After a career that is totally different from the one she pursues today, Katharine Pooley is now known and recognized for her luxurious interior design style. Having become one of London’s most sought-after designers worldwide, notably after being named “British Designer of the Decade”, Katharine now divides her time between her design studio and the realization of multiple projects around the globe. Her numerous awards and accreditations are a testament to her talent and investment in interior design, but Katharine is also very committed and supports many associations. Thanks to her large Instagram community with which she interacts regularly, Katharine invites her followers to discover the behind-the-scenes world of interior design.
Discover the inspirations of this talented British luxury interior designer, how Katharine managed to take her career to a whole new level, how her travel memories influence her projects today.
Thank you to Katharine and her team for taking the time for this interview!

Katharine, I understand that you spent part of your professional career in finance in Asia. Can you tell us about your career path and what led you to interior design? 

Although I was born in Hertfordshire, went to school in Oxfordshire, England, and then predominantly brought up in Bahrain, my family has travelled extensively and that has definitely inspired my global viewpoint. Having spent 14 years working in finance in Hong Kong and Singapore, for Morgan Stanley and Barclays, which I absolutely loved, I returned to England ready for a new business adventure. I had undertaken a handful of large-scale refurbishment projects for my family and friends over the years (including a Castle, ski chalet, Thai coastal retreat and various city homes) and it became clear that this was more than a passing interest and would become a lifelong passion.

Almost two decades later my design studio, working out of Chelsea, London, consists of 47 talented designers and interior architects and I have been named ‘British Designer of the Decade’ which is rather fantastic! The scale of the studio is quite unusual, and this allows me to undertake complex, sophisticated design projects globally for my wonderful clients. We ensure every detail of every project is conceived, designed and installed to the highest level, we offer a complete turn-key service.

You seem to have a traveller’s soul, is that where you find your inspiration? Which city awakens your creativity the most?

Many of my journeys have impacted my interiors and certainly understanding the cultures is a very important part of the design process. I look around my living and workspaces and I see the treasures and photographs that take me back to a wonderful adventure. Each one evokes memories; triggering the sights and smells of that time and it floods my senses. An innate sense of adventure has defined my life and shaped my design philosophy. I have visited more than 190 countries. However, what may come as a surprise is that I love mountaineering and raw adventure over city breaks and have driven a team of dogs on a sled to the north pole, and crossed the Sahara on horseback, all of my experiences feed into an original and adventurous design sensibility. I don’t think there is one city that inspires me the most, if anything it is wide open spaces!

Now that we can travel again, what would be your next inspirational trip?

I can not recommend more highly Sumba Island in Indonesia, known as ‘the Forgotten Island’ it’s absolutely incredible and I would love to go back. I also absolutely loved the Amanpulo in the Philippines, it’s the epitome of a tropical paradise. Usually though I like to go to totally new places, now that the world is reopening I need to get my map out and make a plan!

Kensington House – ©James McDonald

What is your favourite part of your job? What is your creative process when dealing with a new project in general?

Gosh a difficult question! I love all the aspects of this job for diverse reasons. Because we undertake projects worldwide it means I get to travel lots which I love. In terms of project stages; the beginning is always so exciting, forging a new relationship with the client and introducing them to some wonderful finishes and details they have not seen before, I love those early days. But the end of the project is a beautiful time too, some of our projects take many years and are a very personal journey for the client, its an honor to then show them the final result and is always a very emotional moment!

Nothing Hill Project – ©James McDonald

How do you bring your personal touch to the projects you work on?

I like to think that my interior style is intelligent, luxurious and timelessly elegant. Originality is critically important to me personally and I like to introduce unique detailing and personal touches to every project. I do not merely stick to a specific style, as I believe that creating a home is an intimate process that requires trust, listening to individuals and delivering a clients’ vision to make their “dreams come true”. Every KP project combines unique visual flair, unusual finishes, the best of British craftsmanship and beautiful luxurious home accessories and art.

Mayfair Home – ©Andrew Beasley

You interact a lot with your large community on Instagram. What is your approach to social networks and to what extent are they a professional tool for you?

I love Instagram and Pinterest in particular, if used in a positive and inclusive way, social media can be incredibly inspiring and a great way to foster relationships worldwide. I love to share my design insights, trend updates, lifestyle and family snapshots as it builds a really vivid picture of who I am and what inspires me.

Your studio also features the largest library of fabrics and finishes in London, how do you source the artisans you work with?

I am incredibly lucky, our library is so large and wide ranging and all overseen by our wonderfully organised librarian Julian. Over the years I have built very close relationships with hundreds of suppliers, this network of creative individuals, artists, artisans and makers ensures we have an incredible range of fabrics and finishes for our clients. My suppliers are very important to me, their beautiful designs are at the heart of everything I create and I make time to treasure and nurture these important relationships.

You have a shop in London with a wide range of furniture, lighting and home accessories. Where do you find your sources of inspiration for collectible design?

Having lived in Asia, the Middle East and throughout Europe I have been able to discover and immerse myself in many parts of the world. My time in Asia led me into starting my first interiors boutique in Chelsea, (Katharine’s boutique on Walton Street is famously a treasure trove of beautiful accessories) which sells rare and interesting products. These exotic and rare treasures mix delightfully with the best of European craftsmanship and English design. It makes for an eclectic, unusual and very luxurious combination!

What are the know-hows that you are particularly fond of at the moment?

Textures are everything; Think rich luxurious finishes that are cozy, inviting and beg to be touched. I love combining eglomise mirror with straw marquetry, shagreen, soft kid-skin leather, cashmere and silk or grass cloth wallpapers. The colours can be peaceful, calm and tonal, the richness of texture will give a refined and luxurious feel.

Do you know our Par Excellence artisans? Among them, is there a particular know-how that is close to your heart?

I have great respect for the work of the Par Excellence artisans, in particular I find the work of Ateliers Saint Jacques quite incredible. The stone staircase they created for Dior in Paris perfectly captures the classical timeless elegance of that iconic brand. The use of contrasting finishes and textures is exquisite. The Alvar dining table is to my mind a perfect piece, deceptively simple, sculptural and unforgettably beautiful, I adore it. This is the fabulous range of the Par Excellence stable of artisans, from the architectural to the smaller interior and furniture details, everything is immaculately considered and created.

What is next for you? Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?

It’s a very busy year, during the Covid period some wonderful new projects have come my way which has been incredibly fortunate, it helps I think that we have such an international presence. We have some incredible developments and private homes currently being designed and installed in the English countryside, London, Hong Kong, New York, Monaco, London and Switzerland (so the next few months will be very busy!) A favourite would be an incredible Chateau in the South of France where Grace Kelly and Cary Grant were once filmed by Alfred Hitchcock for the Hollywood classic ‘To Catch a Thief’, it has quite the most incredible architecture and gardens.