Through The Lens: In Conversation with Anouska Hempel

Following our fabulous stay at the Monsieur George, we sat down with the legendary Anouska Hempel herself and talk about the inspiration behind the hotel’s design, her new Hempel House and Hotel Collection, and how her pieces can turn the home into a replica of our most beloved travel memories.
Anouska Hempel designer

Tell us a little bit about yourself – what made you fall in love with interior design?

I had a very visual aesthetic even from a very young age. I walked along the sea as a child discovering a landscape of my own, and I follow my imagination without any hesitation.

My hotel design journey started in Portobello, where I had the best time running an antique silver stand where I sourced specialist pieces for my regular clients, who were often from Italy. This all lead to creating a style for the home, where I created a place where people could live in all this magic.

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The Blakes hotel in South Kensington was my very first boutique hotel, followed by many private homes and mews houses which wanted to recreate the hotels’ sense of magic. One project followed another and as you know, once I decide on a concept I am fully committed.

Having designed some of the world’s most enigmatic hotels, why was now the right time to launch the Hempel House and Hotel Collection?

Two factors really: travel nostalgia and inspiration. We are working on two new incredible hotel projects, one in the beautiful city of Santiago and the other in Philadelphia called the Bellevue, which is an iconic and majestic building in the heart of the city, and lovingly known as ‘The Grande Dame of Broad Street’ dating back to 1904.

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In your opinion, how can the Hempel House and Hotel Collection and the ‘hidden glories’ it offers turn the home into a replica of personal travel?

The Hempel House and Hotels pieces, trigger fond memories of the places where they came from, serving as a memory and an object of beauty simultaneously. At home, they seek to capture something only you will know about a memorable hotel stay in Singapore, Paris or London – and soon there will be more places too! It is ‘Anouska’s hotel design for sale’ as Lucia van der Post of the Financial Times writes.

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We have all been going through the most difficult months and situations no one could have ever dreamt of, so we hope to bring some romance and enjoyment back this way.

In what ways have the incredible roster of hotels under your design belt – including Monsieur George, Blakes, The Franklin London, and The Duxton Reserve Singapore — inspired your new home collection?

This collection is one that was born out of Blakes hotel when clients used to literally pay for their room stay and add two of our signature Yardstick lamps to their bill, which they then would get delivered to their homes in New York, for instance.

Everyone always wanted a bit of Blakes, people would even take the restaurant’s teapots in their handbags. Sometimes I would spot things at friends’ homes. For example, Alice Cooper took home a pillow that Blakes had provided for his python to curl up on. Even the couture-made four-poster beds were ordered by customers on the way out of the hotel.

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So, we sat around the table (remotely, during lockdown!) and created a collection which would echo people’s past travels to Paris, London and Singapore to give them the chance to have a bit of the Anouska Hempel’s hotel suite look at home. So far, the response has been great!

We have included objects from the Paris hotel, Monsieur George, named after George Washington – the street where the Haussmann hotel is built on, The Duxton in Singapore, which is covered in the blacks and golds of the Orient, and the Franklin in London, which offers a cool and sophisticated city break.

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Colour schemes and key design notes change in each location to replicate each city’s unique sense of place. In Paris, we have a magnitude of green hues in various textures, at The Duxton it is all about warm yellows, golds, cinnamon and oranges, and each theme brings a unique aspect of that location to life, through colours and design. Each hotel brings a little magic.

Do you have a personal favourite piece in the range? If so – could you tell us why?

As far as Hempel House and Hotel products go, the most popular piece is in each of the hotels is the signature Yardstick lamp, which is available in two sizes and in different colours. We are now looking at new pieces in the Hempel House and Hotel collection which draw on the inspirations of the new hotel concepts, so I will include the signature butler trays, Dutch mirrors and more.

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In, Paris one of my favourite pieces are the green velvet chairs in the Galanga restaurant. I added a small ceramic black and white hand painted knob to the side of the chair, to hang the Parisian Hermès bags on during dinner!

I greatly enjoyed working on The Duxton Reserve in Singapore, as it is steeped in Asian history and built from a row of former chop-houses. I had fun working with sourcing yellow pots, Asian artefacts, and highlighting the golds and yellows of Singapore, which all come together with layered Oriental screens, intricate wallpapers and great big mustard-yellow fans as large as the setting sun. These are also part of the Hempel House and Hotel collection and can hide a television or they can be used on the window, as in the Yellow Pot Café, instead of a curtain.

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Talk us through your creative process. When designing a piece in your range – where do you begin?

I begin by writing a story of how I see the design of a new concept come together. I research historical references, craftsmanship references, and look for small, obscure design details that will bring the concept to life.

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What advice do you have for those looking to add a bit of the Anouska Hempel design flair to their own homes?

Well, look at the new Hempel House and Hotels range. You can start with a screen!

Sources: Interview > Hannah Tan-Gillies