For better or worse, last year was transformational for many city dwellers who chose to up sticks and head for more bucolic surroundings. Perhaps none more surprising than committed Londonite, the award-winning interior designer Kelly Hoppen CBE.
Until last March, much of her life was spent either in her studio, not far from her London home, or on planes visiting her numerous projects around the world. And then Covid struck. While Kelly’s studio is busier than ever, she now spends half the week at a beautifully restored Cotswolds barn.
‘I’ve previously rented a place in the country and my daughter and grandson aren’t far away, so in many ways this area feels like a second home,’ she explains. ‘But I never thought I’d be this country. I love it. I feel very calm here.’
The events of the past 12 months, admits Kelly, have changed her outlook for good. ‘It has taught me that I don’t have to be in the studio every day. I can work two days from home so that I can be here for longer.
The rushing around has been eliminated from my life, which was the thing that stressed me the most. I still train every morning and have video meetings. The only time I have to be in the studio is when I’m physically designing. I prefer being in the country, as does my partner, so that is our future. We were often having huge dinners and entertaining in London. I don’t want that any more.’
The 232-square-metre barn, where together with partner John, Kelly now spends her time, was in a sorry state when they took possession of it early last year. In true Hoppen style, she’s created a blissfully peaceful haven, full of serenity and relaxed elegance. ‘It was a broken-down shell with birds flying inside,’ she admits. ‘When I viewed it, renovations hadn’t yet been started. It meant I was able to look at the plans and advise, to make changes that I knew would work.’
In her experienced hands, the result is an inviting, cosy home that at once places itself in its locale, but still offers clues that its occupants are urban at heart. ‘A lot of people who move out of a city might not want that full-on country-country look. The barn’s interior is a mix of the two, a nice medium. You feel like you’re definitely in a rural environment, but you also feel like a part of you is from London,’ adds Kelly.
The barn itself spreads across three wings that face a central courtyard. Save for a downstairs guest room and cloakroom (there are three further bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs), the downstairs is pleasingly absent of doors, which creates an immediate sense of flow and scale. Adding to the light, airy feel are the pitched ceilings with exposed original wood beams.
One enters the building into a large multifunctional space. There’s a handy boot area and a central seating zone, with vintage armchairs and a Willy Rizzo coffee table, where Kelly and her partner watch television on a Friday night. At the far end of the room is Kelly’s Technogym exercise area. The focal point of the ground floor, though, is the sweeping staircase and a view of the upstairs walkways that lead to the bedrooms.
Thanks to the barn’s high ceilings, the main bedroom and two further guest rooms are filled with light. While the colour and textile palette remains very clean and simple, it’s the mix of vintage pieces, such as the industrial filing cabinets and Arkana occasional table, both found on Vinterior, or the Bombay chest, that draw the eye.
There are reminders everywhere that this home is all about a slower pace of life. A bench has been placed in the window-lined corridor to take in views of the courtyard, which was planted by renowned garden designer Stephen Woodhams. Beyond the dining area and traditional-style kitchen, there are two snugs that sit either side of a striking brick fireplace, complete with wood-burning stove.
Both spaces feature oversized slouchy seating – albeit in beautiful, creased linens with vintage tables and perfectly placed artwork. ‘There’s so much texture and yet there are very few accessories,’ she remarks. ‘It’s really minimalist for me.’
The large dining table, which is overlooked by photographer Richard Dunkley’s Sissinghurst, also serves a second purpose – it’s where the interior designer often works. ‘I can sit and look out of the big window and I’m in seventh heaven,’ she explains. ‘In-between Zoom meetings I will get up and walk outside, and being in that fresh air with that view takes my stress away.’ To the other side of the barn is a poppy field, where Kelly has installed a platform with a firepit and Gervasoni chairs for watching sunsets.
The key to the overall success of this home is that she has wisely sidestepped anything twee, sticking to a restrained palette, contemporary matt finishes and exquisite textures with tarnished mirrors and plenty of wood. It’s all very feel-good.
‘I started with the existing colour of the beams and said, “Okay, grey, cream and black”, that’s what I’ll use throughout, except for our bedroom where I’ve used a bit of khaki,’ she explains. The entire building is painted in simple shades of white, the ideal backdrop to Kelly’s extensive collection of mostly black and white art and photography.
‘I wanted the barn to be beautiful and, yes, I wanted these vignettes so I could work with wonderful ceramics and the odd flower. But what I really wanted was for people to be able to sit and relax and not have me going around smoothing things over,’ she adds. ‘It had to look lived in. For a perfectionist like me that’s quite a hard thing to do.’ kellyhoppeninteriors.com