Dining by Design with Kelly Hoppen

Kelly Hoppen started her business at the age of just sixteen. Her success would be amazing anyway, age non-withstanding, however knowing that she began as a child, in my mind, makes her success - and she herself - all the more fascinating! She left school at the age of 16, was offered her first project shortly thereafter and by the age of 17 was set up with her own design practice, already responding to an affluent clientele. Who does that? Not many, that is for sure! So it is of no surprise that Kelly is a woman on many a would-love-to-have-dinner-with lists!! Dining and Design with Kelly Hoppen? Yes, please. What time should I arrive?

Kelly's thoughts on dining or the dining experience mirror the reasons I started this series, "Dining has so many different facets; it’s about entertaining, it’s about creating a stage set but most importantly it’s about getting people around a table and having conversations."
Kelly developed her aesthetic and passion for design while viewing show flats with her mother, the person she describes as her hero, and one she draws much of her inspiration and entrepreneurial genius
“She gave me a rope and slowly let it out, and from that, there grew a confidence in my own taste and abilities.”
 As she told the London Telegraph:
"I have always been obsessed with interiors. Even when I was very young my mother would ask me what I wanted to do at the weekend and I’d say I wanted to look at show houses. After my father died of a heart attack, I left school at 16 and was offered my first interiors job through a friend. By 17, I had a studio in Lots Road, Chelsea, and a business.”
World renowned and one of Britain’s most influential style gurus, Kelly Hoppen travels in circles that are much different than my own, however her aesthetic, style guides and advice can be translated to any home. With a furnishing and accessories line, KHome, a signature line of chinaware, paints, furniture, carpet, fabrics, bathroom accessories and wallpaper, this is a style icon with dining, design and life stories I will gladly pull up a chair to listen to. I invite you to grab yourself your favorite beverage and pull up a seat at the table with Kelly and I too!

What is the most memorable dinner affair you’ve been to and what made it so special?
There have been so many memorable dinners that I can't choose just one. I absolutely love hosting dinners at my house; it's all about having a great group of people, great food and music to make it special! [And what type of music, you wonder. Yes, I asked! Anything from Aretha Franklin or Motown would be likely. Surprised? I was.]

When you arrive at a dinner party, what is the first thing that you take note of?
For me, entertaining in style is always about decorating your table well, putting together a great playlist, filling your room with scent and above all, making the evening fun. So these are the things that I would probably take note of – I like to enjoy myself and have a good time with my friends and guests.
What Kelly also loves is chocolate and vodka, she revealed in a 2010 interview:  "Pleasures? Vodka and chocolate. You make your own low-fat jelly and just add the vodka. It’s like having a pudding but it’s laced with vodka.” Noted! I now know what is needed when inviting Kelly over to dine! Apparently a delight she learned from Victoria Beckham so I guess I know what to serve when I have the Beckham's for dinner as well!! I guess I've been living in the dark as I never even heard of vodka jelly. Not sure I'd get the mix right, I may be inclined to order a kit here.

We have experienced a trend, where people are often utilizing dining room space for alternate uses. Do you feel every home should have a [formal or informal] dining room?
Every home should be comfortable, and have character; after all it is character that makes your house your home. So I don’t feel that every home needs a dining room. There are always other options if a dining room is not possible. For example, I think the ‘American kitchen’ layout - open-plan kitchens - which open out onto a dining room or sitting room are great and very welcoming, as they allow everyone to integrate within the same space – no-one is left alone to cook in the kitchen.
When designing dining rooms, what informs your aesthetic and design plans for individual clients?
The majority of the people for whom I design do not have separate dining rooms, as they prefer integrated dining room-kitchens or dining-living rooms. In all of these spaces, however, I maximize the versatility of the design, so that each could be set up for all sorts of dining and, in some cases, other uses.
A table in a kitchen zone is never just for eating, and it is truly the main gathering point of the room. I always advise my clients to make the most of every inch of space in their home. You need to make sure that you will be able to move around the outside of the chairs when people are seated; lighting is also key, as are the furnishings and table dressings.
I rarely specify matching tables and chairs, as I am drawn to contrast and balance: the masculine and the feminine, the bold and the subtle, the old and the new.
If I was coming to dinner at your house, what could I expect?
I serve my guests their food on Kelly Hoppen Taupe and White plates [of course], and drinks in William Yeaon Purple glasses. For table decorations, I love to use low Perspex troughs and float flower heads in a little water, baby cacti look great as well.
What are Perspex troughs, you ask? Clear lucite containers.
Kelly fills with fruit or nature elements.
For the lighting, I always use my own small candles, which come in either black or white, which is great as you can match them to your arrangement.


My entertaining style is relaxed and I always try to ensure that the evening is fun. That way it does not matter what you serve! Cooking has never been my strong point!

In sum, Kelly has given us some real and easy gems to incorporate into our own dining by design, whether it be for a special dinner or thinking about the overall design of the dining space:
  • Incorporate nature elements;
  • Use items from the garden, that can be incorporated into the dinner, eaten, reused and/or cooked another day;
  • Create a sensory environment - sight, scent, smell, taste and touch all contribute to the dining experience; and
  • Create a space and environment so that it is conducive to enjoy the people you are with and the surroundings you are in!
In Kelly's words,
"Table design is so important; it is like setting the stage for communicating with friends and family. The art of conversation around a table has diminished and one should change your table/settings so you don’t get bored."
I think this is so true, particularly in the technological era we live in. Have you noticed it harder to keep your kids attention? Make that dinner space and time something they want to tune in for; make it a ritual that builds, strengthens and maintains relationships.

I highly recommend Kelly's book, “Ideas: Creating a Home for the Way You Live” and that you check out her iPhone and iPad app, Home Style by Kelly Hoppen, which offers some simple design guidance and video tutorials to create chic yet functional kitchen features and elegant table settings. And please do tell; what will you do differently when designing your next dining affair or space, after reading some of Kelly's tips?

Thank you for sharing a seat at the table with us!! Join us for more design icon tips for Dining by Design, with those YOU (my readers) have listed as being on your to-dine-with wish list here every week!

Bon Appetit! ~ Sarah
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