Book Review: The New Robert Kime

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“A room should represent the absent owner, its arrangement is the owners memory”

In the newly published book by Alastair Langlands, Robert Kime reveals that he follows in the tradition Mario Praz ‘s Philosophy of Furniture and that his rooms represent the character of their owner.  From this point of view, this beautifully produced book becomes even more fascinating.   Not only can the reader observe the genius of Kime’s work but also take pleasure in attempting to gain insight into the character and personality of the owner.

The Dining Room South Wraxall Manor. Photographer Tessa Traeger.

Considering Robert Kime’s importance for many years as the undisputed King of interior decoration, this book is remarkably understated and discreet. Decorator to half the aristocracy, a plethora of rock stars and most importantly The Prince of Wales, this book provides a wonderful opportunity to see his work.

Beautiful cantilevered staircase created by Mary Lou Arscott, at La Gonette Provence. Photographer Tessa Traeger

From surprisingly humble cottages, to the gorgeous romantic fantasy of South Wraxall Manor, home of John Taylor and Gela Nash Taylor,  we pass through Royal, Ducal, and palatial residences, via the Caribbean and South of France. To the discerning eye, it is possible to begin to distil a few of the elements of Kime’s genius and the magic that he weaves. The book covers a period of over twenty years and it is also notable to see how timeless the work is and how many of the ideas have been adopted by the mainstream over the years.

Bathroom, Royal Terrace Edinburgh. Photograph James Mortimer.

Famous for working on the “eye”, Kime began his career as a dealer, and when his CV is read backwards it seems it was almost inevitable that he would end up as decorator to the Prince of Wales.

The Sitting Room at Upper Farm. The Kime family home for several years. Photograph Tessa Traeger.

Following studying history at Oxford and an early break working for Mirriam Rothschild, Kime moved to Sotheby’s then back to Oundle to set off on his own - A career path that would eventually lead to becoming one of the greatest interior decorators of his age.


The Belveder, Swangrove.  Photographer Fritz von der Schulenburg.

Robert Kime has worked with both of the great dealer decorators, Geoffrey Bennison and Christopher Gibbs, and throughout the book it is easy to see their influence on his work, especially in the magical arrangement of objects and his trademark antique and later own label textiles.  This sensational visual vibration, between beautiful and sometimes disparate shapes and patterns, chosen and arranged on the eye, is the essence of his work.

Dining room at the Duke of Beauforts Maison du Plaisance, Swangrove. The owners presence embodied in the order of the garter flasks on the chimney piece.  Photographer Fritz von der Schulenburg

The rooms created by Robet Kime and featured throughout the book by Langlands are not formally ostentatious, although they are very smart.   Even when very strong pieces are used, as in The Garden Room at Clarence House, they are offset against other pieces of equal value, giving a sense of overall richness and wonder. The patterns and colours resonate against each other delightfully, with the subtext of visual harmony feeding the critical eye and distinguishing his work from his many impersonators.

Drawing Room, Royal Terrace Edinburgh. Photographer James Mortimer.

Overall, this book is not only a shining example of the literary eye of Alistair Langlands, but also a visual feast of exquisite works by Robert Kime, - definitely one for the festive wish list.

Robert Kime: Text by Alistair Langlands

Photographs by Tessa Traeger

Frances Lincoln Limited October 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7112-3663-9