‘Every Room Tells A Story’

Recently we were lucky enough to be given this lovely book, which just came out in November:


Kit Kemp is an award-winning designer who co-owns the Firmdale group of London and New York hotels. This is her second book, a follow up to ‘A Living Space’ and reflects her belief that “A great space need not be the most glamorous or luxurious – it is how personal and interesting you make it”. (Although we have to say that her spaces manage to be quite glamorous and luxurious as well!).

The most striking thing about the interiors is that whilst they don’t feel cluttered, they are packed with things that catch the eye. Ceramics, folk textiles, antiques, mud bead chandeliers, bowling shoes, wooden crocodiles and fabulous wallpaper (you know how we love a fabulous wallpaper) all exist happily together. They are sourced from artists and artisans all over the world and Kit herself has worked on collections for Wedgewood, Christopher Farr, Chelsea Textiles and Anthropologie.


The wallpaper in the picture above is Nuvolette from the Fornesetti II collection for Cole & Son. The room is at the Haymarket Hotel in London.

There’s a great feeling of space in the rooms. One of the main reasons that it is possible to pull this off in combination with so many fascinating objects is the selection of a subtle theme linking adjoining spaces and discipline in the choice of the individual items. Often the theme is colour. Love the combination of navy blue and hot pink in this bedroom at the Dorset House Hotel:


It’s striking and restful at the same time – which is a great combination for a boutique hotel bedroom! The lamp is just the right size for the small space and seems to disappear into the background while the purple flowers are the perfect colour. (Try imagining them any other colour and see how that wouldn’t work!)

The book also features the idyllic house in the Caribbean that Kit designed for her own family:


The book (published by Hardie Grant Books in the UK) is beautifully produced and full of pictures to enjoy. Definitely our recommendation if you are looking for some new ideas for 2016!






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Another one of our occasional book reviews – Mauve: How One Man Invented A Colour That Changed The World by Simon Garfield (published by Faber and Faber, 2013).

William Perkins was a chemist in the 19th century who hoped to find a cure for malaria. He didn’t manage that but along the way he did invent the first aniline dye, a rich purple, in the 1856 when he was only 18. (So young that the patent rules of the time had to be changed to let him register his discovery). Mauve immediately became the fashionable colour and was popularised by Queen Victoria. (Incidentally, the Victorians pronounced it ‘morv’ rather than ‘mowv’.)The discovery of a purple dye in itself might not seem hugely important, but it was a development that had huge effects on industry, academia, politics, photography, medicine, warfare, forensic science… and now Perkins is largely forgotten.

It’s easy to take for granted the huge range of artificially created colours that we see everyday so this book offers an interesting chance to reflect on how different things were before their discovery. (And you might be interested to know that it doesn’t assume that the reader has any knowledge of chemistry. We were!). It’s interesting to speculate about whether the world would seem more drab without artificial colour, or would the existing natural colours have stood out and their existence valued more?

‘At Home’ by Bill Bryson

We’re all about lovely things and what could be more lovely than a good book? So today we bring you our first book review! And apologies for it not being a new book – it was first published in 2010 – but it is well worth reading by anyone interested in how our homes have come to be the way they are. 

A much read copy!

‘At Home’ by Bill Bryson is subtitled ‘A Short History of Private Life’ and is based on the idea that history is made up of people getting on with their normal activities, most of which take place at home. So, taking his own home (a Victorian rectory in Norfolk) as a starting point, Bill Bryson explores how our modern domestic life has come about.

For example, in the eighteenth century it became possible for people to have cheaper and brighter fabrics than ever before. It was also possible to produce fabric in greater widths and these advances combined meant more upholstered furniture. Now alternatives to leather, previously the best material for upholstery, were available. However, the custom was that meals would be eaten at small tables set up wherever was convenient at the time – and householders realised that this would lead to spills and stains on their new, fashionable, expensive furniture. The solution was to create a dining room, first mentioned in a dictionary in 1755. 

Maybe – and this isn’t suggested in the book – one reason why people don’t use dining rooms so much now is that spills and stains aren’t such a problem. Furniture is cheaper. We have washing machines, laundry detergent and a whole range of fabric protecting and stain removing products. And leather upholstery is fashionable again!

This book is full of information on many subjects: how domestic fridges killed the international ice trade; how construction methods can dictate room size and therefore use; Thomas Edison’s attempt to design concrete houses complete with concrete furniture… The 28 pages of index show the variety. Best of all, the writing is typical Bill Bryson so reading it is like listening to a clever and amusing friend and that’s one of our favourite things. He would definitely be on our fantasy dinner party guest list, wherever the table was.Available, as they say, from all good bookshops – the local, independent ones as well as the big on-line ones!