A sumptuous sitting room in New York’s Whitby Hotel is layered with breezy colours and detailed handwork.
The folk art motif on Kit Kemp’s signature headboard leads the way for brilliantly patterned textiles.

Decorating your home is a personal journey. For some people, the idea of choosing a paint colour or a piece of furniture, a bedspread pattern or a floor covering does not come easily. In fact, it can be a painful, even frightening, challenge.  But our home environment is so important to how we feel, how we relax, how we work, that it is worth the effort to meet the challenge. Take the time to discover what makes you happy.

I am a decorating snoop, always have been. Whether I’m visiting a friend or dining in a restaurant my eyes take in whatever surrounds me. I find inspiration everywhere and I ask myself where I can fit that awesome light or daring plum and green colour combination into my own home. It’s not a matter of copying an entire setting, but if you take away a pattern or furniture shape that excites you, you are on your way. Once you have a starting point, a favourite colour, an old chair, an artsy carpet you’d like to see every day, these elements will lead to other decorative elements that correspond and complement that personal vision.

Because I travel a great deal, I have the opportunity to search out a diverse take on decorating in different countries and cultures. Inspiration finds me everywhere — a field of lavender, fresh market stalls, storefront exhibits, visits to galleries, and local handcrafts shops. Travel means finding lodgings and I have been fortunate to experience some of the best. When I was in New York recently on a book tour I stayed at The Whitby Hotel. It is one of a group of Firmdale hotels owned by Kit and Tim Kemp. The design and decoration of every room, every space in this hotel is masterful and inspires anyone who enters its doors. Creative Director and Designer Kit Kemp acknowledges that she has always loved handcrafted things. She says “with each piece, the touch of the human hand adds to and completes its story. The movement of changing colours and patterns engages all the senses.”

The detailed storytelling in Kemp’s room designs produces the elegant and bespoke atmosphere of a fine home, one with a joyful sense of being. Here’s a visit to the Whitby Suite’s drawing room, which demonstrates a breezy play with blue and white. The overall look of the space is comparable to the traditional English décor renowned for its comfort but with an artist’s twist. Woven, printed and embellished textiles play a pivotal role. The chesterfield sofas and cushions are embellished and embroidered by textile artist Pippa Caley. The armchair is covered in Bennison’s ‘Chrysanthemum’. Looking up, the arms of the alabaster and brass chandelier have been wrapped in twine, an interesting tactile detail. Over the fireplace, a ‘foxed’ mirror, (a mirror that has been destressed to mimic the look of an aged or antique mirror), contributes a bit of history to the new furnishings.

In a Junior Terrace bedroom Kemp says, “the statement headboard is a great way of introducing detail and drama.” She collaborated with textile artist Kumi for this design, the motif taken from Russian folk art. A collage of fabrics has been hand-dyed and block printed. Bold, bright patterns and hues radiate from the sofa, the cushions and curtains and connect with the stunning headboard.

Bouquets of fresh cut flowers welcome you with springtime delight in every room at The Whitby. There is so much here to enjoy. You will find several of Kit Kemp Firmdale hotels in both London and New York. If you are visiting or live in either of these cities and are looking for a completely unique decorating experience, I highly recommend a stay, a meal at one of their restaurants or a glass of bubbly at the bar. I guarantee you will be sneaking pictures and jotting down ideas to plant a seed in your home. Embellish with flair.