Thursday, October 7, 2010

Camping at the Kemps

When I was in London in August, we switched it up and stayed at the Knightsbridge Hotel, part of Tim and Kit Kemp's Firmdale Group (they own the Covent Garden Hotel and the newly opened Crosby Street Hotel in New York, among others). It's a stunner of a place, small, discreet and tucked into a leafy court just steps away from Harrod's. Designed by Kit Kemp in her signature English eccentric style, it was filled with so many inspiring details that the memory capacity of my Nikon SLR was sorely tested.

One detail that especially struck me was this lovely use of grosgrain ribbon to border the turquoise wallpaper in the hallways.
(Ribbon detail, Knightsbridge Hotel)

It's a great example of how a small detail can add textural finish to a pattern in the same way that contrast piping adds sharpness to a cushion.

Editor's Note: I had no idea this little detail had a name until I read a post on the impossibly erudite An Aesthete's Lament about Deborah Mitford's vicarage at Chatsworth. Aesthete writes:

"The fillet... in case you didn't know, is a narrow strip of fabric, metal, or gilded wood that outlines a room and its architectural features. It is especially useful when one wishes to provide detail without actual bulk, particularly when a room is, well, deficient in architectural charm.

One could also use grosgrain ribbon to similar effect."

Thank you, Aesthete, for bringing my discovery full circle.

* * * * *

Now back to The Knightsbridge. Seriously, it was so lovely that I wished we could just lounge there all day. The main sitting room off the lobby was decorated with the kind of soulful eclecticism that makes everyone sitting in it seem completely fascinating. I felt as though if I were to ask someone, "When do you next go to Cairo?" or "How is your novel coming along?" or "Is it true that your fall collection was inspired by traditional Hungarian costumes?" that I would definitely get answers.

Beyond the sitting room is an intimate library and it's here that we sat every morning and had a cup of coffee before venturing outside. I am completely in love with the color palette in this room. The muted greens, blues, reds and pinks harmonize wonderfully with each other and it somehow feels moody and cheerful at the same time.

Here's a close up of the fireplace fender upholstered in the same fabric as the club chairs. I love fireplace fenders and think somebody needs to start manufacturing them in the US for a reasonable price (not $4,000 which is how much all the UK ones I like seem to cost. Hello, anyone?) They can be classic or modern, can be upholstered in anything, take up no room and make great extra seating in a pinch.

And look over here. The library ladder is neon. It's these kind of tongue-in-cheek design touches that I love so much because they remind me that great style should be personal, witty and not overly serious.

While I was rhapsodizing over the decor, it was the Honesty Bar that my son absolutely could not get over. When I informed him that beyond it lay a room filled with snacks and drinks for guests of the hotel to enjoy, his eyes grew as big as saucers. "But wh-wh-why would they let us do that?" he stuttered. "Because the staff TRUSTS that you are going be HONEST and WRITE IT DOWN so they can CHARGE YOU LATER," I said.

Luca: Can I go in?
Me: All right.

After much deliberation, he selected an Orangina and a chocolate bar and wrote it carefully down in the hotel ledger in big capital letters. When he emerged, his bearing was more confident and he had a maturity about him that seemed born from newfound responsibility. Who would have thought that a room filled with bottled sodas would turn out to be a watershed moment for an eight-year-old?

* * * * *

I wish I had taken better photos of the room, but I didn't think about it until it was filled with all our things. It overlooked the little tree-lined court and had a fireplace and lovely ceiling-height windows. But what really blew me away were the closets and bathroom -- large, light and beautifully designed with every possible desire anticipated. As a thoughtful touch, there were two full-length lighted mirrors inside the closet doors so I could get a 360 degree view of exactly where all those scones I'd eaten had ended up. (Sadly, I kid only slightly.)


Julie Anne Rhodes said...

Let's take care of "where those scones ended up" together. Had a few too many myself.

I used to stay at the Knightsbridge Green Hotel, a little gem next to Mr. Chows, so conveniently located for Harrods, Harvey Nich's, and - much to my daughter's gasp horror - the Nightsbridge tube station; but I may just have to try your lovely find next time.

Terra said...

I enjoyed this visit with you, and agree that whimsy is welcome in home and hotel decor.

Kim said...

I used to stay at the Claverley, right next door. Beaufort Gardens is so quiet that it doesn't matter if your room faced the street or not. But the Claverley became worn out so it is closed for major renovations.

And I recognize that little burlap bag with the gorgeous F&M blue-green handles--I too stashed that in my bag (plus jam, of course) as a lovely reminder of that veddy British shop.

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

Another lovely tale from you, Lisa. I can't help but think what fun an "Honesty Bar" would be to have around for future grandkids. Of course I couldn't "charge" them; but perhaps teach them honesty. I love the visual of confident, conquering Luca!

Cathi said...

That looks like a fascinating hotel!! Would love to stay there next time we go to London. :)

Scot Meacham Wood said...

Oh, my sweet love - how I DO adore your tales of London. And the hotel looks to be simple perfection. I may need to re-think my London plans for next Spring - or at least my accommodations.

cheers - as always!

Design Elements said...

lovely post, Lisa! thanks

Jane said...

