Interview With Interior Designer and Author, Kelly Hoppen MBE

How did you first become involved with interior design? And has it always been a passion of yours?

From a young age I’d been obsessed with design and interiors and when I was 16, I got my first big break designing the kitchen of a family friend. It was a big project and I was up against an even bigger learning curve; everything that could go wrong of course did. But I revelled in the experience and it was a defining moment for me because it was when my passion turned into a profession. This passion was a driving force for my career in interior design and is something I’ve kept at the forefront every single day.

Did you fall into this industry (businesswise) by happen stance or is it where you always hoped you would someday be?

Ever since I was a child I’ve found myself drawn to design and would move things around in the rooms of my home to indulge my creative curiosities. I’ve always had this relentless passion for design and haven’t strayed from it since I started. The fact that my career has spanned more than 40 years and I continue to seek out projects and collaborations to challenge myself is proof I’ve found the right industry for me.

I feel so lucky that I have been able to harness my passions and turn them into a business – it’s a dream to design every day and if the young ‘furniture-moving-me’ knew where this habit would take her she wouldn’t believe her luck!

In terms of interior design, as you were born in South Africa, would you say there is a distinct, or general South African interior style? Or are homes of the upper and middle classes pretty much unique?

I can speak about my grandparent’s home in South Africa which had a huge impact on me as a child. The style was the complete antithesis of my style today but my grandparents taught me that it’s how a home makes you feel that’s important rather than what it looks like. Their house had a feeling of safeness, and a great smell of coffee and cedarwood from a cabinet as you walked in. There was always bread being baked in the kitchen and it was a place of celebration, arguments and laughter and all those things that make a family home. I couldn’t wait to go back every Christmas. It was such a wonderful part of my life.

Would you describe yourself as a creative? And how important is creativity in your position?

Absolutely! Creativity is at the heart of what I do, and something I tune into constantly. East meets West is my signature style but there’s no cookie-cutter template for every project or client and I have to tailor my style to different tastes, needs and functions. But I stay true to my brand always and it is like a mind map – always diversifying.

I’m particularly creative when it comes to finding innovative solutions to practical problems. For example, when I was designing the Celebrity Edge cruise ship interiors I had to balance functional needs – creating storage space and having to fix furniture to the floor – with creating a luxury, premium space to give guests the ultimate holiday experience. It’s these little challenges that keep you on your toes and make you work harder. Creativity is what lifts interior design to the next level and makes a space amazing because not only is it beautiful, it is functional and fit for purpose.

What do you think the fundamentals of leadership are?

I believe passion and communication are the pillars of good leadership. Passion is paramount as you need to ooze enthusiasm, set the bar for work ethic and the tone for attitude and team morale. Communication is crucial every step of the way; being able to listen to others and interrogate your own perspective allows you to be a leader capable of growth and invite collaboration.

Collaboration is the best way to both teach and learn; my team is never stronger than when we work together and each contribute our own unique skills and talents to exceed a project’s potential.

The rest of this interview will be published at a later date.