start to group it together and put it in little boxes or display cases. Grouped together, it becomes art. Once I even did a big collection of bowling shoes."

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A skylit and a grand chandelier make the Orangerie at the Whitby feel bright and friendly.
Photo by SIMON BROWN.

5. Go for good lighting

“Lights are like a sculpture in the room and so I like to take time with those. Especially in winter and autumn good lighting is so important. I think about building a room like this: Rugs are the base layer, cushions change things up and be swapped around, and the lights frame the whole space.”

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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