The Househunter: Anouska Hempel’s House

A treat for you this week as we take a peek around the house of the interior designer Anouska Hempel, known all over the world for her hotels, gardens and homes. She is often credited with the invention of the boutique hotel – an informal style of hotel intended to be as relaxed and comfortable as one’s dream home – and which has been much copied and watered down over the years as to be often rendered meaningless. A self-taught designer she is as comfortable with layers of white and texture as she is with strong colours – there’s no pastel middle ground here and if she has a signature it’s a love of symmetry. When designing for a client she is rumoured to put together a manual detailing where the lamps must go and how the books must be arranged – you might call it control freakery, she claims it’s all about the detail to make the most of her design.

After playing a Bond Girl in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Anouska went onto open Blakes Hotel, followed by the Hempel. Her designs were so popular that guest would regularly steal things on their way home or even try to buy the furniture before they left. So in lockdown she created the Hempel House & Hotels Collection where you can buy (and if you have to ask how much…) items from her various hotels. And in the meantime, fancy a little look at her Wiltshire home? It’s on with Savills for £3,500,000 and has nine bedrooms, six bathrooms and three reception rooms.

The house is Georgian, dating back to the early 18th century, and is set at the end of a long tree-lined avenue. Rather than knock all the rooms into one – a fashion which I for one, am thankful is passing, downstairs consists of a large drawing room and then a dining room, leading to a morning room, off which is the kitchen close to which is a pantry, a boot room and a downstairs cloakroom. So if this kitchen seems small it is because there are other places to store food and laundry and to eat.

This being the aforementioned breakfast room. It’s probably more formal than any dining rooms you or I may have but it’s clearly designed for more intimate meals as there’s only a small round table. The strong navy blue from the kitchen is carried through in here so there is a visual link between all the rooms.

The paint effects are interesting too – in the kitchen there is a strong white stripe across the top of the cupboards, which is echoed in the ceiling colour coming down over the top of the walls and in the room above, the floorboards have been painted navy around the edges to create the idea of a rug. Most people would, of course, paint the rug in the middle and leave the edges bare but Anouska has done it the other way round. This frames the space and makes a large room seem cosier as the edges fall alway and the focus is on the small table, which sits, in turn, on a small round rug. You can see the famed symmetry through this house and things are symmetrical then they tend to be in pairs.

This room isn’t name on the plans but must be a second, large hall – as opposed to the entrance hall. I can’t talk about the large screens as I’m not entirely sure of their purpose other than to divide up a large space and create different areas but perhaps you have to be there in person.

Below is the drawing room with its double doors leading to the garden. Again spot the pairs. It’s interesting that there is no central rug to bring the space together and no grouping around a coffee table. Instead, each chair has its own table. The room is formal and elegant and softened by the plants and display of old photographs. I think the clue is in the word “drawing room” this feels as elegant and comfortable as a really good boutique hotel without being somewhere you think you might be able to kick your shoes off and drink coffee out of a chipped mug rather than a cup and saucer – strictly no digestive dunking in here.

But it’s upstairs that I love. Again, more formal than any bedroom I might hope to own but each one is completely different and that’s what I love. So many designers become known for their signature look and nothing ever changes. Here, all the bedrooms, while opulent and elegant, are all different. This one takes up the colour scheme from downstairs. You can also see how the rugs have been layered – even Anouska couldn’t find one the right size or shape so she has simply bought several and layered them up to fill the space. I have often talked about layering rugs but assumed you would be layering different ones – instead – you can use matching ones to create a slightly more relaxed look while still keeping the colour palette tight and elegant.

This bedroom is a complete contrast – in layers of white with lots of natural wood and texture. I think after all the intense colours of the rest of the house this would be a restful place to fetch up in before bed. the screens on either side to block out more light from all those windows is a neat idea although, again probably not something that troubles most of us.

