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March 25, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2017 issue

Have designs… will travel

​​Words Jim Dunn

Of course design travels and that means interior design also.


Good design certainly travels and bad design travels too, sadly. But that is another story and a matter of preference.


With good design just look at how Chinese chinoiserie, fabrics and ginger jars have travelled and seem to have taken over the world in recent years. Every respectable decorating shop has a collection, mainly of new ones, for sale.


Or that gorgeous Moroccan or Indian ironwork created in the wilds of Marrakech or Jaipur and ceramics or delicate Asian artwork, furniture and artisan work most of it created in the sweat shops of mainland China. Blue and white rules.


Design shops however couldn’t you be a bit more creative and start stocking ceramic wear that isn’t blue and white? There are some beautiful green and white and other colours available.


Our interior design is influenced by good (and bad!) design from around the world. Not all of it, like wine, travels well. The boom in international air and sea travel over the last 50 years has meant that we have all brought our favourite holiday souvenirs home to adorn our living spaces....not always a wise decision.


Even further back, in the 18th century, we had The Grand Tour where young aristocratic gentlemen, it seemed to be always gentlemen, travelling Europe buying up the local, talented artisan work very cheaply and shipping it home to England, France or Italy to fill their family Stately homes or Chateau. Those are the antiques and treasures on show today.


Outside design also thrived during this period and still does with garden designers re creating the Indian or Chinese “look” not so much with plants but like statuary, paving and the like. Even The Prince of Wales has re created a sunken Indian garden in the grounds of Highgrove his country home in the UK. 


But individual design ideas from around the world, by talented purveyors of interior style is another matter.


And one of those whose design ideas travel well is Kelly Hoppen, the designer who works around the world and who is celebrating 40 years advising the great and the good, the wealthy and the not so wealthy on how to decorate their homes, apartments, Castles and Palazzos.


She will certainly talk to you if you want to buy a cushion because as one interior designer friend of mine once said...”one cushion leads to another and before you know it you are doing the whole house!”


Her new book, just out, is a retrospective of the excellent Hoppen’s work for clients around the world and she is sufficiently recognised by her peers that even Sir Terence Conran, the man who certainly brightened up Britain and improved the design world from the 60s onwards with his ground breaking ideas, has seen fit to write the Introduction to this excellent tome, House of Hoppen, published by Jacqui Small Publishing.


Kelly’s ever-evolving design style is underpinned by a fusion of East meets West...clean lines, neutral tones and a rich mix of texture blended by her signature charm, warmth and opulence.


The book takes us on a magnificent journey, around the world on her projects, her thought processes and instinctive eye, her planning and execution and her mix of colours. Its a must for the Interior Design fraternity and indeed anyone interested in decorating.


There was a time when I felt that her designs were just too, too much like “the airport lounge” or “office reception” being, a “classic” design fan. This is, of course, failing to recognise her true talent and this book certainly shows that even the simplist, design of black or brown and white or cream can look stunning.


The Cape Town born designer got her first job designing a friend’s flat and earned €500. “It was a disaster” she says,  “drunk builders, late schedules, you name it and it all went wrong” but that hasn’t deterred her and she’s now celebrating 40 years in the business and this is her 9th book.


She’s worked with all the big names from Terence Conran to British Airways where she decked out the First Class Lounge in leather, burr wood and had those gorgeous velvet blankets produced in red and blue. She has designed homes for stars such as Keke Rosberg, the racing driver, actress Siena Miller, footballer, Frank Lampard and The Beckhams.

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