Now the first thing you need to know about Kelly Hoppen’s home is that yes while big (enormous) with tall (quadruple height) ceilings and it may be in shades of her signature taupe, there are so many things you can take from it as inspiration for our own (probably smaller. Just a tad) places. You can listen to the podcast here while you look at the pictures if you like.
The first of which is styling, styling styling. Everything in groups three or five. But there are pairs too, which means symmetry, which means calming. Try it for yourself. There is, in fact, a lot of of stuff in this large open plan space and that is Kelly’s trick. That’s why the walls are neutral and the colours muted – because it allows for lots of stuff. She’s clearly a collector.
So while it looks, on first glance, calm and minimal there’s actually a lot going on. And there are lots and lots of different textures from wall cladding to fabrics, from lacquer and glass to metal and wood via stone and linen. It’s deceptively busy.
Now that the preconceptions are out of the way – as Kelly says, she does love colour but it was the press that labelled her Queen of Taupe many years ago and the name stuck – shall we have a look? Sophie and I met Kelly at her home to record an episode of the podcast a few weeks ago. It took months to organise as Kelly currently has 49 interior design projects on the go, not to mention is launching her own podcast Success, in which she will be chatting to inspiring women. It promises to be great as Kelly is, to be frank, a right old chatterbox who loves to share her knowledge and, once she starts, barely stops for breath.
So this house. She found it about four years ago after a two year search for a doer-upper. A former auction house it was, in her words “full of rats and rubble” when she saw it. She rang her partner and demanded he drop what he was doing and come and see it immediately. “I’m a Leo”, she says by way of explanation.
John came in: “Have you F….” pause for dramatic effect. “Inally lost the plot?” he said. But Kelly knew exactly what she wanted to do with the space.
“I see everything in grids so that was how I divided it.” From the upright pillars, which hold up the quadruple height celiing and have been clad and lit to dramatic effect, to the bronze light over the stone dining table that can seat 30 people going in the opposite direction.
Then there’s the 6m long sofa that “no-one ever sits on I might turn it into a soft play area for Rudy.”
Ah yes Rudy. Kelly’s first grandchild whom she adores. “He is the king,” she says simply, with a small hint of irony but when she talks eloquently of her love for him it is moving. Those of you who follow Kelly on Instagram will know that she is a self-styled Glammy, but the name hasn’t stuck.
“He can’t even say it. The name wasn’t my idea, but he doesn’t really call me anything. He calls my mother GG for Great-Grandmother and he will ask where she is but he hasn’t found a name for me yet,” she says sadly.
But what about a small child and all those pale surfaces? What’s a style-conscious grandmother to do and you don’t have to be Kelly Hoppen to care about the destructive force of nature that is a nearly two-year-old. “I wouldn’t care,” she says. “It can be washed. I can buy another one.”
And that’s where we come to the 6m long sofa. No-one sits on it. When we pose for a selfie at the end of the recording Kelly jokes it’s the first time even she has sat on it. That’s because everyone gathers round the long stone table that seats 30 from where they can chat to the cook – as in all our houses. And when it’s just her and John and a few friends there’s the breakfast nook, which, on the day we are there is full of cards for her impending 60th birthday.
“We live in this space. Well that and the TV room at the end,” she says.
That’s the other reason the sofa doesn’t get sat on. Hidden behind a set of pivoting doors – and that’s clever – spin them flat and it’s a lacquered wall or open them and they create more lines and interest in the large space. I would definitely steal this for a large room as a dividing mechanism.
She spends her evenings in here on the large reclining sofas – think three-quarter beds next to each other piled high with cushions and throws. “I love watching telly,” she said. When John is out it’s Big Little Lies and Love Island. When he’s in almost anything else. We’ve watched every box set there is.
“People think we’re out all the time but that’s not the case. We stay in, we watch tv, we entertain. I don’t tend to cook in this house but I do at the house in France.”
Because, it turns out, when not watching televsion, Kelly also loves to shop for food and cook. And clean.
“I have someone to do that for me because I’m busy at the studio but I have a pair of Marigolds – white ones – and I love to clean and hoover.”
Now let’s nail this colour thing once and for all. Kelly insists she does use colour but she likes to keep it as accents. You won’t find painted walls but you will find colour in accessories. And, of course she uses texture to great effect. There is lacquer, paint, wood, marble, stone, leather, brass, bronze, velvet, linen and on it goes.
It’s one of those things that takes a while to reveal itself. But it’s also Kelly’s taste. I have written before about the psychological impact of colour and Kelly would be the first to admit that she can’t relax in brightly coloured spaces. And, chatting with Sophie, both Kelly and I agreed that while we are huge admirers of Sophie’s style and ability to mix colours together, it’s not a look we find relaxing to be in.
“I like my colour in the accessories and accents against neutral walls.”
The Queen of Neutral was a label stuck on by the press that has stuck and while she acknowledges it to be true, she is also keen to prove that she does use colour – just not on walls.
“If I go to Mexico and am in a house with a yellow wall and lots of colour I love it. But I’m on holiday.” She needs her spaces to make her feel calm and relaxed. So much so that she admits that after about three weeks of dating John she had to redo his house so she could be in. Fortunately he seems an accomodating sort of chap and was happy to let her get on with it. Especially when she sent him to Ikea for shelves – which he thought was outstandingly good value of her until he was at the checkout – with a set of Lack shelves he had been intstructed to buy – when an email invoice for some curtains dropped into his inbox. For thousands of pounds.
“I liked the crease in the in linen and I wanted it,” says Kelly amid peals of laughter.
We did find some colour though in this guest room behind the stairs with teal bedside cabinets and chairs and…. a half-painted wall. “I hadn’t realised that till you pointed it out,” she says. “Perhaps I will put more paint on the walls after all. Perhaps I was experimenting.”
And do please, remember that I grabbed these pictures as I was going round so yes there are cables and lights are on etc. This is a very real representation of the house that day and not one that has been professionally lit and shot.
Moving upstairs to the master bedroom en suite with its Kelly-designed bath. She is a bath person. John likes a shower. He nearly fell over when she told him the price of the light fitting but, as she points out, the bath is her happy place where she likes to relax and calm down after a busy day. She wanted the right lighting and she was in a position to have it. So she did. John gets the big shower.
And that’s the other key – for all of us – compromise. How does Kelly do it? “For clients we send out 100 page long questionnaires but actually you can do it yourself. In fact it’s more important if you don’t have the help of a designer.
“You need to write down which side of the bed you sleep on, do you brush your teeth together or a different times, toothpaste lid on or off…..”. What goes on the bedside table. All of it.
“Then I might say to him ‘yes you can have that huge speaker but she needs more closet space’ and you work it out. You compromise and you plan it all.”
That said it’s possible John has done slightly more compromising than Kelly but perhaps he had fewer red lines than she does.
Finally, her design crime? Cushions on an angle. If your cushions are on a point and Kelly comes round she will flip them all over immediately. Without asking. And if you ask for her opinion she will edit your room in about two minutes flat. I’m sort of desperate and sort of terrified to ask her round and see what she would do in The Mad House.
I hope you have enjoyed this house tour – you will learn more if you get a chance to listen to the podcast. Kelly was warm and welcoming and it was fun to chat to her about things that aren’t all interiors although there were lessons to be learnt there as well.
And yes we did have a look in her fridge and it was full of fruit and salad as you might expect. Kelly works out and eats carefully so there were no surprises there. Well apart from the three foot tall bottle of vodka on the worktop that was a birthday present she had received the night before…