How Robert Kime inspired a new generation of designers

How Robert Kime inspired a new generation of designers

In the months pursuing the demise of Robert Kime in August at 76, my Instagram feed loaded up with heartfelt tributes. But I was struck by how many more youthful designers and creatives expressed a financial debt to Kime — famed for being King Charles’s favorite inside decorator — and his intimate, antiques-centred aesthetic.

On her blog site, Charlie Porter, millennial founder of on the internet classic design and style emporium Tat London, expressed her disappointment at listening to about Kime’s passing. “[He] built my environment a happier, additional wonderful location to inhabit,” she wrote.

Porter identified Kime’s do the job in publications in her early twenties. “He became my position of reference of what a house really should look like: pictures of his work are imprinted in the Filofax of my head,” she tells me.

Kime’s curious and cerebral design and style could not search much more distinctive from what Porter calls our era of “box-clean, significantly pattern-driven” interiors.

So what made Kime, whose type remained much more or less unchanged throughout a decorating occupation that took off in the 1970s, so well known with today’s new wave of designers and sellers?

Initially there was the way that Kime, who often identified as himself an “assembler” somewhat than a decorator, juxtaposed parts from contrasting styles and eras in his rooms. He may well blend Delft tiles with a William Kent mirror or a Grecian pot, an Empire chair or an Arts and Crafts desk with an Indian hen coop doubling as a log basket.

Connecticut-born interior designer Remy Renzullo says of Kime: ‘His work has been a constant presence’
Connecticut-born interior designer Remy Renzullo states of Kime: ‘His get the job done has been a regular presence’ © Martin Morrell
Renzullo’s London home
Renzullo’s London dwelling © Martin Morrell

These finds, some cherished, other individuals simply just attention-grabbing, ended up arranged in vignettes that intrigued but never ever jarred. His use of textiles was also exclusive — African Kente cloths or silken Suzanis hauled back from travels included to the air of a household that had developed more than time.

“I loved going to Kime’s shop on Museum Road in Bloomsbury, which felt like a magical treasure trove, stuffed total of the most beautiful things,” states designer and FT columnist Luke Edward Corridor, who was released to Kime’s design when he worked for the architectural and interior designer Ben Pentreath back again in 2013. “I immediately learnt that Kime was a grasp of decoration, but his planet under no circumstances felt stuffy, only supremely comfortable and inviting.”

It was the same need to make “atmosphere — not fashion” that drew 31-yr-aged Remy Renzullo, a Connecticut-born designer who works on both of those sides of the Atlantic, to interiors. “I like a dwelling that I decorate to show up as if [the owners] have usually been there.” He is at present doing work on a established of rooms at John Vanbrugh’s Castle Howard, in Yorkshire.

Renzullo likes to produce rooms that evoke what he phone calls a “dialogue with the past”: a Flemish tapestry on bare plaster walls, a slouchy 1970s armchair on a shabby Turkish rug. “On a useful amount, that means my rooms appear together above time, a purely natural evolution, building upon layers. Considerably of my time is invested drawing, the relaxation on obtaining pieces for clientele.”

He remembers coming across Kime’s work in a again situation of The Earth of Interiors journal. “It reminded me of my personal home,” claims Renzullo, who set up his observe in 2016. “My mother was a decorator and a wonderful collector, my father patterns furnishings our property is filled with a cupboard-of-curiosity-worthy assortment of antiques and sofas lined in faded fabrics. I was only a little one but I felt an immediate affinity: his operate has been a consistent presence at any time given that.”

Robert Kime at his London flat in 2019; he died in August
Robert Kime at his London flat in 2019 he died in August © Simon Brown

Like Kime, Renzullo describes himself as a supplier-decorator alternatively than a designer who sticks to a particular type or search. It’s a notably English way of performing things (past exponents also include things like the gimlet-eyed Christopher Gibbs).

“In the US we never have that custom. It’s not a thing the business understands, partly since we really do not have these kinds of an abundance of lovely factors,” he suggests. “Robert’s influence was far more abstract than literal: he showed me that I could have a unique variety of company, with an emphasis on antiques.” 

