Katharine Pooley Champions Social and Environmental Sustainability

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Within her studio and beyond, internationally-renown Katharine Pooley advocates for accountability and responsibility in all facets of her business 

“If you cannot share your success and services for the greater good, then really what is it all for?” muses Katharine Pooley, the highly sought-after interior designer, who has designed many landmark commercial and residential properties around the world.

Sustainability has become a central pillar of Katharine’s design ethos. Now more than ever, humankind is increasingly conscious of its continued impact on the environment. For Katharine, the words of the much respected naturalist and historian Sir David Attenborough ring true: “The World is finite, and we need to look after it”. Katharine’s view is that it is innately in our best interests to be proactive, that every decision you make and every dollar you spend on your home reflects a choice, either to protect and strengthen our fragile natural environment, or to destroy it. 

Katharine Pooley 25-27/03/2019

Eco-conscious Home Solutions 

Katharine feels it is imperative to place sustainability at the centre of all decisions when designing. She encourages the use of suppliers who place sustainability at the forefront of their manufacturing. Whether it is through renewable energy to power their mills (like her studio’s outdoor fabric supplier, Perennials and key fabric supplier Dedar) or swapping to recycled packaging and more efficient delivery methods, or using only organic fibres (much like in textile purveyor De Le Cuona’s latest collection).

Katharine has continuously placed a priority on utilising alternative and more sustainable-minded materials which offer a more ecological benefit such as faux-leather, faux-shagreen and faux-fur. These materials can be made without using the skins from animals and can often be more durable than “real” counterparts, which will deteriorate over time due to the natural drying hides go through.

Accredited research has shown that emissions from livestock farming has huge environmental impact, so this is a consideration when clients specify for leather products and furnishings. The use of natural over synthetic fabrics is another approach employed by Katharine and her team, inspired by the global initiative, Campaign for Wool. Katharine and her team have started use more sustainable materials like Pineapple leather and salmon skin which still have a luxe look and feel. 

It is important to Katharine to utilise sustainable timber sources. The Amazon rainforest and other green spaces are the Earth’s lungs, and she believes that humankind is beholden to protect them. In her work, she purposefully avoids endangered tree species, such as Ebony and Bolivian Rosewood, and instead, sources veneers and timber from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and PEFC certified suppliers.

On a micro level, Katharine and her team incorporate trees and plants in any design, and she is pleased to see how many projects submitted in international awards featured planting, especially vertical planting in urban environments. An example of this comes by way of a new development that the Katharine Pooley Limited team have been working on in Hong Kong’s Discovery Bay with landscaper Randle Siddeley incorporating incredible garden spaces into the project. 

Exemplifying the use of such materials and a great example of the aforementioned sustainably-influenced considerations is the Pearl Villa, a residential villa in Qatar masterminded by Katharine, where various sustainable finishes were utilised throughout, from gorgeous faux leathers to wall panels, faux shell embellishments and beautiful wallpapers that used recycled papers as their base. Hand-painted silk wallpaper were also used for joinery fronts to minimise on timber veneers too.

Among the easy ways Katharine recommends making a home a greener space is to be mindful when choosing paint, always choose suppliers that exclude harmful toxic substances. Suppliers such as Graphenstone are industry-leaders in the manufacture and supply of sustainable paint.

Other considerations includeusing goods that incorporate recycled matter. Katharine sees the rug industry, in particular, going through a pioneering recycling-revelation with top suppliers innovating their product catalogues such as PINTON, whose new luxury outdoor rug range features rugs made from recycled plastic bottles, and Jennifer Manners’ /re/PURPOSE Collection which comprises of uniquely plush recycled plastic hand-knotted rugs.

Furthermore, the installation of automatic motion sensor lighting particularly in dressing rooms, bathrooms and hallways are not only clever architectural conventions but also ensure lights are not left on unnecessarily.

Finally, reusing existing furniture and furnishings is another consideration as re-upholstering existing furniture or re-finishing case goods are both simple, cost-effective ways to reduce waste and extend the life of a piece of furniture.

“Repurposing reclaimed timber flooring planks is also a wonderful way to bring sustainable design right into the heart of your home. I love using antiques for this reason also”, comments Katharine.

