There’s seemingly no request, big or small, that Martin Kemp can’t fulfil. In fact, the interior designer relishes a challenge, and having worked with some of the most esteemed in the business, including Barbara Barry in Los Angeles and Candy & Candy in London, Kemp is more than qualified to take on the biggest. The Welsh designer spent 30 years working on retail and commercial properties before establishing his own business, Martin Kemp Design, which now works with private clients around the world. He travels from the Bahamas to Saint-Tropez conjuring up creative concepts for anything from cosy lounges to grand super-yachts and luxurious private jets.We caught up with him recently to pick his brains on his career, Los Angeles, and all things design...
By misfortune, which turned out to be good fortune for me,a former client’s house caught fire and ended up very badly damaged. It was one of the biggest house fires in central London. Soon after I received the call enquiring if I would be interested in restoring it, so that became my first solo project.
I don’t really have an aesthetic. If someoneviewsmy website andthen visits my studio, theymight wellassociate the two -which is probably a masculine, polished, smart, contemporary look.However, much of our private work, which we don’t publish on the website, is very different.We have deliveredveryelegant, feminine floral homes for clients with a very specific briefwholargely come to us based on reputation or word of mouth.
Designing interiors for planes and boats is different to houses,largely becauseweight is a major issue, particularly with planesas it affectssafety, as well as performance.Thematerials we use on planes areinvariablyhoneycomb-backed, such as stone veneer. That’s before we confrontfire restrictions: if an owner wishes to charter their plane, whichmanyof them do,wehave to abide by civil aviation fire safety and accident safety standards– for example a12-second vertical burn test. Withboth yachts and jets we avoidsharp corners for obviousreasons : if the boat pitches we don’t want clients to graze their leg or bump theirhead.So designs are smooth, with soft, rounded edges, andfirmlyfixed in place. You don’t have swinging chandeliers on boats, they need to be rigid.Whereaswith a home, you’re free to do whatever youwant - obviouslythere are building regulations, but in terms of finishes, it’s unrestricted.