In excess of e-mail, the interior designer and antiques seller Max Rollitt tells me that “Robert paved the path for me, allowing for me to see the risk in decorating with ‘old things’.

“It was for the reason that his passions have been so broad,” Rollitt carries on. “He didn’t just deal in furnishings or silver or textiles — and he was so perfectly informed that he was ready to be a seller who became a decorator.”

Designer Rose Uniacke’s restrained interiors — pale walls and furnishings, a even handed sprinkling of antiques — are pretty various from Kime’s richly layered search. But she is quick to admit his impact, admiring the way he “always seemed to comply with his instincts”. “It’s why his get the job done experienced such integrity and felt so human,” she claims.

Interiors in a west London town house by Rachel Chudley
Interiors in a west London town residence by Rachel Chudley © Simon Upton
Chudley says of Kime: ‘He worked on some grand houses but managed to make them feel liveable. He wasn’t deferential. He never put their contents on a pedestal’
Chudley claims of Kime: ‘He labored on some grand properties but managed to make them come to feel liveable. He was not deferential. He under no circumstances put their contents on a pedestal’

“I like rooms that have bodyweight — and gravitas — where by nothing feels much too new or much too shiny,” claims London-based mostly designer Joanna Plant, who also cites Kime as an impact. In a single of her commissions, she transformed a regular Victorian semi, previously bowdlerised by developers but now, many thanks to Plant, romanticised with Chinoiserie wallpaper, glowing brass sconces and fluttering linen curtains.

“It’s what I have usually aspired to [capture] in my work: the concept that you’ve discovered one thing intriguing on your pupil travels, or raided granny’s attic, even if you haven’t inherited heaps of antiques.”

She recollects finding Kime’s world at his west London shop, where by she was lured within by a exhibit of his materials. “They all have that muted, slightly tea-washed floor colour. At the time there was almost nothing like that on the current market, every thing else was much too bright or predictable,” she says. “That was at minimum 20 years ago. I hadn’t even started my organization, but I questioned for a sample. I understood that a single day I’d obtain a use for it.”

Kime’s best-providing Tree of Existence cloth, its clambering foliage pattern dependent on a 17th-century fragment, was 1st built for Andrew Lloyd Webber. Kime embellished the composer’s apartment in Trump Tower — a visiting Nancy Reagan after remarked: “It’s marvellous! Practically nothing matches.” 

“Because he was interested in persons, and travelled so much, he could interpret how clients are living and translate it into something outstanding,” Plant states, citing South Wraxall Manor — a 15th-century confection of plasterwork and dim panelling in Wiltshire, owned by John Taylor of Duran Duran and his trend designer spouse Gela Nash-Taylor.

“What could have been an austere interior grew to become some thing quite various.” The blind built from an antique shawl that diffuses the light magically the sparkly sconces mirrored in slipper baths. “Everything had that rock-and-roll edge, without the need of experience inappropriate to the period of time,” she states.

For Plant, Kime’s timeless aesthetic feels extra suitable than ever. “At the second, wanting forwards can come to feel frightening. There’s a thing comforting about a area the place you feel everything’s landed softly and settled into spot.”

Dorset-primarily based Henriette von Stockhausen is an additional designer who favours the imperfect search — not minimum because most of her clients are blessed with rambling region households “awash” with dogs and youngsters. “They want sites that really feel comfy — and not as well polished. In which nothing at all feels far too co-ordinated,” suggests von Stockhausen. She factors out the Flemish tapestry and classical prints juxtaposed with the interesting expanse of concrete worktops in her individual kitchen area.

Like Kime’s, her schemes begin with a rug or a portray, by no means a moodboard (“it feels fewer prescriptive [that way]”, she states). But what she enjoys most is the hunter-gatherer aspect of her enterprise, unearthing gems in salerooms, meeting craftspeople.

“I think if you are curious about antiques and the tales driving them — which is what struck me the most when I achieved Robert at a party at his residence — it will come through in your operate. It becomes a lot less of a procuring trip and additional about making a house that is been extra to above generations. There’s a lot more to it than just acquiring an eye.”

