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In Conversation with Kit Kemp & Michal Silver

24th June 2024

In conversation with Kit Kemp MBE and Michal Silver, an iconic design duo who are synonymous with colourful luxury design.

As Creative Director of Christopher Farr Cloth, Michal has set the standards for producing fabric and wallpaper designs that mimic artwork, worthy of being placed centre stage in your home. Collaborating on designs with Firmdale owner, and award winning Interior Designer Kit Kemp, this industry leading pair sat down to chat with F&P’s design Director, Emma Vans Agnew, about all things interiors...

You've both been in the industry a long time, and you have enviable credentials; you can see you're really passionate about what you do. And the fact that you are working with such amazing people, it would be lovely to know how the collaboration, and in turn friendship, came about?

Michal - Kit always champions small British companies that are very artisanal, and had been a customer of Christopher Farr for a while.

When I was asked to do a talk in South Africa, I reached out to Kit and asked if she would talk about how it is to work with us.

She was so generous with her time; we met in one of her suites at the Haymarket Hotel. She fluffed these two big, peony fabric pillows, and we did the interview, which was a sensation at the conference.

When I came back home, I realised that we have never worked with an interior designer. We've collaborated with textile designers and artists, but an interior designer has a different point of view.

They see fabric in a different way; they place it in the room and can see how it works on the sofa, curtains etc. So I just reached out to Kit and she said yes again!

I am very much enjoying sitting here surrounded by the new collection, it's so lovely and vibrant! How did the latest designs come to life? Talk me through your process...

Michal - We never talk about the 'next collection', we just meet occasionally, and then it develops naturally. I thought to celebrate the new opening of the third Firmdale Hotel in New York, it would be a great opportunity to work together again. What I had in mind was a collection that's going to be very directional. I wanted to do something that's original, bold and strong. So that's how we started the conversation.

Kit - I had seen Sean Scully at a show and really love his work, and what I admire about Christopher Farr Cloth is that they're so influenced by artists, and it’s directed by that. So many interior designers do a really proficient job, but it's not artistic. So I thought right, Sean Scully, that's really fun! Let's try and do something along those lines; something bold, but something really usable.

Do you work together with the colour? Christopher Farr have a very distinctive colour palette, but they translate very well between the two of you.

Kit - Once you start growing your collection, you just make sure that they can cross over.

There will be favourite colours that just comes back again and again, so the beauty is if you can actually get them all working together - that's important!

Also because you're dealing with people who are trying to put their homes together, you've got to give them a fighting chance!

Michal - We love pinks and oranges together. We love mixing aquas, blues and greens.

But then we've introduced a charcoal. we've never used charcoal! And Kit just wanted charcoal for the Little Weed Fabric.

I’ve been to visit the print house in London and it was fascinating, with 50 metre long print tables producing perfectly hand printed fabrics. Is the new collection still printed in the UK?

Michal - The wallpapers are printed in the UK. The Zig Zag Wallpaper design we started by having it printed on jute, but we felt it had too much texture, too much pattern, too much colour. So we sampled it on grass cloth and that has worked really well. The weaves are produced in Belgium, but everything else is done here.

Kit - Sustainability is important in everything we do. Even to the distance that item travels. Very much, in the States when we're building the hotels, things are made locally. And even the designs of the furniture will be sent over, but they'll all be made out there.

Busy Lizzie FabricBusy Lizzie Fabric
Zig Zag FabricZig Zag Fabric
Hotline FabricHotline Fabric

It's just a joy to come to your hotels to see all these beautiful fabrics in situ, and how you've used them. With your third New York Hotel ready to open, where do you draw your inspiration from when designing a room?

Kit - I just love textiles and so if somebody says, "how do you start a room?" it's usually because there's a fabric that I’m just dying to use... and I’ve just got to use it! So it all starts from there...

Kit Kemp Hotel InteriorsKit Kemp Hotel Interiors

I’ve always admired your support, Kit, for skilled craftspeople; from all the beautiful objects you sell in your shop, to the works of art displayed in your hotels. Do you have a go-to team of craftspeople, or is it constantly evolving?

Kit - Very often with craft, it's generational. So you'll get the father, mother, the son, the daughter; they all are potters and they have a signature to their work, which is a lovely thing. It doesn't matter if you make the same thing over and over, it will always look different if it's made by hand.

That's what I love about so many crafted fabrics... where it would start off as one colour, and then as it goes across, it goes slightly differently - I love that artisanal feel!

We work with various people and we commission designs. Sometimes with the crafters, they just need a little nudge to be a bit more commercial, looking at it from an interiors perspective, or a more experienced point of view.

And then they're off, and they become terribly well known, and we can't afford to use them anymore. So we have to keep finding new ones!

 Michal - I think that luxury is really all about craftsmanship. It's not about marble or golden taps, it's choosing the right product and working together and applying it.

The same thing with fabrics, or anything you do...

A very much go-to brand in our office, Christopher Farr is up there with our favourite design houses. What can we expect next from you?

Michal - We are developing an outdoor velvet. It was driven again from the need for longevity & sustainability. You really need to use performance fabrics for outdoor use as you can't just use regular fabrics outdoors. And then we're finding that people are enjoying those hardwearing fabrics indoors; in kitchens or mud rooms, those areas in the house that really benefit from a performance fabric. 

Kit - So many people now have glass houses, orangeries, or their dining room is in a glassed-in area. And it's so irritating when you put in the most beautiful colour and then within six months it's just faded. So I love performance fabrics. I think there is a fabulous range and we use them very much within the Firmdale Hotels. Here at the Ham Yard we have Lost and Found on the outdoor chairs.

Since F&P Interiors started working with Christopher Farr Cloth, you have really grown, it’s quite fantastic to see! So, where do you see you both going in the next 10 years?

Michal - I must thank Christopher and Matthew for that, because I met them when their rug business was about 12/13 years old and they'd already established many relationships with artists. So it was a great point of reference for me. For now, I think it's just trying to do what we do best. I have a fantastic team that I work with, and I try not to look at what other people are doing.

Kit - I have two daughters working with me, each on separate floors. They are doing their own thing, and of course as parents, you have to stand back. But it's exciting for me to see them growing and to know that they love what we do.

Christopher Farr Cloth X Kit Kemp Collection

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A big thank you to Kit Kemp Design Thread and Firmdale Hotels for additional imagery