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NEW YORK — Two doyennes of interiors bring their styles to the public eye: Kelly Hoppen at Bergdorf Goodman and Alexa Hampton on PBS.

Hoppen’s Stance

Kelly Hoppen, the self-proclaimed British “taupe queen” of interior design, is taking America. Or at least trying to.

Not only does this week mark the official opening of her first U.S. boutique, but also the launch of her latest book, “Kelly Hoppen Style,” a coffee-table tome that outlines her zen aesthetic. What’s more, her stepdaughter Sienna Miller’s first movie, “Alfie,” opens nationwide Friday.

The book already has been out in England for six weeks with, so far, “record sales,” according to Hoppen, who’s just off the plane from London to prepare for her boutique’s opening party. The 600-square-foot space at Bergdorf Goodman sells $300 pillows; room sprays such as Scent One, which smells like “a clean man,” and bedspreads and couches. (Larger shops in Neiman Marcus in Miami and San Francisco are to follow.)

Wearing the requisite taupe-colored sweater with her watch on the outside and a pair of Miss Sixty jeans, Hoppen is sitting in the entrance to her boutique just off the elevators. She calls it her “living room”: two big chairs and an end table, which she casually brushes to make sure everything’s in proper order. She’s especially hyper about the fact that stock is dwindling in the boutique. “Don’t look at that,” she says, as she approaches a particularly bare shelf. Sales have been brisker than expected with customers charging everything from an elaborate wall mirror to small round plants that were supposed to be for display.

Books and stores, however, have never been enough for Hoppen. She’s been shopping a television show around Hollywood. The idea came out of her school in London, where she teaches six-day master classes in interior design.

Because no deal has been signed, Hoppen can’t say exactly what the series will be about. “Makeover shows are dead,” she says. “It’s more of a reality show, but it’s real. I’m not going to show people how they can change their lives for $2. It’ll be about my work at the top end. Everyone aspires to be the top, but not everyone can achieve it.”

This story first appeared in the November 4, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

So, something along the lines of “The Apprentice”? “What’s ‘The Apprentice’?” Hoppen asks. “No, it’ll be better,” she responds, without irony. Then she adds: “I’ve never seen it.”

Obviously, Hoppen’s confident attitude has helped her business grow. She never went to school for her trade and started interior design as a 16-year-old working on homes for race-car drivers after she was referred to one by a friend. She learned about how to stock a store from Joseph Ettedgui, the owner of the British line Joseph.

“He said that every Saturday he’d see the same people coming through the store,” Hoppen explains. So he’d change the merchandise every Friday night. “I would go to Brompton Cross to have a cup of coffee with a friend and then dip into Joseph. It would look like he had a totally new store.”

Besides her school of design, Hoppen has a freestanding shop in Notting Hill and a mail-order catalogue. “Kelly’s Taupe,” one of her paint colors, she says, is “the best-selling paint in England,” though she warns customers not to mix it with sand tones. Hoppen’s main business is creating houses from the ground up. Clients answer a 50-page questionnaire asking about their tastes and habits, and Hoppen develops their home from the architecture “down to the chocolates in the bowl.” The chocolates, naturally, are taupe-colored.

Though the world has subscribed to her philosophies, it’s been much more difficult imposing them on her kin. Her daughter, Natasha, an up-and-coming singer in London, wanted blank walls. “She’s completely bohemian.” Stepdaughter Savannah lives in the countryside and prefers the rustic look. As for Sienna, “I think she bought my paint.”

“It’s much better for your kids to have their own style. When they see taupe, they go like this,” Hoppen says, linking her index fingers in a vampire slayer-like gesture. “They take antitaupe pills.”
— Marshall Heyman

A Quest to Find Hidden Treasures

It’s hardly an exaggeration for Alexa Hampton to say that she and the production team of “Find,” a home show that begins its second season Friday on PBS, descend upon an apartment like a pack of wolves. They stash their coffee cups, handbags and camera equipment in the kitchen, and quickly stalk around their prey — today it’s an Upper West Side pied-à-terre — to question the origin of a sofa or how tiny speakers can be installed discreetly in the ceiling.

All of this is done to gather information for segments where Hampton, a Manhattan decorator who joined “Find” this season as a senior design consultant, leads viewers through exclusive homes around the country, simplistically showing off the work of interior decorators such as Lulu de Kwiatkowski, Albert Hadley and David Easton.

Hosts Leigh and Leslie Keno of “Antiques Roadshow” begin each episode by checking out antique furniture, art and objects in homes around the country (last season, they found a Martin Johnson Heade painting in a Massachusetts attic that brought in more than $1 million at auction). In the show’s final segment, Hampton gives a tour of a home. She was hired as much for her designing expertise as for her connections among world-class decorators.

This morning’s pied-à-terre was designed by Ernest de la Torre. “We wanted modern but we wanted to make it comfortable,” explains de la Torre, who is leading Hampton, director and executive producer Russ Morash and associate producer Laura LeBlanc around the 3,000-square-foot space he outfitted for a couple who use it when passing through the city. “They have a 10,000-square-foot home in South America, so this is their hotel room.”

And it’s a decadent one at that. There’s a Rauschenberg painting in the beige sitting room, where everyone goes crazy for a high-quality copy of a Twenties Ruhlmann sofa. In the so-called “media room,” darker taupe hues take hold in the form of calfskin leather walls, shag carpet, a pullout camel-hair sofa and cashmere and coyote-fur pillows. “Everything is so tactile,” Hampton observes.

De la Torre then leads the group to the foyer, a cube surrounded by dark wood panels that, when pushed lightly, reveal closets, a guest bathroom and a “secret passageway” that leads to two bedrooms. He points out a view of the Time Warner building from the master bedroom, saying: “They built it in the time it took me to do this apartment!”

“The smaller the space, the tougher it is to decorate,” Hampton says with a nod. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle.”

The tour completed, everyone’s attention turns to the details. A flower delivery arrives for the dining room table and coffee table, Hampton and Morash discuss what room to begin filming in and the remote control shades in the sitting area are adjusted to an optimal height.

As filming begins, Hampton moves easily through the apartment with de la Torre, who also proves to be a natural in front of the camera. Despite enviable decorating genes (her father was uberdecorator Mark Hampton), she is able to talk about design clearly and with no pretension.

“It looks like you’ve mined every square inch,” she remarks to de la Torre, pointing out a bar area right past the foyer.

And spoken like a true Manhattanite, he responds, “In New York, every single inch counts.”
— Jamie Rosen

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