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Shades of Alchemilla and Indian Pink, turquoise and burnt orange, buttercup-yellow and emerald-green burst forth in the new collection of rugs, cushions and throws by award-winning interior designer and hotelier Kit Kemp, created in collaboration with Annie Selke. It was a dream come true for the American textile expert, a self-described ‘true fan girl’ of Kemp’s inimitable style.
Selke, who, as president of The Annie Selke Companies, has launched bedding and rugs (some of which made their way into the Obama White House), approached Kemp about the project during the pandemic. She had discovered the designer’s skill for marrying colour and pattern in upbeat, kaleidoscopic ways when staying in one of Kemp’s Firmdale hotels – there are eight in London and two in New York, with a third, The Warren Street Hotel, due to open in Tribeca in 2023 – more than two decades ago.
It transpired that they were ‘kindred spirits’: both have a dog called Impy (‘Who does that?’ laughs Selke) and they share ‘the same antennae’ for the history of textiles. ‘Kit brings with her a very sophisticated whimsy – she has tremendous knowledge of art, sculpture, flowers and gardens that is so appealing,’ she adds.
Together, the pair have fashioned a collection of rugs using different techniques, from hand-knotting to dhurrie weaving, and fabrics (including wool, cotton and jute) that accommodates all budgets, while still honouring ‘the very crafted, handmade feel’ Kemp looks for in all of her projects. Every piece is produced in India, where there is innovation as well as artistry.
Recycled polyester was used for the ticking-stripe ‘Road Runner’, ‘Always Greener’ and ‘Sooner Than Later’ rugs, which work just as well outdoors as they do inside. ‘Normally, I only pick natural fabrics, as I hate anything that doesn’t feel great against your skin,’ admits Selke. ‘But these do, and the material holds its colour for much longer.’
For the range’s distinctive patterns, Kemp drew inspiration from her three favourite destinations: New York, London and Barbados. ‘Lily Pad’ and ‘Dew Pond’ capture the shimmering reflections on the Caribbean waters, while ‘Safety Net’ echoes ‘the myriad colours of the nets the old fishermen haul up daily beside their boats’, Kemp explains. For ‘Eternal Spring’, the warmth of the sun’s rays has been abstracted into a pixelated floral.
Other ideas were plucked from Kemp’s vast creative memory bank. The flame-like curves of ‘Graphic’ pay homage to a 1940s painting she once spotted in a gallery in New York, while the quirky ‘Horseshoe’ recalls the hoof prints that Lonnie, her horse, left in the mud after a ride near her home in the New Forest.
And then there’s the ‘Hot Line’ rug (already in place throughout Ham Yard Hotel’s apartments at One Denman Place) that, Kemp says, has ‘so many colours in it that it goes with everything’. Also included in the collection are fantastically patterned quilted throws and pristine, elaborately stitched white bedspreads, along with vividly printed cushions.
‘If you have a room that is looking slightly tired, putting in a new rug, cushion or throw makes all the difference,’ advises Kemp. ‘It lifts the whole room and brings a smile to your face.’ That is certainly true of this collaboration. For Kemp, the key to creating such uplifting designs is about only saying yes to projects that she knows will be fun: ‘Being with people who are inspired and love what they do always brings the best out in a collection’. ‘Kit Kemp for Annie Selke’ is available from Andrew Martin, andrewmartin.co.uk