Tessa Kennedy

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Tessa Kennedy
Born Tessa Georgina Kennedy
(1938-12-06) 6 December 1938 (age 78)
Guildford, Surrey, England, UK
Nationality British
Citizenship United Kingdom
Education The Downs School (1949-1952)
Oak Hall (Wispers School), Haslemere (1952-1957)
École des Beaux-Arts (1957)
Occupation interior designer
Years active 1940–present
Employer Tessa Kennedy Design, Ltd.
Known for Elopement
Home town London, England, UK
Spouse(s) Dominick Elwes (1st husband)
Elliott Kastner (2nd husband)
Children Cassian Elwes
Damian Elwes
Cary Elwes
Dillon Kastner
Milica, Mrs Corcoran
Parent(s) Geoffrey Kennedy
Daška Ivanović
Relatives Siblings: Marina (twin sister)
Website Official website
BIDA website

Tessa Georgina Kennedy, FIIDA (born 6 December 1938) is a British interior designer, whose clients include multi-national corporations, royalty, celebrities and many European hotels, restaurants and clubs. Her elopement with society portrait painter Dominick Elwes made headlines in 1957.

Early life[edit]

Kennedy was born in Guildford, Surrey, one of three daughters of Osijek-born Daška Ivanović (1915–2004), and her first husband Geoffrey Alexander Farrer Kennedy (1908–1996). She is a niece of diplomat and former Yugoslav shipping magnate Vane Ivanović and great-great-niece of Dušan Popović, one of the founders of Yugoslavia. She is a great-granddaughter of the British engineer, Sir Alexander Blackie Kennedy and granddaughter of Sir John MacFarlane Kennedy, as well as of industrialist Ivan Rikard Ivanović. Her mother was of Croatian Jewish and Serbian descent. After her parents' divorce in 1949, her mother remarried, to Lt. Col. Neil McLean, DSO.[citation needed]


At age 18, Kennedy became a cause célèbre when she eloped with 26-year-old portrait painter, Dominick Elwes. Kennedy's father, however, disapproved of the relationship and instituted wardship proceedings.[1] On 27 November 1957 he obtained a restraining order from a judge, Justice Sir Ronald F. Roxburgh, against Elwes, thus barring the couple from getting married.[2][3] The High Court Tipstaff was not authorized, however, to apprehend Elwes in any place outside England and Wales.[4] After initially attempting to wed in Scotland while being pursued by the press,[3] the young couple eloped to Havana, Cuba, where they were wed in a civil ceremony on 27 January 1958 as guests of mobster Meyer Lansky who provided accommodation for them at his hotel, The Habana Riviera. When Castro's revolution threatened the stability of the country they were forced to flee aboard a raft with two National Geographic explorers who were sailing to Miami, Florida.[citation needed]

From there the couple flew to New York where they took out a marriage licence on 31 March. On 1 April, they repeated the ceremony to make sure they were legally wed in Manhattan's Supreme Court. On 16 July, one day after their return to Southampton on the liner SS Liberté, Elwes turned himself over to authorities and was placed in Brixton Prison while waiting to purge the contempt of court order imposed upon him by the judge.[5] The judge eventually allowed Dominick Elwes to be released from custody, but ordered that Kennedy remain a ward of court.


After studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Kennedy started her career in the 1960s at the London design firm of David Mlinaric, whose clients included Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. In 1968, after spending three years working as partner with Mlinaric, she won a competition to design the Grosvenor House Hotel, launching her own company with Michael Sumner that same year. In 1986, she reformed as Tessa Kennedy Design, Ltd., a company which has won several design accolades. Her clients have included De Beers, Stanley Kubrick, George Harrison, King Hussein of Jordan and London hotels Claridge's, The Berkeley, and The Ritz[6] for which she was voted Designer of the Year.[7][8] Kennedy also renovated rooms at Michael Winner's Woodland House.[9]

A member of the British Interior Design Association (BIDA), Kennedy was the first woman to work in Saudi Arabia with her own company.[10] Following two years as President of the International Society of Interior Designers in Britain and three years on the International Board, she made a Fellow of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA).

Personal life[edit]

With Elwes, Kennedy had three sons: film producer Cassian Elwes, artist Damian Elwes and actor Cary Elwes. By her second husband, the now-deceased Hollywood film producer Elliott Kastner (January 7, 1930 – June 30, 2010), she has a son and a daughter, Dillon and Milica.[citation needed]


  • Living with Design by David Hicks & Nicholas Jenkins. Morrow Publ. (1979)
  • Interior Views: Design At Its Best by Erica Brown. Viking Press (1980)
  • Women by Naim Attallah. Quartet Books (1987)
  • The Art of Giving by Stuart E. Jacobson & Steve Lovi. Abrams (1987)
  • Spiegel: The Man Behind the Pictures by Andrew Sinclair. Weidenfeld and Nicolson (1987)
  • Who's Who in Interior Design by Barons Who's Who (1988)
  • The Decorator by Florence de Dampierre. Rizzoli (1989)
  • ABC: The First Name in Entertainment by Allen Eyles. Burgess Hill Cinema Theatre Assoc. [U.A.] (1993)
  • Empowered Spaces: Architects & Designers at Home and at Work by Carol Soucek King. Rizzoli (1993)
  • The Bedroom by Diane Berger (photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg). Abbeyville Press (1995)
  • Designing with Tile, Stone & Brick: The Creative Touch by Carol Soucek King. PBC International (1995)
  • Classic Meets Contemporary by Fleur Rossdale & Henrietta Spencer-Churchill. Rizzoli (1998)
  • Influential Interiors by Suzanne Trocmé. Clarkson Potter (1999)
  • Domestic Bliss: Simple Ways to Add Style to Your Life by Rita Konig. Fireside (2003)
  • Sam Spiegel by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni. Simon and Schuster (2003)
  • The New Curtain Book: Master-Classes with Today's Top Designers by Stephanie Hoppen & Fritz Von der Schulenburg. Allen & Unwin (2003)
  • Almanac of Architecture & Design by James P Cramer & Jennifer Evans Yankopolus. Greenway Group, (2005)
  • 100 Hotels & Resorts: Destinations that Lift the Spirit by Howard J. Wolff, Allison Wimberly, Tong & Goo. Images Pub. (2008)


  1. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=DhEcpnE-fyYC&pg=PA64
  2. ^ Gossip: a history of high society, 1920–1970 by Andrew Barrow. p. 198
  3. ^ a b Gossip: a history of high society, news.google.com; accessed 5 May 2014.
  4. ^ Scandal over elopement, nationalarchives.gov.uk; accessed 5 May 2014.
  5. ^ [1]; nationalarchives.gov.uk; accessed 8 August 2008.
  6. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=oJgeD0QOvysC&pg=PT3778&dq=Tessa+Kennedy&hl=en&ei=0RqPTYfFPIe6sAOV2MGKCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAzge#v=onepage&q=Tessa%20Kennedy&f=false
  7. ^ http://www.bida.org/pdf/deZINE_spring2006.pdf[dead link]
  8. ^ http://www.theritzclub.com/index.php?lan=en&aid=100
  9. ^ Moir, Jan (26 August 2011). "A home as huge as his ego: Inside the gloriously garish mansion Michael Winner is flogging for £60m". London, UK: Daily Mail. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Profile at the Wayback Machine (archived April 1, 2010), houseandgarden.co.uk; accessed 5 May 2014.

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