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?