Kelly Hoppen

Saga reporter / 23 September 2014

We test interior designer Kelly Hoppen's 'real' age.

Describe yourself in design terms.

Luxurious, purist and harmonious.

Minimalist or clutterbug?

I’m not a minimalist but I’m definitely not a clutterbug, either.    

Describe the home of your dreams?

I’m currently building the home of my dreams, in London, which will be ready next year. It will have lots of space and light, neutral tones and art for colour, rather than furniture.

And the home of your nightmares?

There are so many nightmares. I don’t like houses which are dark, chintzy, leathery, loud or bold.

What has been your most spontaneous act?

I once called up and rented a jet to fly to Morocco, with my best friend and six of my staff. We went for the weekend.

Confrontation or keep quiet?

I speak what’s on my mind and like to discuss things. I don’t keep anything in. It’s my nature. I like to have things out in the open. I don’t keep quiet. 

Hoard or throw away?

I hold onto all my clothes. My oldest item is a pair of trousers that I bought at Joseph. I wear them over and over again. They’re khaki and I’ve had them for 35 years. I have a big wardrobe.

What has been your bravest act?

When I was living in a five-storey house, when my daughter Natasha was a baby, I noticed something had gone from my bedside table. I looked round, saw a burglar in my home, grabbed my daughter and ran down five flights of stairs and out the door, to my neighbours. The burglar was never caught.

Surprise us.

I watch a lot of TV.  I’m addicted to EastEnders. I have to record it. I’ll come back from a business trip and watch eight in a row, in a single sitting.

Your guilty pleasure?

Black pepper Kettle Chips. I love them.

What is your most prized possession?

It’s a black and white photograph of my father, taken when we were on holiday, in Taormina, Sicily, shortly before he died. It’s a lovely picture of his face. I don’t have many pictures of him, so I had it cleaned up, made larger and framed. 

Exercise, diet or both?

I don’t diet but I eat well and exercise every day. I have lived like that since I was 17 years old. I have been the same weight for years and am probably fitter now than I’ve ever been. I exercise five days a week, with a personal trainer. I love exercise.

When did you last forget what you went upstairs for?

I’m always doing that. It happens a lot. I go into a room and think, ‘why am I here?’

What did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child, I only ever wanted to be an interior designer. My mother said when I was growing-up, I just wanted to look at show flats. My grandmother’s home in Cape Town was extraordinary. She had great style, as did my mother.  

Object you’ve kept from childhood?

Let’s not talk about the teddy bear my mother threw away! I have kept all of my daughter’s toys in a storage facility because my mother chucked all of my stuff away when I grew up. I have nothing from my childhood, just photographs.

I take risks in business but not in my personal life.  

How do you relax?

For me, the ultimate relaxation is getting on a plane and going somewhere else. If I’m at home, I like relaxing over lazy lunches with friends.

Could you run a mile?

Oh yes, definitely.

When was the last time you broke the law?

I never break the law.

What’s the bad habit you can’t break?

Do I have to admit it? I gave up smoking ten years ago but I still chew Nicorette gum.

Medicine or alternative medicine?

Alternative, always. I don’t like to put any drugs in my body unless it’s absolutely necessary.  I had to have some work done to a tooth recently and hated taking antibiotics.

What's the last good deed you did for the planet?

I planted a tree, at our house in the country.

What is your longest friendship?

Vicki Edgson. She’s a nutritionist and we grew up together. I’ve known her since I was three-years-old. We went on ski-ing holidays with our parents and summer holidays together. We’ve been friends for as long as I can remember.

Can you still remember the lyrics of the first record you bought?

I can. It was Help! by the Beatles.

What’s your favourite song in the charts at the moment?

I love loads of music.I like Pixie Lott and Paloma Faith’s work.

When were you happiest?

I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, though growing-up in my grandmother’s home in South Africa was an incredibly happy time. I was also happy when I was married to Ed (Edwin Miller, from 1989 to 2003).

What makes you really grumpy?

A lack of sleep.

What was your nickname?

I’ve got loads. I’m variously called Kelly Lion, Kel, Celtic Wizard. I call my daughter Tasha, Gronk.

Who did you have a teenage crush on?

David Essex. I must have seen Godspell 24 times. I had a huge crush on David Cassidy, too and I adored Martin Shaw in The Professionals. I ended up designing his house, which was a dream come true!

When was your first kiss and who with?

That was with a lad called Tony, in South Africa, where I was born. We were playing kiss, dare and promise. I was 12 years old.

What are the two main lessons life has taught you?

Always be honest and follow your dream because nothing is impossible.

What piece of music gets you on a dance floor?

Oh, I love dancing! At the moment, it’s Happy by Pharrell Williams. It was played on the set of Dragons' Den one day and me and the other Dragons all got up and started dancing.

If your 16-year-old self could see you now, what would she say?

She would probably say, ‘Nothing’s too big and nothing’s big enough, so just get on and do it.’ I have the same mental drive now as I did when I was a confident teenager, though my knowledge is greater now. I think my confidence came from tragedy.

My father died aged 48, when I was 16 years old and I never wanted to experience that feeling of being let down again. I decided I wanted to have a business and be successful and that’s exactly what I did. Even as a teenager, I was never frightened of a project and never took no for an answer. I started working aged 16, designing a kitchen for a family friend.

What was your worst telling-off for?

When we moved to England, I bunked off school one day, to be with my boyfriend, who lived next door to us. I had told my dad I was going to ring the bells early at school and left with a change of clothing. My father suspected I was lying and called the school, who told him I hadn’t arrived. When I came back, I got such a beating from my father. He was absolutely fuming. I couldn’t sit down fora week.

Is your glass half full or half empty?

It’s always spilling over the top!

Verdict:

What a whirlwind! And far less scary than your Dragon persona might suggest. For sheer energy and verve we’ll put your virtual, Saga, age at 35, the same age as your classic Joseph trousers that also never go out of style.   

* For more about Kelly visit kellyhoppen.com

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