Kit Kemp: 9 Tips for Bringing a Modern Vibe to Interiors with Red Rugs

“Never use anything you wouldn’t want to sit on without any clothes on. It should always feel glorious against your skin” says Kit Kemp, the British designer whom The Sunday Times calls “The Guru of modern hotel design.” Kit Kemp’s London home is the finest example of her playful and irreverent decorating style which mixes red oriental rugs with modern furniture and boldly patterned fabrics. Kemp’s modern take on the English Country House can be seen in the 9 boutique hotels she co-owns with husband Tim Kemp including New York’s fantastical art filled Crosby Street Hotel and London’s sensational Ham Yard Hotel. “My aim as a designer is to make surroundings a joyful thing – to bring in elements of intrigue and curiosity that create a sense of adventure and fun” writes Kemp in her book “A Living Space. “This is not to be mistaken for gimmicky however, comfort and quality are at the core too”, she concludes. I have distilled the 9 Tips from Kemp’s book and from her London home.

The 9 decorating tips are best understood by studying the 10 photos of Kemp’s London home.

1. Juxtapose intricate handmade red rugs with modern pieces
2. Add energy and movement by upholstering one or two chairs in a bold and colorful fabric
3. Balance colorful rugs and fabrics by using restful neutral colors on walls, ceiling and sofa.
4. Use natural materials such as wood, stone, cotton, wool and linen
5. Avoid shiny finishes and plastics.
6. Juxtapose mismatching chairs and fabrics
7. Use hand embroidered fabrics on pillows or on special pieces
8. Use low back chairs to allow views across the room
9. Use one really inspiring piece in each room. 


A intricate red and cream oriental rug adds warmth and brings a sense of history Kit and Tim Kemp’s London living room. Bold yellow and pink damask upholstered chairs move the eye to the back of the room and to the colorful abstract painting. A contemporary stone and brass coffee table adds a modern vibe. London living room. 


The Kirov HR Oriental Rug 8104HR is also available as a needlepoint rugRug Design © Asmara, Inc.



Kit Kemp changed the look of her living room by replacing the brightly colored chairs with darker striped chairs and introducing black accent pieces. The darker pieces are balanced by a sofa upholstered in a light floral print, metallic table lamp bases and a silvery contemporary chair. 


The Bassar Oriental Rug 7009BG is also available as a needlepoint rug.



A black, red and green floral Bessarabian rug adds warmth and brings a sense of history to the drawing room in Kit Kemp’s London home. Contemporary flair is added by a sculptural coffee table and by the bold upholstery fabrics in red, white and gold.    

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Another view of the drawing room. 


The Mid Summer Night Oriental Rug 7008BK is also available in a cream background and in other weaves such as needlepoint and AubussonRug Design © Asmara, Inc. 



This view of the drawing room shows Kit Kemp’s mastery at mixing many patterns while still creating a modern ambiance. 


The Kirov J Oriental Rug 8104J is also available as a needlepoint rugRug Design © Asmara, Inc.


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Kit Kemp changed the decor of the drawing room entirely by replacing the black and red Bessarabian rug with a muted red and blue Sultanabad oriental rug. A sculptural wood coffee table designed by Kit Kemp adds a contemporary touch and boldly colorful upholstered chairs in a mix of patterns complete the joyful atmosphere. The sofa and the orange and pink damask upholstered chairs were formerly in the living room. 


The Adria Aubusson Rug 5813R is also available in a cream background and vibrant colors as a needlepoint rugRug Design © Asmara, Inc. 


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Another view of the drawing room. A table lamp with an orange ikat shade and silvery base adds a spark of light and color.


A red, blue and cream Bijar oriental rug defines the sitting area in the Kemp’s bedroom. A half-tester canopy  and oversized headboard creates a stately atmosphere. A shapely cane back settee upholstered in a red and white striped fabric adds zing.

“This style can look old-fashioned but the scale and clean shape of the headboard help give it a contemporary edge,” Kit told House & Garden, “And a large headboard is also a wonderful chance to show off a fabric you love. The fabrics have been designed to recreate that threadbare vintage feel,” Kit explains. “I normally don’t like to use too much of the same design but, here, I played with different scales to keep things interesting.”

Kit used the same fabric on the headboard, chair and quilted bedcover. Quilting a fabric…. “adds texture to the scheme and also has more integrity, as the quilting makes the fabric stronger.” 

The yellow wall paint was applied on a white base coat and then sanded to create a subtle distressed look. “This room isn’t very bright, so it was important that it didn’t feel cold.”


Kit Kemp freshened the look of the bedroom by changing the fabrics and chairs.


Bergamo Needlepoint Rug 1327BR can also be custom ordered as an oriental rug. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.

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Wingback chairs upholstered in a large scale pink and white floral print create pop against the greenery in the garden outside the Kemp’s sunroom.Low-back chairs upholstered in a modern floral add a contemporary touch. A red oriental rug anchors a rustic dining table that can do double duty as a work table.



Nod Oriental Rug 8100RRug Design © Asmara, Inc.



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