The 'Decotherapist'

British designer Kelly Hoppen emphasizes harmony in her serene neutrals and modern chic furnishings.

Focus On Design

June 05, 2005|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

As if Kelly Hoppen didn't have enough on her plate.

Well, actually, the plates won't show up until this fall, courtesy of Wedgwood. More immediate was the 44-year-old top British designer's launch of a 40-piece furniture collection for Century that reflects the East-meets-West modern style she has made famous. The collection was introduced in April at the High Point Home Furnishings Market in High Point, N.C.

Just six months ago, Hoppen basked in the celebration honoring the debut of her shops in Bergdorf Goodman and select Neiman Marcus stores. The shops are a microcosm of her trendy Fulham Road boutique in London, an outlet for her products, which include rugs, bedding, fabrics, paints and, in the pipeline, lighting, as well as antiques and her fifth coffee-table book, Kelly Hoppen Style: The Golden Rules of Design (Bulfinch, $40).

As home design trends have shifted to simpler lifestyles, Hoppen's timing couldn't be better. She epitomizes a chic, modern look that's uncluttered but not too minimal. She does it by fusing European vintage classics and assertive pieces with streamlined Asian aesthetics of her own conception.

Quite fond of marrying cheap and posh objects to create tension, Hoppen sets it all in the context of a serene and, as she puts it, "chilled out" space.

Known as the queen of taupe, her signature neutral palette is punctuated by dark woods such as African wenge, fleshed out by textural fabrics such as linen, silk, silk mohair, velvet, suede and leathers. She's keen on materials such as shell, silver, mother of pearl and organic elements that include pussy willows, calla lilies, grasses and mosses.

With exposure on international television and a place on Architectural Digest's list of the top 100 designers, she's an uber-blip on the design radar.

Soon she hopes to hit the TV airwaves here with a syndicated import of a show inspired by a one-week master class in interior design for 14 students that she teaches in London. Design projects in 29 countries have her jetting to France, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, New Zealand and the United States.

She won't boast about celebrity clients, but she has them: Gwyneth Paltrow, Melanie Griffith, Elton John and Sarah Ferguson. Until now, the bulk of her business, estimated in double-digit millions, has been interior design, including commercial projects such as the first-class cabins of British Airways as well as hotels, restaurants, yachts and homes.

Her method for designing homes embraces more than furnishings. She picks the flowers (architectural blooms such as calla lilies, orchids and tulips), candles and scents, the chocolates in a bowl, even the music.

She calls herself a "decotherapist," and her perhaps unorthodox approach to psyching out her clients' tastes is thorough.

"I have to live and breathe the place," she explains. Besides handing out a questionnaire about each homeowner's lifestyle, Hoppen actually moves in for three days.

"I see how they interact, eat breakfast with their kids, do homework. You can't design a home without knowing that," she says.

Hoppen jumped into her profession at age 16 without formal training except for a five-week design course. Born in South Africa, she and her family moved to England when she was 2. Her mother, Stephanie Hoppen, is a design author and art dealer with a gallery in London. Hoppen says her upbringing was amazingly Bohemian.

Early on, Hoppen demonstrated flair. At age 10 she decorated a room with chocolate felt walls punctuated with chrome strips and creamy shag carpeting. A family friend, a Grand Prix driver, was her first client.

The purchase of an antique Chinese trunk on Portobello Road when she was 20 changed the way she designs and lives. "It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen," she says. "I put it next to a calico sofa and thought, 'This is it.' I didn't want to be chintzy, flowery, all those things" often associated with English style.

Her fan base in the United States stems from her defining East Meets West: Global Design for Contemporary Interiors (Rizzoli, 1997, $45). In recent years, Hoppen has seen a "massive shift" in the way people have viewed their homes.

"The home now is more important than anything else," Hoppen says. "It has to work, which means comfort -- for your dog, your cat, your children, your lovers, your friends."

Hoppen style, however, has its price. For $40, shoppers might snap up a small pot, and $175 will buy a giant candle. Chairs run around $3,000; a credenza, about $4,350.

SOURCES: Kelly Hoppen Interiors: 011-44-020-7471-3350 or www.kellyhoppen.com n Neiman Marcus: 888-888-4757 or www.neimanmarcus.com Bergdorf Goodman: 888-774-2424 or www.bergdorfgoodman.com n Century Furniture: 800-852-5552 or www.centuryfurniture.com

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