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Curated By... Henriette Kockum

Head of Design at Life House, Henriette Kockum joins us to discuss the hotel group’s newest opening for the latest instalment of Curated By

Combining a natural flair for Scandinavian minimalism with an eclectic mix of locally sourced vintage treasures, the 29 year-old Swedish native breathes new life into one of the only Tudor buildings in Miami. The aim? To capture the personality of Life House in a way that feels right for its new, beachy location: South of Fifth.

We ask what makes this project unique, and how we can work a little Kockum magic into our own homes.

How did you get into interior design?

I studied art in Paris, but while I was there I fell in love with classic European architecture. I was drawn to the beauty of vintage furniture, so I moved to New York to study interior design. As a child I was obsessed with the computer game The Sims, and suddenly it felt like I could make my passion my work.

What is your design philosophy?

Looking at the context of a space is important to me. I always consider where it is and who is using it, and I spend time getting to know the area, the local people, its artists and creatives before I start moodboarding ideas.

Life House appeals to me because its concept comes from a place of research. Every new hotel is centred around three pillars of inspiration: its building, its protagonist, and its personality. For the South of Fifth hotel, we’ve embraced the 1930s Tudor architecture and brought in coastal and Art Deco influences that celebrate its location. A project like this needs to feel natural. I don’t believe in enforcing a style on a building if it doesn’t feel right.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

At home I keep things quite restrained and minimal. I work with neutral colours and I don’t often use pattern, adding richness by layering textures and contrasting materials. I use vintage pieces to bring character, and when I travel I pick up keepsakes and trinkets that feel unique.

At work, I try to capture the soul and identity of a place and bring in elements that are consistent with existing Life House hotels. At the new Miami property we’ve kept the colour palette light and added sienna and gold accents for a touch of glamour, as well as the same lacquered jade ceiling that features elsewhere at Life House. A stained-glass backdrop at the bar contradicts the stone worktop, which is curved to mimic the swell of the sea.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Traditionally I’ve always loved museums and travel. Whenever I’m in a new place I look for its vintage stores, and I’m curious about other restaurants and hotels. Paris planted the interior design seed for me; I think the architecture there is special. With travel less accessible, a lot of my research and inspiration moved online, specifically to Instagram and Pinterest. I’d recommend adding these to your following: @chelsaeanne @frederika_galerie @mouse_interiors @loftandthought @le_cime

Where are some of your favourite places to source homeware? 

There’s an incredible store in San Francisco called March that I have always loved. It stocks the crème de la crème of homewares… it’s aspirational as opposed to affordable. When it comes to buying for myself, I tend to thrift online. Instagram and Etsy are home to a host of new and wonderful vintage stores.

For Life House South of Fifth, we sourced most of the furniture from the surrounding area. The mid-century sofa in the lobby, for example, came from a local antique-collector couple.

How does travelling influence your designs and tastes?

I’m always fascinated by how the use of materials differs between cities and countries, and I look at details as opposed to an entire space. Colour and fabric combinations, as well as how things are proportioned, can often define a location’s overall aesthetic.

How have you captured the Miami lifestyle with the interiors at Life House South of Fifth? 

Most of the materials we used are inspired by the coast, and we’ve added seaside elements like shiplap panelling and wicker bar stools. The eclectic collection of South Beach treasures and vibrant artwork celebrate our protagonist: a local artist and collector. We wanted to make this property intimate and relaxed to reflect Miami’s ‘come as you are’ vibe.

List some designers and/or makers you really admire and tell us why you admire them…

I have enjoyed working with Tom Falkener on a couple of projects and I like the way you can use his work with contemporary art which I have done recently in Greece, but also some older pieces of furniture to enliven them as his pieces are fun. Also in the same vein, Julian Chichester – because it is important to me to be able to make bespoke furniture for clients.

How can we bring a touch of Henriette Kockum magic into our own homes?

Don’t feel the pressure to buy into trends and only invest in things you absolutely love. Start small because good design can be found in any item, and embrace heirlooms to add character that can’t be found in a shop. By pulling in a mix of styles, you’ll avoid creating anything too formal.

What’s next for Henriette Kockum and Life House?

We’re working hard on two additional openings this year: one in the Berkshires and one in Palm Springs. Both locations are completely different to each other, and to Miami South of Fifth, so they’re exciting projects. Watch this space…

Life House Miami South of Fifth opens on 29 April 2022.

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