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 someone views my website and then visits my studio, they might well associate 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 delivered very elegant, feminine floral homes for clients with a very specific brief who largely come to us based on reputation or word of mouth.
Designing interiors for planes and boats is different to houses, largely because weight is a major issue, particularly with planes as it affects safety, as well as performance. The materials we use on planes are invariably honeycomb-backed, such as stone veneer. That’s before we confront fire restrictions: if an owner wishes to charter their plane, which many of them do, we have to abide by civil aviation fire safety and accident safety standards – for example a 12-second vertical burn test. With both yachts and jets we avoid sharp corners for obvious reasons : if the boat pitches we don’t want clients to graze their leg or bump their head. So designs are smooth, with soft, rounded edges, and firmly fixed in place. You don’t have swinging chandeliers on boats, they need to be rigid. Whereas with a home, you’re free to do whatever you want - obviously there are building regulations, but in terms of finishes, it’s unrestricted.