Finally, the showstopper. Anouska has written about her love of red – especially in the cold wet grey of the English climate. I tend not to like red too much unless it shades into burgundy which this does and I like how it’s softened into different shades of the same colour. This is the circle room and you can see the same motifs picked up in the wall hanging, the rugs and the fans that are dotted around the room. As you can see every detail has been considered and nothing left to chance.

I think I like the bathroom even more though. The flooring links the two spaces and imagine having a room large enough and a ceiling high enough to have two dramatic lanterns like that. This is definitely my favourite room and while we may not have the space for this in our own homes you can take away the ideas – feature lighting, flooring that isn’t classy bathroom, a splash of colour with the table next to the bath and an old portait on the wall – all of which turns this from a bathroom to a room in which you bathe.

What do you think? Influenced by this style and level of detail or not?



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. She likes a nice screen doesn’t she? And the odd bit of scrap hanging at the window. I like her jute & basket weaving & floor dressing, but it mostly gives me a headache, cos I can’t unsee all the dusting!

  2. Opressively opulent for me but presumably we’re only seeing the grandest rooms in the listing. Presumably some of those many bedrooms were originally intended as servants bedrooms and are much more modest in scale and decoration. It would also explain the imbalance between the living space and bedroom space.

  3. I remember, years ago, reading an interview with her where she spoke of never ever buying a single of anything. More than symmetry she spoke of repetition and rhythm being the foundation of her decorating style. She explained that for her the repetition created a sense of calm. You can still see it at play clearly in all of these rooms, and i think of it often when I go to buy something. Of course budget often prohibits, but still, I remember, along with the image of a garden filled with an abundance of the same planters.. in lot of varying sizes.

  4. The black and red and amount of “stuff” is too much for me and looks like something out of a catalogue, but I love the white room – quite Rose Uniacke. I love the paint tricks you mention Kate, especially the “rug”.

  5. Anouska has both the ability to survive and to create unique rooms. I recell when she was setting up the Hempel and had run out of money, but ever resilient, she puffed away at pillows and ironed down the fold on bed sheets in place on the bed. Her boutique clients were paying a fortune to stay each night and she had’nt got the funds to buy more bed linen! She operates with aplomb….and look where she is now like it or not!

  6. I don’t understand this fashion for having tables, consoles, or in this case both plus lamps and a giant fan right at the end of the bed. What about tall people? Can you move with all that stuff right by the bed? More lamps and shutters at the head of the bed! Not really practical if you want someone to be able to stay in the room….

  7. Let’s buy it and run it as a boutique-ey hotel/bed and breakfast. Cheers from Canada!

  8. With respect as always…….what immediately springs to my mind here is the number of folk who might be accommodated within such a singularly vast ‘home’s’ space. Again, with respect and not a little thought, such a sale hopefully may be a reminder of, thus bringing into clearer focus, our current and verrry pressing housing needs…….in this case on a grand scale, but nevertheless I think, apposite. The beautiful bones of the house indeed tell another tale, from another time…

  9. I love dark colours, but also love lots of light in rooms, which is probably a bit of a contradiction! The house is beautiful, but it’s too formal for my liking and there is definitely too much “stuff”. I agree with Cathryn. I too, would declutter. Those bathroom lanterns are gorgeous, but one would probably fill my whole shower room! Thanks for your great posts, Kate.

  10. I stayed in her first hotel in London when it opened in the noughties (I think 🤔), it was definitely much more understated than this beautiful home. I’ll buy it when I win on the lottery! There’s a Caribbean /colonial vibe to the house. Love it.

  11. Not for me, too fussy and heavy. Needs a darn good declutter! But I am interested in your remark that the preference for knocking rooms into one is abating. What’s the evidence for this? Every telly programme spouts on about removing walls and creating large open-plan spaces, so where are you picking up the change?

  12. Not been a fan of AH’s “stuff” for interiors in the past (a bit too dramatic & overpriced for me) but must say she has done a great job on her house with some lovely rooms – maybe more boutique hotel rather than a home but some interesting touches .

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