A Notting Hill Gate project by Joanna Plant
A Notting Hill Gate job by Joanna Plant © Antony Crolla
Henriette von Stockhausen favours the imperfect look, ‘nothing too polished or co-ordinated’, pointing to the Flemish tapestry and classical prints juxtaposed with concrete and metal in her own home
Henriette von Stockhausen favours the imperfect appear, ‘nothing much too polished or co-ordinated’, pointing to the Flemish tapestry and classical prints juxtaposed with the concrete and metal in her have dwelling

She cites Swangrove — a searching lodge Kime made for the Duke of Beaufort — as an illustration of that. “The sitting area with its Persian rug and walls hung with mezzotints in gilt frames” or “the table lined in a fragment of antique carpet — glimpsed via double doors [ . . . ] All those people specifics do it for me. It adds up to some thing ingenious, and so English, without having at any time getting alone as well seriously.”

Von Stockhausen also admires Kime’s regularity. The occupations of other designers are marked by phases and flirtations: Postmodernism, Classicism, Maximalism. But the craze-averse Kime stayed real to his design. It served, of program, that Kime (who study background at Oxford) was skilled at profitable purchasers around to his level of view working with a blend of eloquence and expertise. But there was far more to it than that.

“He was courageous,” says von Stockhausen. In a company market, wherever customers progressively turn up at meetings armed with Pinterest boards and want lists, “it requires bravery to stand up for what you feel is appropriate [ . . . ] Often you just have to say this is the way it must be accomplished.”

Thirtysomething London designer Rachel Chudley attempts to convey what she describes as “an air of the accidental” to her tasks. For instance, she once made use of a standout trompe l’oeil wallpaper of lavishly swagged cloth in the style of a New York apartment and, in her possess bedroom, has a wonky fibreglass pillar salvaged from a established design.

“For a great deal of younger designers functioning in Britain, it’s really hard not to be impressed by our historic houses and stately houses. There is a wealth of ideas to attract on. But at the same time, I’m constantly imagining of methods to subvert all those references so that they experience shocking — and enjoyable,” states Chudley. She refers to a household she embellished where by she used the client’s assortment of antiquities to set the tone for a plan that combined Pop Artwork and Arts and Crafts home furnishings with subtle, classical detailing.

She turned fascinated with Kime’s interiors as a teenager, leafing by pictures of his “transportive” properties in books and magazines. “Kime was evidently very well connected and he labored on some grand residences, but he managed to make them come to feel liveable. He wasn’t deferential. He never ever set their contents on a pedestal. There was always some thing sudden in them, which I discover very appealing — and also very English.”

The home of New Orleans-based decorator Calhoun Sumrall: ‘For me, he was more an archaeologist than a decorator, always unearthing interesting things’
The household of New Orleans-based decorator Calhoun Sumrall: ‘For me, he was more an archaeologist than a decorator, always unearthing exciting things’ © Jeff Strout 2022

For several some others, Kime became a mentor. New Orleans-based mostly Calhoun Sumrall to start with satisfied him when he was performing for Ralph Lauren. “I’d go to his warehouse in Wiltshire selecting out bits of aged saris and materials which we’d recreate [for clients] in beautiful colours.” It was Kime who encouraged Sumrall to swap style for interiors, and have the self confidence to use what appealed to him. “He’d say: it is high-quality to mix a Victorian armchair with an Ikat lampshade — which is what I do.”

“For me, he was additional an archaeologist than a decorator, always unearthing fascinating items,” Sumrall claims. “That’s why he appealed to so several of us in the trend and resourceful world,” hence his collaboration with US designer Tory Burch, Sumrall adds. “There was normally a feeling of discovery when you visited his shop.”

Charlie Porter agrees: “It was never ever about planning — it was all about accumulating. He was a magpie who was excellent at getting fascinating factors for his customers. When you search at his work there’s usually a link amongst the setting and its operator. My dwelling is still a get the job done in progress but 1 day, that’s how I’d like it to feel.”

Come across out about our newest tales first — observe @FTProperty on Twitter or @ft_houseandhome on Instagram