The Human Touch

Katharine is of the opinion that sustainable design should be human-kind as well as earth-kind. Charity is about wanting to gift and not about getting something back or recognition – it has to come from the heart.  

“I have always tried to keep kindness at the heart of everything I do. Lead a life full of kindness and the world will be kind back. Generosity spreads joy, to both the giver and the receiver, that is what makes it such a wonderful thing!”, shares Katharine.

Good design inspires, it calms, it offers sanctuary, and it also elevates life. The soul of Katharine’s design is a feeling of peace, more than a specific style. This ‘peace’ is created with the careful layering of colour, texture and form, and is always personally tailored to the individual client, differing visually every time – and as passionately as Katharine designs for her clients, she matches it with just as much vigour as donating her time to those in need, to those who desperately need peace and a safe haven.

This resonates through her dedicated work partnering with London-based charity The Childhood Trust on their ‘Decorate a Child’s Life’ Programme which Katharine credits to being a great satisfaction and motivation personally as she cites it being central to the work she and her team carry out. Katharine walks the talk through using spare furniture, fabric offcuts and fittings, to asking suppliers to donate unused stock, and devoting her own and her designers’ time to completely transform the bedrooms of some of the 70,000 children in London living in poverty. It is incredibly meaningful work and a daily reminder that design is powerful, changes people’s lives and gives them hope in tough times

As part of her initiatives to give back to the design community, Katharine also mentors up and coming designers, working with organisations like United in Design, to ensure individuals from minority ethnic groups are supported and encouraged to enter design. Katharine has an incredibly diverse design team. The team at Katharine Pooley Limited are truly global with designers from at least twenty different countries as cultural diversity is incredibly vital to avoid echo-chamber ‘group think’ and especially when creating multifaceted international projects.

Hope for the Future

Katharine is immensely hopeful for the future of design and urges aspiring designers and architects to take time to educate themselves on sustainability as the single most important issue in this day and age, forewarning that ignorance is no longer an excuse. Katharine’s advice to aspiring designers and architects is to be bold, to demand that sustainability be placed at the centre of their work as they are, or will soon be, in a powerful position to impact and inspire changes in behaviour and living environments globally.  

There is certainly a trend towards sustainable design and Katharine vehemently affirms that this movement needs to be increased a hundred-fold. Katharine continues to be hopeful that by adjusting the way she designs, to place ethics, sustainability, durability at its heart, and by minimising wastage, designers and architects will create a global model for how to live in harmony with the natural world. 

She prescribes being thorough with checking mechanisms and measurements to be as accurate as possible. This is so principal to her when training young designers, keeping in mind her mantra of “measure twice, cut once”, and encourages her team always try to specify finishes that are suitable and durable so they will not need to be replaced.

“I feel strongly that leading designers have a responsibility to the next generation. I work very closely with the London-based design schools and donate an annual prize each year for exceptional work in the subject of sustainability. I also donate fabric and finish samples to their student libraries to minimise waste. I like to remind my team that there is no ‘away’, when you throw something away, it always goes somewhere”, Katharine remarks.

About Katharine Pooley

Katharine Pooley is one of the most sought-after interior designers in the United Kingdom and commissions for landmark commercial and residential properties around the world.  Having once worked in finance, Katharine is a shrewd businesswoman and under her leadership Katharine Pooley Ltd has grown enormously each year from a UK firm undertaking predominantly domestic projects to an internationally well-respected brand and design studio encompassing architectural design, interior design, product design and property development.

Overseeing her team of 47 interior designers and architects Katharine’s highly personal approach – she immerses herself in every detail of her client’s complex projects – ensures a loyal international fan base for her impressive designs. She also boasts a flagship showroom in Doha and a growing roster of clients based in North America and The Middle East. Recent global assignments include properties in many of London’s most prestigious addresses, a private family home in Washington, a Villa overlooking the sea in the south of France and a large villa in Kuwait. 

Alongside her successful design studio, Katharine has a standalone boutique in South Kensington, showcasing a range of curated accessories sourced from all over the globe. Katharine has also been the worthy recipient of many industry awards and named “Designer of the Decade” by International Design & Architecture Awards 2019. In 2017, and in partnership with Assouline, Katharine released Journey by Design. The book explores the creative processes and diverse inspirations behind nineteen of her inimitable projects. www.katharinepooley.com

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