Dragons' Den star talks design - and starting a business

Kelly Hoppen explains how to style an interior, and offers her top tips for starting a business

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Kelly Hoppen's big break came at 16, when a friend of her father asked her to design his kitchen. "It was my first assignment and I haven't looked back since," she says. "The passion grew stronger and the projects bigger."

Here, the queen of luxe interiors, shares her style secrets, advice for budding entrepreneurs and recipe for good health at 55.

Design philosophy and inspiration

Kelly's go-to interiors shops and trade fairs include The Cloth Shop in Notting Hill, London Design Week and Decorex. In Europe, she never misses Maison et Objet in Paris (the next one is 23-27 January) or Salone del Mobile in Milan.

Along with her hometown of London, Kelly's trips overseas influence her work. "I travel to such wonderful places through my job, and everywhere inspires me," she says.

"I love the Eastern philosophy, sense of tranquillity, harmony and way of life. Places like Paris and Italy have such fantastic culture, people, food and sights...they're always inspiring."

Kelly is famous for her taupe colour palette and minimalist taste. She typically works with neutral colours, a trademark of her vintage-inspired East-meets-West style.

"I like the palette's simplicity," she says. "Not only is it easy to work with and pair different colours, textures and fabrics to, it also screams luxury. These tones complement any splashes of colour or excitement you want to add to the room."

In Kelly's eyes, cramming a room full of different colours and textures can overcrowd it: "A room is a beautiful thing, a space to make your own, and I feel that neutral colour palettes always complement best."

Kelly's tips for updating your home

The number one way to transform your home: "The most important element for transforming the ordinary into the show-stoppingly extraordinary is to go the extra mile. Style is not always about designing the room to perfection, but looking at the project as a whole and how everything works together.

"The finishing touches – artwork, lighting, photographs, right down to the scent of the room –are vital. Art and a personal stamp are key."

Get the lighting right: "Getting the lighting right is crucial to setting the mood and the tone. More styles mean more mood choices, so always plan more than you need.

"Natural light is always best but isn't always an option, so beautiful lamps and uplighters help bring a room to life."

If you have a limited budget: "Revamp. Give your home a second life with a lick of paint or shuffle around existing furniture.

"It is possible to substitute expensive materials with more affordable ones which are just as sophisticated, and mix textures to result in a high-end look."

Adding personality to your home: "No home should be without a dash of personality. Your home is YOUR home so make it feel that way. No one wants to live in a show home; fill it with photographs of loved ones and personal touches."

Kelly herself lives in a Georgian house in Notting Hill. She has completely gutted it, rebuilding the interiors from scratch. "While I loved the house's Georgian shell, I wanted to make my own mark on the interior," she says.

"It's now very modern: a lot of black wood and neutral colours with concealed lighting behind walls. In other words, sticking to my usual style!"

Celebrating turning 50

Kelly celebrated her 50th birthday in style, renting a villa in Ibiza for her family and friends, including a few famous faces.

" My daughter, Natasha, organised a delicious evening for 500 people and I celebrated with all my loved ones. Pete Tong and Antz DJ'd. David Walliams and Ben De Lisi came. Great food, fantastic wine, even better company – I couldn't have asked for more!"

She's always been a big Ibiza fan. "People tend to only think of its clubs, but there's some amazing scenery there, especially in the north."

Recipe for good health

The flawless, flame-haired Queen of Taupe always looks amazing, despite her hectic schedule, with a multi-pronged, holistic approach to health.

She follows an alkaline way of eating: "My daughter taught me how amazing an alkaline lifestyle is. Honestly Healthy's recipes plus daily exercise are the perfect duo for me.

"Dr Joshi at the holistic Joshi Clinic in Wimpole Street looks after my health. For skincare, I love Linda Meredith's facials. Sleep and drinking loads of water are essential with my workload."

Striking a life/work balance is important to her. "I work in a very focused way and when I finish, and at weekends, I relax and recharge my battery, unless I'm filming Dragon's Den. I'm lucky that I have a great team of people behind the scenes help me balance everything."

She always finds time for loved ones ("They're the most important thing") and says her business is also very important to her, so is not far behind. "There's a lot to do but I enjoy every bit of it and my family and amazing team's support makes things a lot easier.

"I think life is about working hard, putting all that you have into your projects 95 per cent of the time, and making sure the five per cent of relaxing time's the most incredible holiday or time out."

Kelly is a firm believer that age doesn't matter: "I've never thought about it," she says. "This is why I've always been honest about my age."

Career highlights and business success

Kelly's 40th anniversary in the design industry is looming. Over that time, her unique flair has won her numerous accolades including the 'Oscar' of the industry, the Andrew Martin Interior Designer of the Year award.

Her greatest achievement, she feels, was receiving her MBE in 2009: "It was a huge honour to meet the Queen and be presented with such an award."

She currently has more than 50 ongoing international projects. When she's not working on interiors or on product designs for her online store, or writing books, she champions entrepreneurs and invests in innovative new businesses. She says she loves filming Dragons' Den and can never wait for the next series to start.

She's also an ambassador for the Prince's Trust and works with PRIME, The Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise. The organisation empowers 50 to 64-year-olds who are facing redundancy or unemployment to embrace self-employment in order to generate income and boost their self-worth.

Kelly will soon be celebrating the first anniversary of her e-commerce store, as well as opening a new studio. She says there will be more exciting news soon.

Any regrets in life? "No, I'm happy with how things have turned out. I'm very fortunate to have a great business doing something I love. Any mistakes in the past have been nothing but a learning curve to get me to where I am now in my life."

Kelly Hoppen's top tips for entrepreneurs

• The secret to my success is simple: hard work and passion. I love and am proud of what I do, so it's easy to put all my efforts into it. I work equally hard on every assignment; they're all so different and unique. When each is finished, I get a sense of immense pride.
• Do your research, know your market and your unique selling proposition, and be credible.
• If you have a dream, chase it. Stick to your vision, be creatively inspired by everything around and follow your gut instincts.
• Most importantly, have self-belief. If you don't believe in your project or yourself, how will anybody else? If you have confidence in your ability and designs, paired with determination, you'll go far.

Visit the Kelly Hoppen website or download her Home Style iPhone app for interiors advice and inspiration

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