Nov 25 Event at Apple store in London: A Conversation with Kelly Hoppen

Last night Kelly gave a design master class at Apple’s London flagship store on Regent Street. I had a great time and learned a lot about the future of interiors in the digital space at the #designdebate on November 2 but last night was the first chance I had to hear Kelly talk about her design philosophy.

The session was billed as ‘a conversation with Kelly Hoppen MBE’ and Helen Chislett who has worked with Kelly on her books since 2001 lead the discussion. Helen kicked things off by asking Kelly just what is the ‘Hoppen’ style. Often imitated it’s influenced by her love of the east but not in the way you might think. Kelly cited eastern sentiment, lore and sensibility as influences rather than a particular style or technique. This makes more sense when you consider that Kelly believe that a style should never dictate what a person should have or use in their home but rather work with them as an individual. A home is, after all, a place you have to live in not a look to be maintained.

Kelly returned to the idea of the oft imitated ‘Hoppen’ style by saying that when she started her career she had an ‘ego’ and wanted to create things her way and was frustrated when people copied her style. A conversation with her life coach David Zelman early on helped her reframe this attitude into one of gratitude. Kelly now feels that one of the biggest things you can do with your life is to teach others what you know and feels honoured to be asked to help people design their homes. She feels the best compliment a designer can receive is a client saying ‘I feel like I’ve lived here all my life’. This approach has certainly served her well as her business has continued to go from strength to strength.

Helen also asked Kelly about her desire for symmetry in her interiors. We all know Kelly is an unprecedented talent but I was surprised to hear that she first enters a room she see lines almost like graph paper. It’s this visual sense that leads her to want symmetry and balance in a space. But as Kelly says symmetry is not about 2 vases on either side of a fireplace it is about the balance and texture of the whole environment. Thinking of the space as a whole allows to you create real symmetry and balance which in turn makes a space calming.

Kelly also finds inspiration in organic shapes and objects which often serve as the staring point for her designs. She was keen to stress that organic doesn’t mean something alien and altruistically green rather it’s about natural shapes or texture of fabrics.

For Kelly a lot of the ‘organic’ concept has to do with texture. Beyond accent fabrics when Kelly talks about texture she means the body of the building. She did an experiment in her own home covering the space in only linen fabrics. She was surprised to see the reaction of her friends and their desire to reach out and touch the fabrics. Even though she limited herself to one fabric, shadow and depth were created in the space which really drew people in.

It’s not all about balance though…sometimes you need to rock the boat a bit. Fabrics work off one another to create a look. People mix and match prints and texture daily when they choose what to wear but for many the leap to mixing things up in the home is a step too far. Kelly felt people were afraid of creating a look for their homes because of the scale and costs which instantly knocked their confidence. She told us about a student she had in her design school who was so chic and fashionable but really struggled when it came to creating her mood board. Kelly couldn’t understand why someone who had obvious style couldn’t translate that to her space. So she came up with the analogy of dressing a space is just like you dress yourself. Think about what you want to say with your look and how you want to feel then start pulling together the fabrics and pieces that achieve it. This link seems to really work for Kelly’s student so she now speaks a lot about the link between fashion and interiors to help reinforce this idea in her school.

She’s known as the queen of neutrals but Kelly also highlighted the that neutrals aren’t actually neutral at all and that they work with certain sorts of colours.

Here are her thought on taupe

And here are the rules of thumb for sand

She also thought that zoning and the spaces in our homes have become increasingly important because we live in smaller homes so the upstairs/downstairs lives of our grand (in my case great) grandparents just doesn’t exist. It’s now really important to understand how your space works and how you want it to work. The kitchen has become a central focus but unless you like chatting with friends around the hob it shouldn’t be the hub of your home.

Lighting is another really important element of the home and actually can be the most expensive. In working with Rob Clift, Kelly has really become (ahem) switched on to the importance of light. We need natural light in our spaces in the day to make us happy and balance but equally we need sexy light at night to inspire us and great the right mood. Kelly cited an example I know I and most of woman kind can relate to…the dreaded bikini shopping experience…If only they could give us some flattering light in change rooms the experience would no longer be a source of annual dread! Even if you’re on a budget you should still be thinking about lighting in a space. Kelly suggested using a light source and literally drawing where you want your light to fall to create a dynamic environment as a simple and cheap way of creating a lighting scheme.

Kelly feels practicality is important in the home but we sometimes have moments of insanity and get something outrageous. These ‘Star pieces’ can be incorporated and often dictate a space but a room should only have one statement piece to keep things in check. Here is one star pieces Kelly has worked with that I think is stunning!

Kelly has worked with some amazing clients including the Beckham’s who wanted a new home in LA in six weeks which meant Kelly’s team in NY, LA and London were on all working so the office could be open 24 hours a day to meet the deadline! While it was a demanding schedule Kelly could not speak highly enough of the great relationship she had with the Beckham’s who she now counts as friends. When it comes to client relations, even if you are just starting out, you need to have a good relationship and find fun in the job. We all know that starting out a lot of jobs you choose are dictated by simply needing to work to earn in income but Kelly knows from experience that unless there is some element of a project that you enjoy you really won’t get the best out of yourself or the project.

Kelly also talked about her range with QVC and why she designs affordable ranges when her clientele tends to have pretty high budgets. Kelly said that she was far from a snob about where products come from and that it means a lot to her that she is able to design really good quality products at lower price points. She does not feel that there should be any barriers to people wanting to create their own beautiful space….so take that label snobs!

When asked about trends Kelly felt that they were a bit pointless. There is no reason to follow design unless it is good design. Even in fashion the people Kelly gravitates towards have a strong philosophy that and create clothing which reinforce this aesthetic statement regardless of trends. She will be releasing a trend report in 2011 but this is based on her observations about things which are emerging out of the recession. Think quality, comfort the rise of art buying not paint colours.

The floor was then open to Q&A and two questions that I thought were the most valuable were how to you translate your ideas to a client and how do you start in the design field. For client presentations Kelly felt it was really important that you get what is in your head on paper and not rely on mood boards. There are companies like MyDeco which can do this online. You should absolutely incorporate this cost into your fees and be clear with your clients that if they want to see something on paper they do have to pay. It’s not an expense you should be carrying yourself especially as a young designer.

When it came to tips for getting in the ‘Biz’ Kelly suggested internships. There are College and University courses but she felt that interning was a great way to get on the job training and that employers seeing you doing a good job would likely hire you…she has! Another route would be to go to Kelly’s design school (shameless plug on my part) and if you enter her facebook competition you could just win your place there!

All in all it was a great talk so thanks to Apple and Kelly for putting on such a great event!