From the bold to the subtle and blending old and new, KAGU Interiors creates a space which connects the owner to their surroundings. Founder, Ben Stokes, operates his interior design studio and shop in Tenterden’s High Street and says his love for interior design started when he was young. We caught up with Ben who lives in the town with girlfriend Sophie and their two-year-old daughter, Margot.

'Since I was young, I've had a deep interest in interior design. I attribute this passion to my parents who used to renovate properties together while simultaneously managing a nine-to-five job and raising three kids.

'Witnessing their creativity and dedication to making beautiful and functional spaces left a lasting impression on me and inspired me to pursue a career in interior design.'

Great British Life: A warm welcome in this entry way by KAGU Interiors CREDIT David Merewether PhotographyA warm welcome in this entry way by KAGU Interiors CREDIT David Merewether Photography

Offering a wide range of design services, from small-scale styling to comprehensive project management, collaborations with a variety of companies, tradespeople, suppliers and retailers, both locally and globally, KAGU Interiors is able to create a bespoke design service for every client.

Although it wasn’t all plain sailing in the beginning, Ben’s determination has paid off as he explains.

'After emailing over ten different interior design companies across the South East and receiving no reply, and despite having no formal training, I decided to open a KAGU shop in July 2017, hoping that customers would appreciate the products I sold and subsequently seek my services to help style their homes.

Great British Life: Bathing beauty with this roll top bath at Boys Hall Hotel, designed witht he help of KAGU Interiors CREDIT Mark Anthony FoxBathing beauty with this roll top bath at Boys Hall Hotel, designed witht he help of KAGU Interiors CREDIT Mark Anthony Fox

'Fast forward to today and KAGU Interiors has successfully completed around 20 projects to date.'

In October, Ben won a British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) award in the South East category for his work at Boys Hall Hotel in Ashford.

Not only was it his favourite project to date, but judges were also impressed, commenting Ben had successfully created a design 'that respects the property’s classic heritage whilst updating it with modern sensibilities' and that it was 'thoughtfully executed, with a respectful and caring touch.'

Great British Life: Lighting and accessories are key in this formal but relaxed entertainment spaceLighting and accessories are key in this formal but relaxed entertainment space

Ben added: 'With Boys Hall Hotel I had the opportunity to help transform the Jacobean Mansion into a unique and memorable boutique hotel experience. The project was challenging but the end result was worth it.

'Receiving the BIID award for our work on Boys Hall hotel was a tremendous honour. It signified the passion, creativity, and vision I poured into the project. This recognition from a top institution filled me with immense pride for where KAGU has come in such a short time.'

Since Ben’s accolade, Boys Hall Hotel has also gone on to win a Cesar Award in the Good Hotel Guide for 2024. Run by husband-and-wife team, Brad and Kristie Lomas, Kristie explains why they chose KAGU Interiors to be involved with the refurbishment.

Great British Life: The stunning Romden Hall with interior design by KAGU InteriorsThe stunning Romden Hall with interior design by KAGU Interiors

'Restoring this beauty has been a love affair since the start and we never wanted to knock it about too much, only strip it back to what made it magical in the first place. We kept a lot of the original features which include the master suite’s original 17th century panelling, part of which is from Windsor Castle that was gifted by King Charles I himself when he was fleeing England.

'Ben designed and made two bespoke coffee tables in the bar lounge – one out of an old butcher’s block, and another from left over timber beams from the restaurant (combining them with marble and glass).

'We were inspired by the surroundings of Boys Hall and the calming atmosphere it created, so we wanted to ensure we were bringing the outside in by using natural colours and textures.

Great British Life: Making the most of period features are key in this kitchen design at Romden HallMaking the most of period features are key in this kitchen design at Romden Hall

'Nearly all our furniture is either vintage or upcycled, adding to the authentic feel of the building, but redesigned to house all the modern amenities of a hotel. One of our favourite examples is our C18th pair of lounge chair which we re-upholstered in bold fabric (Linwood Omega Velvet in ‘Mantis) or similarly painting an antique sideboard in a modern and dramatic colour (Neptune’s Rhubarb).

'The bedrooms, designed with the help of Kagu Interiors, feature all the luxury modern amenities you’d expect, from spacious bathrooms with rolltop bathtubs and drench showers, combined with original fourposter beds and a wonderful array of vintage furniture and eclectic finds from antiques markets.'

Brad and Kristie knew they wanted the interiors to feel individual, sympathetic to the building history as well as a home-from-home, and KAGU has supported them on the journey.

Great British Life: Green and pink make for the stylish combo for this bathroom CREDIT David Merewether PhotographyGreen and pink make for the stylish combo for this bathroom CREDIT David Merewether Photography

'We’ve known each other for a long time, and I’ve always admired Ben’s style, he was a delight to work with.'

Ben’s inspiration continues to thrive, and travel will always be close to his heart.

'My girlfriend and I love to celebrate our birthdays with surprise getaways to boutique hotels across the country. Whenever we travel, I find myself inspired by the stunning architecture and design of the places we stay in. These experiences give me a wealth of ideas and inspiration that I can draw upon for any projects I may be working on.'

Great British Life: Mood boards are key in interior design projectsMood boards are key in interior design projects

And does he have a favourite part of working in interior design?

'It would be sitting down at my desk after seeing a new project and brainstorming ideas for a fresh concept. There's something exhilarating about the creative process. I find it incredibly rewarding to come up with unique and innovative solutions for each new design challenge.

'It's a privilege to be able to turn a client's vision into a tangible and functional space that exceeds their expectations and I love every aspect of the design process that brings that vision to life.'

Looking ahead to a new year, he reflects on how far he has come, the importance of being sustainable in the industry, and why there’s plenty to look forward to.

Great British Life: Boys Hall Hotel bedrooms, designed with the help of KAGU Interiors, feature all the luxury modern amenities you'd expect CREDIT Mark Anthony FoxBoys Hall Hotel bedrooms, designed with the help of KAGU Interiors, feature all the luxury modern amenities you'd expect CREDIT Mark Anthony Fox

'It goes without saying that as a society we all have a responsibility to prioritize and implement sustainable practices where we can.

'I am immensely proud of having established KAGU Interiors despite lacking formal training and overcoming the challenges posed by my dyslexia.

'During 2023 we were involved in a mix of both small and large projects and as we enter 2024, we are looking forward to expanding our portfolio and reputation.'

Great British Life: KAGU worked with the owners of Romden Hall to achieve a stunning homeKAGU worked with the owners of Romden Hall to achieve a stunning home

More about Ben

His home…

'A century-old Grade II property with plenty of character and high ceilings. Unlike our previous house which had a more contemporary feel we decided to go for a darker and cosier ambiance in this home.'

He’d take a peek around…

'If I had the opportunity to explore someone's house, I would choose Richard Branson's private island Necker Island.'

His interiors tip…

'I often get asked for interior design advice and I always suggest people start with the flooring. In my opinion the right flooring is the foundation of any successful interior design project. It's like building a house, starting from the ground up ensures everything else falls seamlessly into place. So, my tip is to choose your flooring carefully and build the rest of your design around it.'

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