Ah the Honesty Bar. Don't you love the English. They are inherently honourable I think.

I have an Italian friend who once left his tennis racket in a pub in London. When he returned to look for it a day later it was still there. He just could not believe it. He kept shaking his head and saying that would never happen in Italy. xox

LPC said...

I've stayed at the Crosby in New York. Wonderful hotel. If I get over to London, I think I'll keep it in the family:).

Laura said...

How funny, I was just in the Crosby Hotel today...also adorably irreverent and littered with pops of color. I love that turquoise wallpaper, and the ribbon is just genius. But then again I'm such a sucker for anywhere that has that many fireplaces. What a luxury.

jules @ The Diversion Project said...

gorgeous hotel. and i love your son's visit to the honesty bar!

Elizabeth said...

We literally just returned from London Monday. Stayed at another Firmdale -- The Soho. It's also lovely and also has an awesome honesty bar! I usually stay in Knightsbridge, but loved Soho -- so close to Regents and the theatre. And not so very far from the V and M and Harvey Nichols.

Elizabeth said...

oops! V and A! I meant. V and A!

DM said...

The fillet is such a lovely idea, especially if your wallpaperer (or you) does a shoddy job!

"We leave for Cairo in a fortnight, the novel's at the proofreader and your sources are correct about my hungarian inspired collection! Waiter, another gin fizz please!"

Loved this post.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Julie Anne Rhodes: Let's hike off the scones, yes. And love that you stay in Knightsbridge too... xx

Terra: Whimsy for everyone!

Kim: How fun that the Claverley is across the street. I loved that our room overlooked the trees -- I felt like Mrs. Dalloway was going to emerge from one of those beautiful Victorians across the way!

Ohh, those F & M burlap bags. I can't stop buying them.

Vava: I like the idea of an Honesty Bar (or Pantry) at home. One treat a day, they write it down. Builds trust and responsibility, right? xx

Cathi: I definitely recommend it. It's very small but very special.

tartanscot: Oh, my Highland warrior... Let me know where you stay... my husband just stayed at Blake's last week and liked it but said the bathrooms weren't great. My vote is for Knightsbridge or Covent Garden Hotel xxx

Jane: That is a GREAT story!

LPC: I'm dying to stay at the Crosby. Or just have a drink there!

Laura: You and I are always on the same wavelength. xx

jules: He's still talking about it -- and what he'll get next time. :)

Elizabeth: Lucky you to have stayed at the Soho. You must have had an amazing time! xx

And yes, the V and A. Have you ever visited the Textile Room where they have huge armoires of 17th c. samplers framed under glass that you can pull out and look at?


1. Do let me know how your VIP trip down the Nile is avec Monsieur Poirot.

2. I want an invitation to the green room when Charlie Rose is interviewing you on how your novel has broken all sales records.

3. Could I please have the red embroidered capelet from your runway show? The one Andre Leon Talley swooned over?

columnist said...

It does indeed look lovely, and Mrs Kemp is very talented. I suspect the price wasn't quite so lovely though.

Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...

So well done. Ooozes ideas and good design tips...I could stay two weeks.

froogal said...

I especially love those color coded bookshelves and the abstract painting...the red and the favorite color pairing. What a fantastic hotel.

pve design said...

If I had another child, I would name them "Honesty" or "Honour" - because I think we all need more honesty and honesty bars in the world. I love staying at hotels where little details have been lovingly thought out and gracefully executed.

Unknown said...

A story only you could have told this way! Starting at the fillet and ending at the bar!!! Honestly!
Thanks for this tour, put it in my 'to visit next in London' file!!!

Dianne said...

Oh, I am always so upset when your stories end. I could read on and on. You must pen a book soon!
I love that Luca is being exposed to so much early in his life. He is quite the gentleman in the making.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, I always love to learn of new London hotels. We usually stay at The Draycott, which is quintessentially old English. And just around the corner from John Sandoe Books!!

Elizabeth said...

What a splendid hotel!
I stay with family in London so miss out on cool places to visit.
I enjoy your blog a great deal.


What a fabulous hotel! I love the teal, the abstract painting,the pop of red looks elegant and the designs are breathtaking!Gosh,my favorite color Combos.Truly Inspiring!

Sunday Taylor said...

The Knightsbridge Hotel is beautiful. Thanks for this great tip. Your blog is so helpful in planning a trip to England! I especially loved your advice regarding my recent visit to Charleston in Sussex. The gift store was a treasure trove of goodies. I especially loved the Bloomsbury fabric and needlepoint kits you recommended. Bought it all.

Karena said...

Lisa, this is just fabulous. I love the color palette throughout!! The story with your son is darling!!

I would love to stay there!

Art by Karena

Easy Tiger said...

i've stayed at the Knightsbridge and it is wonderful. tiny rooms but perfectly appointed. when i stayed there my back went out so i was stuck in my room for 3 days. the staff was incredible, they called a physician who made 'house calls' (he came with his doctor's bag and everything !). the staff routinely check in on me, brought me new DVD's to watch everyday and cancelled all my Paris reservations on my behalf. the lounge area is great and the hotel itself is located away from all the mad tourist areas. I recommend wholeheartedly !


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