An Interview With Kelly Hoppen

For the last month I have been working with Houseology, a brand founded by a team of interior designers, to make series of four films for their Brit List series. It has been fascinating to learn more about four chosen brands – from Kelly (who needs no introduction) – more of which later – to an atelier set up by two art school friends  making wallpaper that can be hung anyway up and in any direction, thus removing the need to pattern match and eliminating waste, as well as a  fabric company founded on the Isle of Bute in 1947 to provide employment to returning servicemen (and the local farmers who provide the wool) and a pair of Swedes who met on the dance floor and went on to set up perhaps the first punk/antique furniture store.

Kelly Hoppen and madaboutthehouse for Houseology

I have included all the films here along with some words – for those of you who might be reading in a place where you can’t listen, or conversely, for once, you might be able to listen without reading. And for those of you who get to the end there is a special 10 per cent discount code for all the brands in the Houseology Brit List which includes Tom Dixon, Anglepoise, Designers Guild and Lee Broom among others.


First up Kelly Hoppen. Now I’m sure you all know who she is, her style (taupe) and her hair (those curls) need no introduction but did you know that Kelly designs to music? And I don’t just mean listening to the radio while she sketches. No, if you hire Kelly to design your yacht, penthouse, bedroom or Chinese pagoda (and that commission came in while we were filming at her west London studio) she will ask you what music you want your room to look like. That is how she designed Boy George’s bedroom, although she wouldn’t tell me the song! Driving with PDiddy one day (she is proper famous after all), he turned to her and said: “I want my living room to look like your shoes.”

She knew exactly what he meant – it was a pale leather Chanel pump by the way. At the opera, she listens to the music but can often miss the plot as she will have been carried away on the design of a new house.

I thought this was really unexpected; most people talk about their inspiration (and I include myself in this) in terms of hotels they have visited, clothes they have worn and magazines they have looked at. Kelly, who describes her early style as very colourful, designs in a completely different way. I wonder if it is a form of synesthesia, which usually means you assign a colour to a day of the week, or smell something when you touch something else. Kelly seems to hear  music and immediately assign colours and textures to it and from there extrapolates a room design. Let me know if any of you do the same thing? And if you want to see her furniture collection at Houseology, it’s here.


Earlier in the month I travelled to Glasgow for the day to meet Kirsty Neil, who sailed over from the Isle of Bute to meet me in the Houseology offices and she told me her story. The company was founded by the Fifth Marquess, who wanted to provide employment to returning servicemen in 1947. They began by weaving wool and tweed and went on to provide fabric to some of the top fashion houses of the 50s and 60s – Chloe. Balenciaga, Dior and Nina Ricci among others.

But in the 1970s, with the advent of central heating and more driving to work, those heavier fabrics went out of fashion in favour of more lightweight, man-made fabrics. Bute Fabrics had to reinvent itself and so it moved into interiors, selling material to companies such as Knoll and from there to fellow Glaswegians Timorous Beasties.

bute fabrics fashion
bute fabrics fashion

More recently, it has reinvented itself again and has just launched its first collection of home accessories including cushions and throws – some in heavy tweed and others in supersoft wool and cotton.

I loved hearing the story behind the brand and think it makes buying from them so much more personal.


Now, pay attention, because this one is clever. Marion Parolla and Yvonne Elliott-Kellighan, met at The Glasgow School of Art where they studied textile design with a view to working in fashion. But the path of business and careers rarely runs straight and, after winning a £10,000 grant and a year’s mentoring, they set up their studio making everything from outdoor sculptures and building wraps to, more recently, wallpaper designs.

And this is the clever bit. Their wallpaper, which is available at Houseology, can be hung in any direction and the panels in any order. So there is much less waste – basically only what you have left over at the end of the roll. This also means, and this is crucial in today’s design savvy world, you will always create something unique as no-one else will hang their paper the same way as you. It’s such a simple idea – the best ones often are. It also makes the whole notion of wallpaper so much simpler. You buy only what you need to cover the wall  so you don’t have to try and calculate how much extra you will need to allow for pattern matching. The collection is young but I think the concept will grow and grow.


Jimmie Karlsson and Martin Nihlmar met on a dancefloor in Stockholm in 1997. Or it might have been 1998 – they can’t remember. They fell in love and got together. Then they fell out of love and into business and have been working together ever since, overseen by their cocker spaniel (and general manager) Wilson.

They began by buying old furniture from junk shops and car boot sales and customising it with their own brand of irreverent humour. Since they began there have been many imitators but few of them can boast a client list that includes Madonna, Liam Gallagher and Nicole Appleton, The Prodigy and Dawn French.

These days they also tend to commission new furniture rather than hunting round the junk shops and are also expanding their interior design business. But it’s not just furniture, they also sell one-off sculptures as well as a fabulous range of cushions. I particularly like the sausage dog ones which you can buy as a pair – or, if you have a long sofa (or a long dog) you can add as many central parts as you wish to cover the length of your sofa.

And there we have my four Brit List films. I hope you have enjoyed learning a little more about the stories behind the brands. Now if you want that code is MADABOUT10 and it’s only valid until 10 March (2019) so get in quick.


Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Hi Kate, love your blog and read it every day. I’m actually not much of a Hoppen fan (too much taupe and beige) but she is a powerhouse of knowledge and inspiration!
    On another matter, I’ve been searching back through your archive looking for the blog you did on using homes as a location for film / photography shoots.
    Can you send me a link please?
    Thank and look forward to hearing from you

      1. Hi Kate
        Thank you! Out of interest, are you getting many bookings for Enid’s House since you listed it?

Comments are closed.