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Becoming Australia's Kit Kemp - part 1 The Balgowlah project

Updated: Apr 27, 2019

It's funny how the universe can deliver, but a few months ago, I put it out there that I wanted more projects like London designer, Kit Kemp's. I've loooong been a fan of her work and my own aesthetic is very sympatico with hers, but I was struggling finding clients that wanted this style.

An eg of Kit Kemp's work - at the Hamyard Hotel in London

I'd had a few challenging months (as you do in business) , and was ready to chuck in the towel. But then, I put it out there to the universe what type of project and what type of client I wanted and gave myself a deadline of the end of the financial year to do it.

With hand on heart, I tell you that on the 3rd July I got an enquiry from Jane* and her husband who had just returned from living abroad for the last few years. Their tenants had vacated and they'd literally just moved in. And she wanted help transforming her home.

The bungalow house had good bones but was like a vanilla slice....nothing much to look at. They had some interesting art they'd collected over the years and some sentimental furniture items, but that was it.

On the left - vanilla slice. On the right - DISCO!

She only had a few screen dumps of looks she liked and lo and behold, they were all Kit Kemp's work. I literally looked heavenwards and said, "hallelujah" like a gospel crazy baptist from the deep south! And I meant it. This was exactly the project I was wanting and here it was on a silver platter. I can tell you I took that platter and skipped all the way home!

Jane wanted me to work on every room in the home, and to include colour, furniture, storage, decor, rugs, lamps and lighting and window treatments. Initially the budget was $50k, but once we'd completed that stage, she added the things she hadn't originally been sure about. In the end, the budget was closer to the $70k in value.

I admit I went to town on this project. Couldn't help it - I loved the freedom of the kooky style and the clashing colours, patterns and quirky artworks. So, I merrily put together a comprehensive concept for the whole sheebang, collecting up a samples of all the fabrics I wanted to use on the curtains and furniture items, the A4 paint colours, rug and wallpaper samples, pictures and dimensions of every single items I was recommending and their prices.

Clashing colours and patterns; loads of textures in this one corner of the room!

On the way to Jane's place to present the concepts, I suddenly started questioning my selections: Have I gone overboard? Is this too crazy? Is she going to hate it? My mouth went dry, my heart was doing weird things, I was getting sweaty.....By the time I got there I was wishing for a hip flask of something strong but I accepted her offer of tea and a bikkie instead.

And gingerly, I got out all the samples (there were A LOT!), the layouts, the printouts etc etc and dove right in. I think the presentation went for about an hour (felt ten times longer) and then I sat back. I looked at them. They hadn't said a word. Thought I was going to die. But then a miracle.....they looked at each other then back at me and said they loved the whole thing! The. Whole. Thing!

So, we worked out what the budget would get for them - we ended up putting some things on hold because they either weren't sure about them or because the costs were adding up to too much. We worked out the leadtimes and went over deliveries (which can be painful). And we started actioning this crazy, fun, colourful, totally unique design.

Purples and golds worked beautifully in the "Poet's Room". The handmade heirloom quilt informed the palette for this space

Near the end, Jane said she wanted to put back in the items she'd taken out from the concepts because she could see now why I had recommended them and because they'd managed to massage the budget a little to give us more wriggle room. This is actually quite common - as clients see a project evolve they can see more clearly how things will look and they gain confidence that it will work.

And in about four moths we'd finished. All the custom items were in; the curtains, blinds and artworks were up; the painting was done; and I'd styled it to really finish it off properly. And they were thrilled! They even gave me a gorgeous book of Slim Aarons photography (I love his work!) as a thankyou, which was super sweet. Actually, they were one of my all time fave clients to work with - they made decisions, weren't trying to go behind my back to suppliers and were fun to deal with!

If you'd like to see more photos from this project, head on over to the portfolio pages or for before-and-afters, head here.

What do you think? Would you be game enough to go this hard with colour and pattern?

* names were changed for privacy

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