Chelsea-made designer Katharine Pooley talks to CID this month and tells us why she chose Doha for her entrance into the Middle East market
The self-described ‘utter-explorer’ has most certainly had her fair share of travelling. Having visited more than a whopping 100 countries, Katharine Pooley has found her way as a sort of global adventurist.
“Well, I’ve had a passion for [design] ever since I was a child. I’m an utter explorer and I’ve travelled to a huge amount of countries and very different countries as well,” she starts us off.
“That’s when the passion started. I started in banking in Hong Kong until I got married, moved to Singapore and eventually quit my job. Then we bought different houses around the world on four different continents and I loved doing them up, and people loved what I had done,” she adds.
Pooley’s story is one that seems to be the result of a restless curiosity. A curiosity that has lead her around the world, experienced a number of different careers until ultimately, she planted herself in the design field. And perhaps it is artistic fields like design that tend to attract the wonderers, those who are ideal for finding new solutions.
Pooley started designing her family’s private property before word of mouth picked up and requests started rolling in for more of her work.
She says: “It was a rolling effect. They say you have four careers in your life, and here I am in my fourth.”
Pooley started in head hunting before turning to advertising. Clearly, her creative side was calling but Pooley dipped her feet once more in the corporate sector when she experimented with banking. Today, she creates bespoke residential and commercial interiors. Based in Chelsea, England, Pooley recently established herself in the Middle East with a new boutique in Doha, Qatar.
Having lived and worked in Bahrain, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam, we wondered how it was she managed to absorb the many different styles. However, it seems the British designer has a natural knack for organising her thoughts, connecting to different cultures and absorbing various aesthetics.
In an interview with Achicha Living, Pooley stated: “I believe versatility is key. It’s important to work with and reflect the individual client and environment of each project. That said, I do have strong opinions of what is tasteful and interesting in an interior and aim to capture classical contemporary living without sacrificing comfort, coherence or style.
“Personally, I aim to convey a feeling of quintessential British understated luxury…whilst also marrying the influences from my favourite places from my travels and time living abroad.”
Known for mixing classic with contemporary, Pooley’s designs are often lavish and polished. Pooley explains: “I think it’s very important to say that my style or my client’s projects are about their style, not mine. A style is reflected in its environment and its property. For example, in Thailand, you are [likely to be] more zen, while in Doha you can be more creative, but you’ll stay away from velvets [and other thick fabrics] because it’s too hot there.”
Designs by Katharine Pooley have picked up around the world, with a number of famous celebrities knocking on her door. From Elizabeth Hurley to Ivana Trump, spaces by Pooley are hot commodities, but the designer maintains her personal philosophy and her ability to deliver understated British elegance.
“I have two houses and they’re very different. I would say my designs are timeless, elegant classics that meet contemporary,” says Pooley before insisting: “But it’s got to look like a home—I hate the over-styled look.”
Pooley’s projects span across the world, from the Terminal 5 VIP Suites in Heathrow Airport, to a ski lodge in Colorado, and to residential projects in Qatar and Scotland.
Pooley notes: “Commercial projects are driven by the budget. You have to get the less expensive materials, fabrics…you just have to be more careful. For example, we had to use commercial carpets at Heathrow Terminal Five.
“But I’m currently building a hotel in China, and for me I really love residential, but I also really like commercial projects.”
The designer, who’s known for her outdoorsy activities, attributes her ability to understand clients of different backgrounds to her worldwide travels. “The fact that I lived in the Middle East and Asia—it helped me understand my clients’ philosophies, whether it’s feng shui or Indian beliefs, it really helps me understand people’s cultures.
“I think that travel is an important gift that you can give children—I wasn’t good at geography when I was growing up, but travelling helps you [meet] cultures and it helps you visualise,” says Pooley.
Pooley has franchises around the world, with a concession in Paris and her second boutique in Doha. She says that establishing her brand in the Middle East was the work of fate.
Pooley explains: “My business partner who is from Octagon International who had gone through the VIP terminal in Heathrow asked me to do his house in Doha and it won an award actually, so he pushed me to open a shop.”
Finding a middle ground between her personal tastes and those of Middle Eastern clients is something that Pooley can do naturally. She finds that the tastes in Qatar are changing between the generations, allowing there to be a gap for her to fill.
“There’s a real divide at the moment,” she says, “between the younger and older generations. The younger [individuals] want cleaner lines and more contemporary interiors, while the older clients want more [traditional] styles.
“From a humble point, I hope [Middle Eastern clients] like my style. It’s rich, it’s elegant, it’s comfortable and it has neutral bases with accents of colour. It really is good taste—it
really is timeless. My designs will really last for a while in quality. My style is young, but it’s elegant, it suits all ages and it’s not offensive,” Pooley stresses.
With her presence set in stone in the region, Pooley is starting to expand her brand’s services. This year we can expect a new lighting collection, as well as rug designs and a fabric range. In addition, the designer is gearing up to head to Dubai.
Pooley concludes: “I absolutely have plans to come to Dubai. I have been approached three times there, but the fit wasn’t quite right. I want to go ahead on my own and not with another company. I would love to open in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia…the whole area really.”