A Date With Interior Designer Katharine Pooley
With a client portfolio that spans some of the most elite, interior designer Katharine Pooley is arguably at the apex of the British interior's game. Thailand Tatler gets to know the ex-banker, author, mother, and now luxury interior designer.
Perched on a plush velvet settee in a corner of the Waldorf Astoria Peacock Alley lounge, Katharine Pooley is talking life.
“Travel is so important to me. For my mind and for my work.”
Why is that?
Part of me is extreme luxury. I do some of the most beautiful homes for some of the most incredible people in the world. And then there’s this other half of me which is really quite grounded. I love camping, climbing mountains, riding across the desert on horseback. I've climbed Mount Kilimanjaro five times. I never want to stop travelling, exploring and experiencing.
Is that what brought you to Asia?
I love it here. I used to have a home here. I lived in Hong Kong for 16 years, then Singapore. Asia is truly fantastic.
You’ve been a banker, wrote a book... so what exactly got you into interior design?
I was living in Asia for 16 years and I decided to move back to the UK and open a shop. Being the traveller that I am, everytime I went to a different place, I brought something I loved back home. Everyone would always ask me, “Gosh, where did you get that from?!” So I decided to open a shop and, before I knew it, I had my first client. And that client just so happened to be the old owner of Harrods. From there, things just grew.
And now you have your own design studio, boutique and countless projects. How do you manage all of that?
Well, I used to work for Morgan Stanley and that required a lot of structure. Therefore, I integrate a lot of structure into my business. I have an incredible team of people working with me, with 47 staff and a management board of 12. These are people who have been with me for a long time: they know how I think, they finish my sentences. It’s a great synergy. We are family and we trust each other implicitly.
What can you tell us about the projects you and your team are working on right now?
We are currently working on one of the largest private houses in the South of France, which is just a joy. A house in Cape Town too. Five projects in Kuwait, one of them is a palace. We are working on three in Qatar, a beautiful palace in Abu Dhabi, two large homes in Dubai, two houses in Saudi Arabia, a large home in Cyprus and a penthouse in New York. These are just our overseas projects.
What has been one of the most challenging projects you’ve worked on?
You know what, I always tell my team: “Don’t call me with a problem. I’m only interested in solutions.” With every project there are always challenging issues, it’s about having the determination to fix them.
Just like there are fashion trends, are there interior design trends?
Generally speaking, I don’t follow trends. I try to be in the middle of them or I set them. I don’t believe in trends. Interior design is expensive so it has got to be timeless, livable and practical. Myself and my team think very carefully about we how we design, as it’s got to last for a long time.
What about your own home? What style is your interior?
As a designer, my vision is very confused for me personally. I want everything all in one house and you can’t do that otherwise it will look like a museum. Everytime we do a project where I see something I like, I go home and want to change it accordingly. So I have to be very careful. We have a couple of houses and they are all very different. One is very Scottish: it has tartan accents, reds, oranges and dark greens. I wouldn’t live in that everyday, but it’s perfect for that environment. My London home is very blue and nautical, but we recently bought a beach house in Devonshire, Englan, so now I can go change my London house. I have two sons and a husband, and I told them I’m not doing blue anymore, I’m bored. I want a pink room. So with this new beach house in Devon, I’ll do just that. It’s a beautiful cottage-cum-house and is small enough that my husband and I can be on our own, but big enough so when my kids come and stay, we can all be together. What has been most heavenly is that I designed the kitchen and it’s perfect for me. My husband makes toast for the boys in the morning and their crumbs go everywhere, so I specifically designed and made a drawer for the crumbs. There’s even a little brush to scoop them up with.
So along with crumbs, what else is on your interior pet hate list?
I’m quite particular. I don’t like to see wires on electricals and I really dislike clutter. Though, I do like it to be a home. It can’t be too de-cluttered. It’s got to feel cosy and have warmth when you walk into a room.
Is there a certain piece or item in your home that you specifically love?
I was in New York once doing a project and I had one day free so I hired a helicopter and flew to the Hamptons. Whilst shopping, I found the most beautiful piece of art. It is loads of different row boats in white and blue and they are all collected together. It’s placed in my study and everytime I look it, I think "that’s me." I went around the world to get that piece and here I am in Devon.
You said you hired a helicopter.. Can you fly?
Yes! My father’s business was aviation and we all learnt to fly at a young age. But I’m quite frightened of flying, isn’t that odd?
Is there anything Katharine Pooley can’t do? You’ve even written a cookbook!
Yes! Well, I’ve travelled so much around the world and eaten a lot of different food. So everytime I found a dish I loved, I would ask for the recipe. I’d then start practising and learning how to make it myself. Eventually I decided to write my cookbook called “A Taste Of My World.”
What about your personal style, your fashion sense?
My husband said that the reason he married me was because he would never get bored. Being with me, he sees many different people in one week. I really wish I had a stylist actually, because I never know what to wear. I have the most amazing wardrobe with beautiful clothes, but I never know how to put it together. Give me a home, I know exactly what to do with it. Clothing? I have no idea. It’s the same with interiors though, I love everything, I love all designs. My style evolves all the time, which is fantastic because I never get stuck. The same goes for my personality.
Do you have any favourite designers?
For a working week I love classic clothing. Valentino, Elie Saab, Chanel and Christian Dior. That’s because they are just timeless. For work, I’m wearing smart clothes from one of those designers. On the weekends though, I want to wear cowboy boots and shorts. Something completely different. My husband always asks: “Okay, so who did I marry today?” and that's just the way I like it.