CARNATION-LIKE TRIBAL hats rest on a bitter-chocolate coffee table. An airy parachute silk curtain like a bridal veil plunges in pools of fabric onto steps curved like waves. Goldfish bowls of white sand and coral perch on shelves. Elsewhere, chandeliers, orchids and arum lilies with pleated stems greet the eye. Cushions seem to bulge from every available soft furnishing. Welcome to the world of English designer Kelly Hoppen, 46, who presents this vision in her seventh and latest book, Kelly Hoppen Style: the Golden Rules of Design ($425). 'It's sort of taken the world by storm,' says Hoppen, of the book that she says contains 'essentially everything that I know'. If, behind the display of knowledge lies a message, it is, perhaps, that the time has come to revive and redefine luxury, which Hoppen says should be spare yet flamboyant, grand and hi-tech. 'Forget gold taps, acres of marble and wall-to-wall glitz,' she writes. 'The question you have to ask yourself is: What is your luxury?' She defines hers as 'a gigantic kitchen, dining room and living area combined, complete with a huge plasma screen, where I could do everything and be with everyone in one fabulous place'. Elaborating, she writes of how she loves to wake up 'in the most comfortable bed imaginable' and see the curtains blowing in the wind. Another must is a shower 'that pounds the muscles'. Overall, 21st-century luxury boils down to 'achieving a more chilled and tailored way of living' facilitated by lashings of her favourite colour: taupe. On paper, taupe doesn't seem wildly glamorous. It's a dark grey tinged with brown, reminiscent of moleskin. 'It's just a colour which I just happen to love and it is a very ... Zen colour,' Hoppen says. 'It's a very spiritual colour. And, yeah, the press mock it and all the rest of it and yet our paint sales have rocketed since we brought out this colour.' Hoppen says that her firm, whose headquarters are on the fringes of London's fashionable Chelsea, sells about #1.8 million worth ($26.2 million) of taupe paint a year. 'It's quite phenomenal,' she says. However, she warns that, because of its yellowy feel, you should never mix taupe with buttery paint or anything tainted by yellow. 'People always get it wrong and mix the two together. And you can't,' Hoppen says, as forceful as the scything signature that clinches the introduction to Golden Rules. Her Midas touch has earned her a sweeping portfolio. Her commissions include Lear Jet and British Airways first-class cabins, country houses, private homes and corporate spaces such as the London and Geneva offices of asset management firm Unigestion and the Royal Mougins Golf Club near Cannes on the French Riviera. And just in case her message is not getting across, she has set up the Kelly Hoppen Design School, at which classes of up to 14 students receive her wisdom on everything from styling to budgeting, dealing with clients and time management. The secret of her success is, apparently, honesty. 'I think that the philosophy behind my business and how we design is real,' she says. 'You know, I design real homes for real people.' Her candour permeates the book like the force she believes we should exploit to the maximum: light. 'Nobody likes to address the question of money directly because we would all prefer to pretend that we are richer than we are,' Hoppen writes. 'However, it is important to be realistic. The fact is you will spend every penny you have and everything will cost twice as much as you expected. Do your sums on that basis.' Hoppen tries to marry her cent-counting pragmatism with sensitivity. She says she cares about how people feel about their homes and the colours that adorn them, and that her approach owes a debt to eastern philosophy. Her appetite for it dates back to when she started her business at the age of 16. She kept thinking that something was missing, but one day, she found it - in the shape of a 'fairly minimalist' old Chinese trunk that she bought from a market. Hoppen says: 'I remember bringing it home and then I got absolutely obsessive reading about the east and the philosophy.' She says that something just clicked, and she wound up travelling throughout China, Japan and Thailand. Buddhas and other examples of eastern iconography began to characterise her work, which sold well on both sides of the globe. Asians and Caucasians were seduced by the idea of melding east with west. The synthesis spawned her first book, in 1997, East Meets West, which juxtaposed Tibetan heads with classical busts, and mixed Balinese baskets and Chinese lacquerware with French furniture and English country fabrics. Cross-hemisphere design duly developed into a high-street craze. Does she think it eventually became a cliche? 'No, but like anything, the minute design becomes fashionable they just drown it and then it loses its beauty in a sense, and then you have to show people how to use things within limits.' In her next book, Close Up, she tried to show that you can create eastern style without cramming a Buddha into every alcove. The space-management restraint of fung shui lies at the heart of her work. She says she's embraced the system for decades, despite the ridicule her loyalty has sometimes inspired. Twenty-five years ago, she says, people thought she was loopy. But she defended fung shui as simply the design equivalent of keeping your body in balance. Her conviction that the system was right deepened when she met what she calls a shamanic energy man who said she naturally understood the principles of harmony. Hoppen has never studied fung shui. 'I have never read a book on it - it's just an instinctive thing,' she says. She admits that fung shui finally became 'very bubblegum'. Even so, she says she still believes strongly that it works, and it remains critical to her outlook. Commenting on the outlook for design, generally, Hoppen says that last year seemed to centre on war and disaster. However, creativity often emerges from misfortune and misery and so it's up to artists 'to make this happen'. Nonetheless, they'll be driven by fashion, which often spearheads design innovation. The boho hippie look is filtering through, she says. 'Homes are becoming much more relaxed, even slightly creased,' Hoppen says. 'I'm still fully convinced of the continuation of a neutral base, but with splashes and injections of colours depending on your mood.' People will be much more in tune with their emotions, she says. Homes will increasingly mirror how people feel - or want to feel. Hoppen's catchphrase is: 'It's all about the mood.' The mood means hard lines are definitely out. Expect to see 'subtle, cocoon-like colours and fabrics' - that is, 'light yet warm and versatile design' in a dynamic environment. 'Nothing is static,' she says. Boosted by the growth of the decor market, sophisticated shoppers are building and decorating homes they enjoy and take pride in. They should keep the look light-hearted, though, and not 'be imprisoned or dictated to' by trends, despite the muscle that big brands have. 'We all follow attentively and love feeling a sense of belonging in the safety of a leading and recognised brand,' she says. And their power is strengthening. But as people get to know themselves, their own particular style will strengthen, too. 'Our interiors may aspire overall to resemble a particular brand, but it will be sprinkled with tokens of ourselves to create a far more individual look,' she says. 'More relaxed and eclectic.'