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20 Curiosities about Firmdale Hotels and the Kit Kemp Design Studio


This week, we have rounded up 20 curiosities about Firmdale Hotels and the Kit Kemp Design Studio, taking you on a journey through some of the little known secrets that make our designs and hotels so unique.

1. Firmdale was founded in 1985 and since then has won several awards, including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2018, in recognition of our outstanding achievements in International Trade, Condé Nast Traveller’s Best Hotel in the World for Design for Ham Yard Hotel in 2015 and The Caterer’s Best Employer Award at the 2017 and 2020 Cateys.

2. Kit Kemp Design Studio is responsible for the design of all of Firmdale Hotels. This includes eight hotels in London: Ham Yard Hotel, The Soho Hotel, Charlotte Street Hotel, Covent Garden Hotel, Haymarket Hotel, Number Sixteen, Dorset Square Hotel and Knightsbridge Hotel and two in New York: Crosby Street Hotel and The Whitby Hotel.

3. Even though our primary focus is on hospitality and product design, we also take on luxury residential projects, one of which we are currently working on in New York.

4. Haymarket Hotel is a landmark building, designed in the 19th century by the legendary John Nash. He was the master architect who developed most of Regency London, including Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and the adjoining Haymarket Theatre.

5. We have collaborated with many different design studios, but a very special one is Fine Cell Work. They are a charity and social enterprise which aim to help prisoners to develop new skills, earn money and acquire the self-belief to stop offending. They enable the people they work with to build fulfilling and crime-free lives with the intention to foster hope, discipline and self-esteem. We have worked with them to create these unique hand-stitched cushions.

6. Many of the rooms within the hotels and the products we design are named after members of the Kemp family. Among the private event spaces at The Whitby Hotel is the gorgeous Araminta room, named after Kit’s daughter Minnie. It features our Mythical Land wallpaper in collaboration with Andrew Martin.

Our Timothy Turkey patchwork toy, named after Tim Kemp, is a fun addition to our collection of soft toys. Made from the offcuts and recycled fabrics used in the Design Studio, each one is different.

The intimate Library at Covent Garden Hotel, complete with wood panelling and fireplace, is named after Kit’s daughter Tiffany.

Lastly, our Willow Sofa, which is completely bespoke with nickel stud detail around its base is named after Kit’s daughter Willow. The legs are a grey stained wood, with a choice of Kit Kemp fabrics, trims and colour ways that can be tailor made.

7. Kit Kemp is defined by her use of colour and detailed storytelling in her designs, but rarely uses the colour purple.

8. We are dog lovers! Crosby Street Hotel especially has many design details surrounding this theme including Justine Smith’s dog sculptures lined with old comics in the lobby and Francois Bard’s majestic portrait, which proudly hangs over the stone fireplace in the Drawing Room.

We even have two new dachshund members in our design office, Diego and Frida!

Photograph by Louisa Tratalos

9. Dorset Square Hotel was originally the site of Thomas Lord’s first cricket ground and the hotel’s design pays tribute to its cricketing history. Did you know that all the wardrobes at the hotel feature a cricket ball knob? In the past, staff members would wear cricket jumpers too!

10. Artwork is one of the most important features within a room. Works of art can be the protagonist or the starting points when designing a room. Art can also convey the interests and personality of the collector. We support the constant flow of art, meaning our pieces are moved between hotels to freshen up the rooms. Our office walls are also full of art pieces – it has almost become a gallery and inspires us every day!

Our art collections range from the famous Fernando Botero whose iconic 12-foot cat sculpture welcomes guests to Crosby Street Hotel, to young designers such as Hermione Skye O’Hea, whose loom piece features here in Ham Yard Hotel’s lobby. We are always on the look out for new artists and designers.

11. Kit and Tim Kemp are known for breathing new life into dilapidated areas, transforming overlooked properties into world-renowned hotels. Refuel Bar & Restaurant at The Soho Hotel is named after the car park it once was before the hotel was built. Ham Yard Hotel was built on the site of a Second World War bomb crater.

12. Mannequins have become a statement piece and a link between Firmdale Hotels and the Kit Kemp Design Studio. It is the logo for Firmdale Hotels and if you stay at one of our hotels, you will be sure to find one in each of our bedrooms.

13. The plates hanging from the wall in The Whitby Bar at The Whitby Hotel were found in a flea market and later framed in Perspex boxes to add a touch of exclusivity and singularity to the space.

The shoes here in the Croc Bowling Alley at Ham Yard Hotel were all bought through eBay and framed in perspex boxes to create a colourful collection.

14. The Botero cat at Crosby Street Hotel was so heavy that they had to double check the floor would be strong enough to hold it.

15. Botero’s 10 foot tall bronze cat at The Soho Hotel had to be installed before the ground floor of the hotel was built. The building and interiors had to work around him in all his great stature.

16. Some of the furniture pieces have been named after past and present team members of the Kit Kemp Design Studio, including Susan’s chair, Ruby’s headboard and Leo’s armchair.

17. Susan started as Head Housekeeper in one of our hotels and is now PA to Kit Kemp. She has been with the company for 28 years!

18. We are currently working on a window display for Shop Kit Kemp along with two fabric stands in the US. Stay tuned for exciting new designs.

19. Creativity and innovation is at the core of our philosophy and we are constantly thinking up new ideas. For fabrics, we love to collaborate with Christopher Farr, Andrew Martin and Chelsea Textiles, but our collections have also extended to brands such as Anthropologie in the past. We are excited to be launching our Rocking Robin lighting collection with Porta Romana this summer, and we have a rug and bed linen collection that is currently in the works with Annie Selke.

20. The illustration on all of the books in the Library at Ham Yard Hotel each have their own fun stamp with a sticker of Owner, Tim Kemp, reading a book in a hammock.

We hope you have enjoyed reading through our curiosities and that they have given you added insight into what makes the Kit Kemp Design Studio so special.

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