Designing inspirational interiors is Karine Kong’s business, so it’s no wonder that her own home is brimming with her signature Gallic charm
WHEN Karine Kong first came to London, she was a wide-eyed French teenager, arriving on the overnight coach into Victoria station from Paris. Despite being brought up in a small village near Cognac in the South West of France, she was certain she wanted to make her home in the city one day.
Nearly 17 years later she is head of online interiors and fashion concept store, Bodie and Fou.
After several jobs in London, including working on the shop floor for Swatch in Oxford Street, and doing PR for Universal Film and Music, Karine decided she wanted to start her own company. In 2005, along with her sister, her partner and her brother, with an investment of £15,000 each, they set up Bodie and Fou, selling a mix of designer style, with a strong Parisian edge. Karine also has exclusive collaborations with leading designers Jacqueline Morabito and Birgit Ostergaard.
The company now has clients all over the world, including celebrities such as Helena Christensen, Naomi Cleaver and Meg Mathews.
However, it wasn’t always plain sailing. When the company started up, there was already a recession and in 2008 it got worse. However, Christmas 2008 saw an upsurge in internet shopping, with many people choosing to buy their Christmas presents online. The company had its base in Bristol at this time, where Karine and her partner Steve were living, but they decided it was the right time to move to London.
Home today is a four-storey, three-bedroom house in West London’s Hammersmith that she shares with Steve and their seven-year-old daughter Mila. The couple bought the house two years ago, attracted by the space it offered.
“The first thing we noticed about this house was the huge ceilings with original cornicing in many places. The fact that it only had one bathroom and four bedrooms meant it was not very popular, but as there are only three of us it works well. We put in an offer and got it straight away,” she says.
As soon as you walk in the door, the elegance and style are obvious. This is the chic, monochromatic, clutter-free look that exemplifies modern urban living.
There are pretty much two colours throughout the house – if it is not black, it has to be white. A concession is made for the green Ikea chairs that are dotted around the huge wooden kitchen table which was handmade by Steve.
Karine also painted the kitchen cabinets black: “They were so dirty looking when grey, no matter what we did they always looked dirty.” But covering them in sleek black paint creates a stylish, modern finish.
Upstairs they have relented slightly on the colour scheme and a splash of Farrow and Ball’s Downpipe grey covers one wall of their daughter’s bedroom. In the master bedroom, Farrow and Ball’s Pavilion Grey is used on one side of the room.
Throughout the house there are wooden floorboards, some of which have been painted white to maximise the light. Instead of curtains, Karine has cut out plastic embossed stickers and used them against the windows to allow more light in.
“When I moved in I wanted to wait at least a couple of months to get a real feel for the place and see what kind of space the house was,” Karine explains. “It’s important not to start decorating immediately,” she adds.
Quirky ideas are apparent throughout her home. In the guest bedroom, industrial wood palettes provide the base for the bed. “It was quite a struggle pulling them up to the fourth floor,” Karine laughs. However, it was also the cover of their last catalogue and proved to be extremely popular. She has also created family moodboards of black and white photographs stuck directly on to the wall with black masking tape.
Many of her bestselling products are on display in her home, from the white Ghost sofa, designed by Paola Navone, and the Paulistano chair, designed by Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, to the unique light fittings in the main bedroom by Kathleen Hills.
The house is clearly well organised. “Over the years, I have come up with a few tactics to allow us to have an inspiring white family home without compromising on my interior style,” says Karine.
“I like putting things to be stored in bags rather than on shelves or in cupboards. All my daughters gym outfits are in one bag and she has other things in white Ikea storage boxes with black masking tape labelling.”
Karine clearly relishes life in London. “I love going to Paris to visit my sister, but I prefer London,” she says. “There are more parks and they are beautiful, and I love the buzz and creativity. As a French person living in London, I get the best of both worlds because I can take what I like the most about both countries. It’s very liberating to live abroad and London is beautiful.”
• Karine’s favourite things
What is your favourite music?
I love everything by Vanessa Paradis.
What is your favourite perfume?
Anything uplifting - I tend to use one bottle and then move on. The last one I loved was Happy by Clinique.
Do you have any favourite hangouts in London?
I love brunching at High Road in Chiswick and if we have friends around, we always take them to Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. I always think it’s such a gorgeous, magical place to visit.
Do you have a favourite hotel?
I love Hotel Bauzá in Madrid and I’m dying to go to Aire de Bardenas in the middle of nowhere in Spain.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
By the beach, either our house in France near the Bay of Arcachon or Waihi Beach on the north Island of New Zealand where Steve is from.