Luxury interior designer Katharine Pooley marks her 10th anniversary in September with key projects, including new collaborations with Fortnum and Mason. Kat Hopps finds out more
Katharine Pooley is musing on her decade as a luxury interior designer with unmistakeable modesty. ‘10 years ago I had no expectations of myself – I never thought that I would be here,’ she says candidly.
Humble Katharine may be, as well as extremely warm and polite, but there’s no mistaking the driven character underneath; there’s a reason why her decade in interiors has been one dotted with plaudits. The London designer, known for her attention to detail, craftsmanship and Far Eastern influences, has grown her business from a single shop in Kensington’s Walton Street to an internationally recognised interior design brand, last year opening a 3,000 sq ft showroom in Doha, Qatar.
She’s the winner of two coveted Decorex awards, has designed Royal and VIP Lounges at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, is featured on lists of Britain’s top 30 interior designers and has several worldwide projects planned, including her first ever hotel in China.
To mark her anniversary, several key collaborations are taking place in 2014. One is with Thai artisans Lotus Arts de Vivre, consisting of textile animal sculptures and an exquisite scarab jewellery collection – each green beetle wing is painstakingly cut to size and applied individually to teal pieces with shades of green.
Also on the horizon is a series of product ranges with Fortnum and Mason, which she cites as one of her proudest achievements to date having been ‘such an avid fan for many years. In fact as a child my father used to take us there at Christmas time to do all our shopping,’ she says.
The collections’ emphasis is on quality craftsmanship and materials, the ethos behind both brands. There is a luxury hamper set, plus a Table Top and Bauble collection for Christmas. The classic but contemporary table collection includes plates, napkins, glasses and coasters in a bold geometric Deco design in two finishes of real platinum and gold. The purpose, Katharine says, is to provide a classic but contemporary dinner service that would appeal to both older and younger generations, for occasions and everyday use.
Katharine’s sense of family occasion is at the heart of her many creations. Her grounded persona derives from a stable and happy childhood home living with her father and stepmother, an environment where ‘you wanted to be’. She describes impromptu visitors and large dinners that created a ‘great lifestyle’ and made a lasting impression. ‘As a child whenever I got pocket money I would buy something for the home.’
Her ability for design may have been innate but a career in investment banking was the impetus. Stints in Bahrain, Hong Kong and Singapore ignited a love of travel that has been a staple influence in her designs ever since. Katharine would return from trips with unusual striking objects, which were coveted by her colleagues, and a big confidence boost came from the most unlikely of quarters – her boss’s wife who once whispered to her, ‘you’re wasted here, you should be doing something like interior design.’
The seeds sown, the Katharine Pooley design journey had begun. Starting off with interior design projects, she grew the business to include a boutique on Walton Street in 2004, which sells home accessories such as photo frames and beautiful bowls, followed by a studio next door. It is now a growing aspect of her business. ‘Gone are the days when we could go to Maison Logue and buy things,’ she explains, referring to the rise in demand for bespoke fittings and furnishings. ‘Our clients want something totally unique, it’s about trying to find really exclusive things.’
The result of tougher economic times and a more web-savvy clientele has led to increasingly diverse buyers from India, Asia and China and launches into new markets like Doha, Qatar. She plans to take the brand to Saudia Arabia and Miami and is working on her first ever ‘cutting-edge’ hotel in China that features a spa, 21 villas and much more.
Loyal devotees needn’t worry, however. Although she admits her quarters are getting a little cramped, she’ll always have a shop locally. ‘I’m dying to see what’s going to happen in the next 10 years,’ she says. ‘I wish I had a crystal ball to see.’ So do we.
Katharine Pooley Boutique, 160 Walton Street SW3 2JL; 020 7584 3223; katharinepooley.com
1 Lotus Arts de Vivre Scarab earrings with diamonds: Earrings embellished with rose-cut and iced diamonds set in black rhodium sterling silver and 18K gold, £6,970.
2 Fortnum & Mason baubles: The two designs, Firework and Snowflake have been handmade in Germany and have an elegant design with a subtle colour palette of taupe, silver, white and gold.
Small bauble, £8; large bauble, £10.
3 Fortnum & Mason Jacques Dinner Set with platinum or gold detailing: Available in two luxurious finishes, the Jacques fine porcelain china has a bold geometric design. There are additional festive tableware essentials, including napkin rings, coasters, placemats and glassware, prices from £38.