Situated in the heart of bustling Soho, the magnificent Ham Yard Hotel revolves around a tree-filled pedestrian thoroughfare connecting Great Windmill”Street to Denman Street. The luxurious, urban village feel of the hotel’s interior is characteristic of Tim and Kit Kemp, the successful husband and wife team who own eight award-winning properties that make up the Firmdale Hotel portfolio – this project being the latest and most daring design project to date.
The framing inspiration for Kit Kemp – who is the design director of Firmdale Hotels – was the energy and vitality of the hotel’s bustling central London location, which Kit has translated into her distinctive use of vibrant colour, pattern, texture and unexpected detail.
As with all the Kemp’s hotels, there is a handcrafted, custom-designed feel to the hotel’s interior, from the unique ribbed glass and alabaster chandeliers in the restaurant, library and some of the bedrooms – both custom made in India – to the bespoke rugs by Christina van der Hurd and the neon silk thread installation by RCA graduate Hermione Skye O’Headhanging above the reception desk.
Indeed, extraordinary details catch the eye at every turn, many of which have been collected on Kit’s travels. “I saw the driftwood crocodiles, now hanging on the ‘discotheque’ wall downstairs, and I”just knew we had to find somewhere to use them,” she says. “They were completely bonkers, but perfect because many years ago I used to go to a place called The Croc, so I”thought ‘fantastic, we’re going to create a new Croc Bar’. That was one of those moments when an idea really comes together.”
“Watched over by two ancient olive trees, and surrounded by apple and pear fruit trees, the garden will bloom all year round with seasonal flowers to create a wild meadow”
Kit also used many of her own designs throughout the interior, including fabrics such as Willow, Bookends, Rick Rack, Royal Snail ad Ozone, and her own range of wallpapers.
Comfort is key to a Firmdale bedroom, and Kit has settled on large, elegant headboards in exciting prints, teamed with crisp white linen, for the guest rooms. The walls are fabric-covered to create another layer of warmth and tactility, and many of the rooms incorporate the green tones from the oak trees outside.
“I always try to make it comfortable to watch the television from the bed or a comfortable chair,” says Kit. “There is always a good reading light by a comfortable chair, a really good desk you can work at and plug in what you need to, and an end of bed footstool to put on your shoes. I want people to feel good when they stay with us.”
In the lobby areas, Kit Kemp’s Rick Rack fabric on the walls sits alongside a bespoke light by Gareth Devonald Smith, an ever-moving clock that creates pretty patterns before centering itself to tell the exact time every minute, paintings by the late Sandra Blow, and a tabletop designed by artist Joe Fan.
“Literary expert, Philip Blackwell, has hand-picked a collection of books – covering subjects as diverse as biography, history, travel and cookery – for the colourful bookshelves.”
At one end of the ground floor of the hotel is the guest library, elegantly light and traditionally styled with Kit Kemp’s large Suzani embroidered fabric for the curtains and her Ozone fabric for Christopher Farr on the walls. Literary expert, Philip Blackwell, has hand-picked a collection of books – covering subjects as diverse as biography, history, travel and cookery – for the colourful bookshelves.
The library has been designed with comfort in mind, bespoke Chesterfield sofas inviting guests to curl up with a book, and a large honesty bar on hand if guests wish to fix themself a cocktail, coffee or a night cap.
At the other end of the hotel, a more sumptuous, folk art mood occupies the guest drawing room, where hand painted and inlaid cabinets team with crewel-work covered sofas, Breon O’Casey rugs and framed Robina Jack painted ceramic plates. “By separating the drawing room and library, it encourages people to move around, but it’s a little like day and night, the library is understated and quiet, the other a little more fun,” says Kit.
The Dive Bar and Bowling Alley, contrastingly, have been given a vivid rock’n’roll kick with neon signs, including a diving Jantzen swimmer, dramatically oversized Rick Rack wallpaper (handpainted by de Gournay, creating a ripple-like effect down the wall), a specially commissioned 30ft tall orange squeezer, 50s bowling apparatus imported from Texas, two oversized Howard Hodgkin paintings and a collection of retro bowling shoes, bought from around the world and showcased in perspex boxes.
Zinc-topped bars, wing chairs covered in brightly coloured Hainsworth wools, and a baby grand piano complete the party picture.
The 188 seat state-of-the-art Ham Yard Theatre completes this varied entertainment offering. Featuring walls lined with electric blue wool, striking tangerine orange leather seats and bright fuchsia pink silk curtains framing the stage, the theatre also offers two strikingly designed green rooms complete with mini bar, shower, sofa and desks.
In Ham Yard’s restaurant, rich, multi-striped floorboards and unique details like painted organ pipes or fabric hung in perspex boxes help to discreetly discern between eating and drinking spaces. Design talking points include the wall of illuminated pots by Martha Freud and lights from South America. There is also a sunken orangery at the back, designed in neutral hues, that provides the perfect spot for a relaxed drink or afternoon tea.
“Comfort is key to a Firmdale bedroom, and Kit has settled on large, elegant headboards in exciting prints, teamed with crisp white linen, for the guest rooms.”
The light dining room seats 102 on sumptous upholstered banquettes, with floor-to-ceiling Crittall doors opening up the restaurant onto the hotel’s terrace to offer a further 50 seats for outdoor dining.
The Soholistic Spa, meanwhile, is a calm white-washed space, offering four treatment rooms, a changing room, a calming steam room of white marble, a juice bar, and a relaxation area with a wall of pebble and shell mirrors sourced from one of Kit Kemp’s favourite dealers in France.
Next to the large state-of-the-art gym is a small hypoxic studio for elite altitude training. Oxygen levels are varied for a more intensive workout improving fitness, recovery and rehabilitation. The space also doubles as a private gym with connecting treatment room and changing facilities.
On the fourth floor, a leafy rooftop garden takes in sweeping views over the London skyline. The lounge area is scattered with Whitman benches, a bar and BBQ. Watched over by two ancient olive trees, and surrounded by apple and pear fruit trees, the garden will bloom all year round with seasonal flowers to create a wild meadow.
The Ham Yard Hotel is a true oasis that caters for the every whim of its guest, yet its quirky interior embraces the vibrant energy of central London. Kit has once more pulled off a tour-de-force of a hotel …