THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS: Kelly Hoppen

Winner of the Andrew Martin Interior Design Award, Kelly Hoppen has designed everything from the interior of a Lear jet to 112 Harley Street, the new concept hotel-cum-nursing home. Her homewares range is available at Debenhams and she will launch her Feng Shui Aromatics collection in the autumn.

I got my first commission when I was just 16, to design a friend's kitchen. Looking back I should have freaked, but I've always been completely fearless. It was quite bland but they liked it and soon afterwards I designed racing driver Guy Edwards's house and got involved with the racing circuit.

I've never had any formal training apart from a short course, but my family is very artistic. My parents were great and took us to Italy and all the galleries in the holidays. I also spent a lot of time with my grandparents in South Africa. They had a house full of antiques, art and Venetian glass which they treated like we would an Ikea glass today. In retrospect that house had a huge impact on me.

I get my inspiration from everything around me. A lot of people tend to look at what others are doing, but to be really innovative you have to keep your eyes open. I like to look at nature or wander around a city browsing in flea markets and unusual places.

I find designing very easy. I can literally do it in my sleep and wake up and jot down ideas in the morning. Implementing the whole thing can cause a lot more problems. People will let you down and you spend the whole time on the phone trying to sort things out and manage the client.

Fifteen years ago I'd say that I and a lot of designers were designing with our egos, trying to enforce our vision on other people. Today I design houses for the people who are going to live in them, not always what I'd choose myself. It's a great confirmation when people first see it and say: "We feel we've been here all our lives." It's even better if I go back 10 years later and find that nothing has changed.

People often tell me: "Kelly you have such a glamorous life." But I can tell you it can be pure hell on a building site. My success hasn't come overnight: I've been at it for 23 years. But if you're passionate about design and put everything into it, you will succeed.

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