kate halfpenny kent home drawing room

A pretty penny: Inside bridal designer Kate Halfpenny’s colourful Kent home

05 Jun 2024 | |By Kari Colmans

One of the capital’s most celebrated bridal designers, Kate Halfpenny made a name for herself in the early Noughties with her fashion-forward bridal house, Halfpenny London. We meet her at home in Kent to see how

“I don’t abide by trends or rules,” says Kate Halfpenny, the designer, owner, and all-round visionary behind elegant London bridal house, Halfpenny London. “Accessories can always be added or taken away, but the essence of a design always has to be timeless.”

Growing up in Derbyshire in a creative household, surrounded by the off-cut fabrics and draping textiles from which her mother would continually redecorate her childhood home, Halfpenny always had a passion for design. Encouraged from a young age to “carve out her own identity”, it’s a narrative she followed throughout her education at art school, and now as a wedding dress designer by day, while moonlighting as a interior designer at any chance she gets.

Halfpenny’s @halfpenny_at_home Instagram account documents her interior “obsessions and inspirations”, having just completed a full rejuvenation of her twin Bloomsbury bridal stores, as well as the meticulous renovation of a beautiful old house (and her new family home) in Faversham, Kent. Peppered with personal photographs (plus a candid snap from a tea party at Buckingham Palace last weekend), it’s all big bathtubs, heavenly staircases, and exciting artwork – plus the occasional voluminous overskirt and veil, of course.

One of the most celebrated bridal designers in the industry, Halfpenny made a name for herself in the early Noughties. While working as a TV stylist, her good friend, the actress Emilia Fox, asked Halfpenny to design three wedding dresses for her 2005 nuptials. From there the enquiries – and frothy, organza Riri skirts – took off. Halfpenny’s signature tulle overlay skirts, paired with fun mini under-skirts, quickly became the go-to for brides looking for more daring, fun and frivolous wedding dresses. Having cut her teeth at the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Agent Provocateur, I ask if she ever considered going down the big fashion brand route. “I need the freedom of the wilderness,” she replies.

Located on the famous Woburn Walk in Bloomsbury, Halfpenny’s two stores straddle the historic arcade, designed by architect Thomas Cubitt in 1822 as one of the first pedestrian shopping streets of the Regency era. She takes me on a tour through the whimsical main store, recently redesigned in collaboration with MUTT Studios: an ergonomic black rail flows corner to corner, framing the silhouette of the elegant space, while a thick, draping curtain slouches in the wings, ready to swoosh across with flair when the bride-to-be steps up. Lee Broom lights and black fibreglass antique chairs add a sophisticated edge.

Interesting artwork frames the neutral, calming walls, from vibrant Jeff Lowe pieces on paper, to a stunning cashmere blanket by Faversham-based painter Rose Wylie, who is also a friend of Halfpenny’s. “It’s all I could actually afford of her work!” she jokes.

White Ett Hem forever flowers in bell jars fill side tables, nooks, and corners, juxtaposed with decorated earthenware by Dylan Bowen, peering out like tiny, futuristic avatars. A Polly Penrose self-portrait is particularly arresting, but I am most drawn to her “lucky talisman”, a piece that has been with her for years, picked up at an antique fair: a dress made of dragonfly wings. It is reminiscent of the delicate, intricate dresses for which Halfpenny is renowned.

kate halfpenny bedroom

She also has a little piece of home with her: amazing work by her exceptionally talented artist husband, James Lee-Duffy, whose exuberant and explosive style is inspired by cartoons and fragmented childhood memories. I also spot a self-portrait by her eight-year-old son, Sylvester, who also features on her social media account, and seems to be following in her creative footsteps. Halfpenny recounts a Zoom call with Net-A-Porter, mid-kitchen re-paint, during which her son interrupted in full-blown panic mode because he thought the base coat for the ceiling was the wrong shade. “I’m grooming him for a life led by incredible design,” she muses.

Her seaside passion project has brought Halfpenny a sense of calm, which she balances with a couple of days a week in London, working in the atelier. Indeed, she is rooted to them both. While the fresh air and endless woodland gives her the headspace to create, she’s also inspired by the beauty and architecture of the capital. From the Serpentine Gallery to the Tate, she can’t get enough. “There’s nothing I love more than pottering through Burlington Arcade or the Royal Academy.”

This love of art permeates throughout her interior design choices. Halfpenny’s house renovations follow a similar narrative to that of her shop, mirroring in tone and texture, but of course, with a few personal flourishes, too. I ask how she approaches designing an interior, and its similarities to that of a dress. “It’s the same as in I always like to see the product in its environment,” she answers. “I’ll hold a piece of fabric up to a client in the same way I would to a wall or couch. Often, it’s the things that shouldn’t go together that create the most delight.”

I ask if she’d ever consider making the career switch full time. And while friends (Emilia Fox and Myleene Klass) have let Halfpenny loose on their own homes, she’d only consider working for someone who had full trust in her – and a big budget to back it. Once you’ve seen Halfpenny’s own home it’s not hard to see why. Floor-to-ceiling buttercup yellow, statement lighting and a penchant for unusual ephemera (a disembodied doll’s head sits encased in a bell jar on her coffee table) aren’t for everyone. But they do of course, suit Halfpenny down to the ground.

Halfpenny’s personal style is all her own – whether that’s her home, her business of her wardrobe. She ignores trends entirely, knowing what she likes, and loving what she chooses. “I adore accessories, especially rings and jewellery – evil eyes particularly. I feel naked without them.” When it comes to her wardrobe, she can’t get enough Issey Miyake. “I also adore all the old Marni stuff, as well as Ganni. I have this one old Comme de Garcon skirt that is my absolute favourite piece.” She pairs these ensembles with Nike X Undercover trainers, which she has in every single colour, along with an extensive collection of Chanel handbags and thick-rimmed glasses on proud display in her bedroom.

In Halfpenny’s home and work an array of eclectic tastes come together in perfect harmony. And her loyal legion of brides wouldn’t have it any other way.

Visit halfpennylondon.com

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