From Bond Girl to design guru to boutique hotel pioneer, Anouska Hempel has made an indelible mark on diverse cultural spheres. Chosen for our latest Influencers List in the Design Hotels™ Book 2017, Hempel’s work spans architecture, interior and furniture design, haute couture, fashion, garden and product design. Brought up on a New Zealand sheep farm, Hempel sailed for London in her teens, where she managed to turn a fledgling acting career into a design empire. In 1978, she opened Blakes—arguably London’s first boutique hotel—in South Kensington to instant acclaim.
“I’d have the Gettys upstairs, Bob Dylan downstairs,” Hempel told Vanity Fair in 2015. “I was the barman and the housekeeper,” she said of the early days. Since then, she has owned, designed and managed three award-winning boutique hotels (Blakes London, Blakes Amsterdam, and The Hempel), all of which showcase her signature east-meets-west utopian style. Here’s a little preview of our interview with Hempel in the Design Hotels™ Book 2017.
Q: Before you became one of the world’s most in-demand interior designers, you were an actress appearing in, among other things, the 1969 Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Did this acting period in your life influence your future career as a designer and hotelier?
Oh yes. I was making movies around the world and nobody had anywhere nice to stay and we would discuss it while we were having lunch or dinner or chatting about a part in a play. I heard people saying that London was missing something, and so I went ahead and created Blakes.
“I was very, very aware that there was nothing like it and that’s why I created it.”
Q: As the force behind London’s Blakes Hotel, you were part of a very small group of people who kicked off a hospitality movement defined by experience. How did Blakes come to happen?
I was very, very aware that there was nothing like it and that’s why I created it. There was a missing spot in the market, between the high-end hotel industry in London and bed-and-breakfast land where you might see a bicycle tied to the railings. There was nowhere in-between that was jolly and amusing and a “home away from home”—a phrase we coined all those years ago.
Q: What is it you love most about the worlds you create for your guests?
When people are having such a good time that they don’t even know where they are, and they’re achieving something in their own lives by being part of my life, that is the most important thing.