I was recently introduced to Kim Stephen and we met up last week in Barnes to discuss interior design, Kim’s recent move to the UK and colour, a lot of colour. Kim is from South Africa, so we probably could have spoken for hours on end. I was so inspired by the colour used in these projects that I couldn’t wait to get this interview up on Interior Style Hunter. Prepare yourself for lots of colour…
What is your design signature/style?
I’ve become known for my fearless use of jewel-box colour; although I do always counterbalance it with neutrals and texture. I feel that a comforting and cocooning base balances the high drama. In many of my projects you’ll also find playful elements in elegant surroundings – I love the juxtaposition of sophistication and folly. I’m also known my use of decorative accessories – shelf and tablescapes that introduce different materials and create visual interest, especially unexpected pairings that surprise and delight.
What type of people do you love to work with as clients?
Given that some of my designs are quite colour drenched, clients who are willing to take the long term leap into saturated hues are always fantastic. However I am also able to tone it down if need be and I find ways to give the less colour committed clients a neutral base and we then amp up the visual interest with the smaller soft furnishings, decorative accessories and art.
Can you tell us about a particularly exciting/challenging project?
Until six months ago I was living and working in Cape Town. South African based clients had a property in London which they wished to furnish using many existing pieces they already owned in South Africa as well as some new bespoke items using my local manufacturers. I came to London, measured the spaces, met with the decorators who were refurbishing the property and went back and planned the entire scheme from afar. We shipped every single item, from lighting to sofas to decorative accessories and I travelled back to London to install it all in just two days. Everything fitted perfectly and came together wonderfully! Somehow running a project on the other side of the world seemed so daunting at the outset but the results showed me that it can be easily done with the right kind of planning.
Does your home reflect your professional style?
Yes, it most certainly does…and some. My own home has been my laboratory so to speak. It is the space where I can experiment with my own style and really develop my signature look.
If you had £10,000 to spend on a piece of furniture/accessory/art/decor item, what would it be and why?
For my own home it would be an installation by Lyndi Sales, a Cape Town based mixed media artist. Much of her work is combines laser cut paper and other materials and the results are breathtaking. You can look at the same Lyndi Sales piece every day for a lifetime and each time you’ll see something new in it.
For a client I would love to start an interior scheme based on a very big purchase from the Marche Aux Puces de Saint-Ouen in Paris, which I recently visited for the first time. There were so many incredible authentic pieces – from the most interesting huge scale lighting to a gold half moon shaped desk – items that would be the starting point to design an authentic and showstopper space for a client.
What’s next for your business/brand?
The dust has only just settled from my family’s move to London last summer so I am setting out at the moment to set up a design studio and start building my brand here. It’s such an exciting place to be involved in interiors and I am hoping that my unique style will be well received – my theory is that saturated colour can go a long way to temper the grey English skies.
Which new/up and coming designers do you currently have your eye on?
I discovered the work of Sophie Ashby as we were both included in the 2016 Andrew Martin Interior Design Review. I really love the authentic and unique style she has developed and succeeded with at such a young age. Of course the other name on everyone’s lips at the moment is Australia’s Anna Spiro. Despite being quite established for some time, she seems to continually be pushing the boundaries of her colourful, mix ‘n match and laid back interior language. Perhaps I relate to both of these designers because of our shared southern hemisphere backgrounds – their distinctive styles talk directly to me
If someone reading this was about to begin their own home redesign project, what would be your best advice to them?
Get the bones of your home 100% right before you start with furniture. Without having the canvas right, whatever you put onto it just won’t work as it should. And be brave….beige and bland does not make for excitement every time you walk through your front door!
You can get in touch with Kim Stephen through her website.