After 40 years of designing singular interiors for the world's most remarkable homes, interior designer Kelly Hoppen is bringing her considerable talents to a new furniture line, a chain of stores – and a cruise liner
"I was the first to create this look. It's been copied a million times now… I think it's an adjective," says British interior designer Kelly Hoppen of her hallmark style while lounging on one of her own sofas, signature golden ringlets in full force. That may sound arrogant to some, but Hoppen has earned the right to the phrase 'Hoppen-esque' over the course of a 40-year career designing some of the most spectacular home interiors in the world. Not that she's one to rest on her laurels. "We change it. I have young designers in the studio who bring a different aspect to the look, so the core philosophy is still there… I constantly look for challenges, and we have a diverse cross-section of people working for the company that bring different elements to the brand."
Hoppen's story is, by now, familiar to design buffs and industry professionals alike. Having little time for school as a teen, South Africa-born Hoppen stumbled into her career at 16, when a friend of her stepfather needed a kitchen redesigned. It was a very deliberate bit of stumbling, however. "I just knew," she recalls of her decision to pursue design. "I hated school, I was really bullied." But it wasn't easy. Dyslexia provided a bit of a challenge, but it didn't prevent her from completing her first big project, the home of a racing-car driver. By the time she was 17, Hoppen was fortunate enough to have her own London loft and a studio in Lots Road, Chelsea, which functioned as her first portfolio. "I was lucky. A lot of young designers don't have that today. And I had a fantastic mentor in my mum."
Hoppen also taught herself the mechanics of business management and by the time she reopened the studio after having a daughter at 23, she was well on her way to being the design force she is now. "I know it sounds very blasé, but it was as basic as that. I've wracked my brain trying to find a way to say this, but I think at that age you're ridiculously fearless. I see it with my daughter. When you're young you've got that feeling nothing can go wrong. You have to believe you can [accomplish] things – and I did," Hoppen recalls.
It's summer and the designer is in Hong Kong en route to the first store opening in Shanghai, in town to launch her new Retrospective furniture line. Bricks and mortar retailing may be regarded by some as a little behind the times, but the Shanghai location is the first of many rolling out across the globe in the coming months. Stores are planned for Beijing, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, London and Beirut among others, and Hoppen sees it as the natural extension of Kelly Hoppen Interiors and kellyhoppen.com.
Retrospective (both it and the stores are collaborations with manufacturer Resource Decor) blends effortlessly with classic Hoppen spaces, be it the clean geometry and lighting of a New York penthouse, the modern industrialism of a London loft, or the shocking, icy white of a Barbadian villa. Retrospective reflects Hoppen's East-meets-West philosophy and incorporates elements of the music, people and travel she cites as a continuing inspiration in her work. Sumptuous materials – leather, linen, velvet – in Hoppen-esque neutrals dominate the line; vintage accents are carefully peppered throughout, along with splashes of carefully placed warm colours and metallic finishes. All are elements in the larger aesthetic she believes will be her legacy. Ask Hoppen about her process and the answering is refreshingly grounded. Genuine passion for the work helps, as do incentives that are beyond financial, but the A to Z is intangible. "I don't know, because I don't know how you write," she says, turning the tables and likening her process to creating music – finding notes that fit together seamlessly. "You get into a flow. You see what's wrong and what's right, and you know how to make it work. I don't know how to explain it more than that."
This is an excerpt from the “The House of Hoppen" article from the December 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.
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