Blending history, symmetry and bold colours, award-winning interior designer and architect Anouska Hempel has a unique sense of style. Often copied but never surpassed, she continues to hold her place at the forefront of international interior design…
From her ground breaking work at Blakes in London, where she arguably invented the boutique hotel to her private commissions for homes around the world, Anouska Hempel‘s perfection and precision are par excellence.
Her determination to design and control every piece of the room from the lighting to the floors is legendary and her work and that of her company, Anouska Hempel Design, encompasses everything from interiors to furniture and furnishings, gardens, landscaping and food.
Whilst her sense of symmetry shines through, Hempel is also known for her lighting designs and love of bringing the past into the present. From antique Chinese trunks to 17th century Italian prints and Victorian Ostrich feather fans, her taste may be eclectic but it works.
Wherever my imagination finds itself, that’s where my room begins
Fundamental to her work throughout her career has been a strong streak of romance. ‘Romantic places? I live them all the time,’ she says, ‘I can dream myself into a desert playing footsie with Genghis Khan, or a military tent planning strategy with Napoleon. Wherever my imagination finds itself that’s where my rooms begin.’
As a designer Hempel is self taught which has given her the ability to hone her designs as she sees fit. However, her work is instantly recognisable through key patterns. Control and symmetry characterise her design: in objects placed with military precision at exactly 90 degrees to a border or on a large scale on her landscape gardens.
‘I am not really mad about “anything goes”,’ she says, ‘I like it in conversation, in characters – but not otherwise.’
To help her customers understand her vision for their homes, Hempel always provides a manual for each project, describing everything from the display of dishes to the arrangement of towels and bed linen. Anyone believing that this is merely the sign of a controlling addiction is missing the point: details are terribly important. In her world there is a best place to put a table light, mirror or an object because it contributes to the whole look.
Anouska Hempel was brought up in Australia and though she has lived in the UK for decades, much of her work is seen through the eyes of someone used to living in far sunnier climes. This perhaps explains the continued use of red in her designs for northern hemisphere homes.
‘Red to me is a very strong, heavy colour – a dominating colour, which I love to use in England, as I feel that in the grey of English days, red and warmth are very important. I will use red flowers in a bowl on a dark wood table,’ she continues. ‘If red is used subtly, it can be used very well.’
Red to me is a very strong, heavy colour – a dominating colour. If red is used subtly, it can be used very well
Her fascination with red hues is evident in the design of Blakes Amsterdam, where bold, warm hues warm the muted grey light of the Dutch canals.
English Regency, European, Japanese – Anouska Hempel is a collector of screens and a maker of screens, too. Screens help her create the vision of a half-glimpsed space, the mystery of a room beyond. ‘I use a screen, something very static and immobile to create an illusion,’ she explains. ‘I might also take a screen and hang it over a frame so that you have movement, like the way they have of hanging things up in Japan; wired trays which move, rattle a bit, and have a clatter to them.’
Her distinctive interior motifs continue outside to the garden too and her homes, Cole Park in the country and her West London town house, showcase her talents.
Hempel likes a garden to remain green all the year round so she chooses plants and shrubs that don’t lose their leaves. One of her favourite looks is to group together pots of clipped mushroom boxed trees to frame vistas and lawns. With this design, her London garden remains elegant all year round.
On the surface Anouska Hempel’s style may look effortless but those close to her speak of a woman who works tirelessly until her vision is perfect. That she is copied so frequently, but so rarely without complete success, is probably down to others’ failures to appreciate the thought processes behind her designs.
The secret of course is that she remains an innovator, true to herself and her vision and ultimately an artist who sees the world in a different way.