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Podcast Episode 1: How Travel Shapes Design with Katharine Pooley

Explore the travel-inspired design world of one of the industry's most prolific globetrotters

Jon Sharpe By Jon SharpeChief Creative Officer

Interior designer, winner of countless prestigious accolades (including ‘British Interior Designer of the Decade’ and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’), the philanthropist and LuxDeco 100 honouree, Katharine Pooley is a design powerhouse. She's also an intrepid traveller who has visited more than 150 countries throughout her lifetime. From summiting some of the world's highest mountains to driving a team of dogs on a sled to the North Pole, there are few bucket list experiences Katharine hasn't ticked off. Not only that, but she credits this lifelong love of travel as one of her main creative inspirations. Travel intimately influences Katharine's design approach, as well as her studio's aesthetic.

In this episode of The Tastemakers: A LuxDeco Podcast, entitled How Travel Shapes Design, I caught up with the designer to talk design, travel and the Antarctic.

 

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All my travels and inspirations and expeditions have opened my eyes and stretched my imagination.

 

Don’t miss

  • Just how much travel has influenced Katharine’s life and design at 03:55
  • Her epiphany at the top of Mount Vinson at 09:44
  • Where she’s off to next at 14:51
  • And the trip that inspired her last great idea at 22:27
Katharine Pooley | How Travel Shapes Design  | Horseriding | The Tastemaker

Image Credit: Katharine Pooley

Links & Articles

Katharine Pooley in The Luxurist

Katharine Pooley products

Meet The Designer: Katharine Pooley

Katharine Pooley On Designer Grey Living Rooms

Highland Interior Design Style with Katharine Pooley

Katharine Pooley | How Travel Shapes Design | The Tastemakers

Image Credit: Katharine Pooley

LuxDeco 100

Classic Blue: Katharine Pooley's Blue Period

The Best of Luxury Interiors & Interior Designers In London

Katharine’s website

Katharine’s Instagram

Katharine's book, Journey by Design

 

I love markets and architecture and art as much as the next designer, but it’s really the natural world that truly inspires me and, by that, I would love to say, in some sense, I believe you haven’t really understood true colour until you’ve been to the Amazon or you haven’t understood shape until you’ve, you know, ridden a horse across the Sahara at dawn or you haven’t understood true minimalism until you’ve hiked in the Antarctic.

 

Katharine Pooley | How Travel Shapes Design | Souvenir Decor | The Tastemaker

Image Credit: Katharine Pooley

Katharine's most memorable travel moment

"Flying across Nambia in a little private Cessna, landing wherever we want for a picnic and pitching up a tent. Freedom at its best."

Katharine's next dream holiday

"When I daydream about my next holiday it's never lying on a beach, after about 5 minutes of that I would be thoroughly bored! I dream about adventure, adrenaline and wide open spaces. Climbing mountains, horse riding across deserts, sleeping in the open under endless starry skies. Listening to rain fall in the jungle, elephants rumbling in the savanna, or even the silence of the Arctic, to me, is absolute bliss."

Katharine's favourite thing about holidays

"Work is hectic, life is hectic, I look to holidays for peace, to be closer to the natural world and to broaden my horizons. On my hit list right now is Africa, Japan, Pitcairn Island and Raja Ampat."

Katharine Pooley | How Travel Shapes Design | Kuwait Villa | The Tastemaker

Image Credit: Katharine Pooley

Katharine Pooley Travel Podcast | The Tastemakers | LuxDeco.com.mp3 transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

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Jon:
Hello and welcome to The Tastemakers: A LuxDeco Podcast. I'm Jon Sharpe, your host and Chief Creative Officer for LuxDeco—the world's leading luxury interiors platform, which is changing the way people design and shop for their homes. Part of our commitment at LuxDeco is to help people live beautifully. In The Tastemakers, we do that by exploring interior design and lifestyle through the stories of our influential guests—guests who are celebrated for their fine taste in design and beyond.

Jon:
Subscribe and listen for inspiration straight from some of the world's most incredible style authorities.

Jon:
Interior designer, winner of countless prestigious accolades, including British Interior Designer of the Decade and Entrepreneur of the Year, the philanthropist and LuxDeco 100 honoree Katharine Pooley is a design powerhouse. She's also an intrepid traveller who has visited more than 150 countries throughout her lifetime. From summiting some of the world's highest mountains to driving a team of dogs on a sled to the North Pole, there are a few bucket list experiences that Katharine hasn't ticked off. Not only that, but she credits this lifelong love of travel as one of her main creative inspirations. Travel intimately influences Katharine's design approach as well as her studio's aesthetic, so I was excited to catch up with the designer to talk, design, travel and the Antarctic.

Jon:
Katharine, welcome to the show. How are you?

Katharine:
Hello, Jon. Lovely to be here. Thank you.

Jon:
So for those who don't know a huge amount about your story, and it is a very, very unique one. Can you please tell our listeners just a little bit about how your journey began into design?

Katharine:
I was based in Hong Kong. Oh, I need to go back a little bit, perhaps before that. You mentioned travel. My parents went to the Middle East. They went to Bahrain when I was about nine. And that's really where I started my ethos into the whole culture and the travel industry. I then moved to Hong Kong. I was there in Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam for 18 years. So, again, a long time overseas. I then decided to switch my careers. Obviously, I've always had a design passion from a very, very young age. And I came to the U.K. thinking, I'll set up my own little shop in Walton Street, bring over these gorgeous home accessories from around the world and just have a lovely life.

Katharine:
And I did have a lovely life. But I am fortunate. It's been one of completely different to how I thought it was going to be. I ended up opening a studio, doing some incredible designs around the world for some amazing people and I have now 47 designers. So I can't say I have a very relaxing life. It's a very fast paced, high-energy life, but I feel very honored and privileged to be looking after some amazing, amazingly well-known people's homes.

Jon:
And what was it that made you make that move from straight retail into opening the studio as well?

Katharine:
I had a small little boutique in Walton Street and a little shop above it, or a little office above the shop. And one of my clients came in. He was a well-known individual at the time and said, "Please, can you come in to my house?" At the time, I just thought, okay. And then the next thing was another client, another client.

Katharine:
And then I moved from the 10 people above the shop to an office next door.

Katharine:
And then I had to move from there about three years ago because there were about 25 people. I felt like we were little ants on top of each other to now this incredible space in Ixworth Place.

Jon:
And travel, as we've mentioned in the introduction, really is a huge part of you. You've said in the past that, "[It's] who I am. You take travel away from me and I die. It's my spirit." So just how much has travel impacted your life and particularly your work in interior design?

Katharine:
I mentioned that, you know, my parents traveled and I've always travelled right from a very young, young age. I don't think you do that anymore. I used to get on an airplane, my brothers and sisters, and fly all the way there and with no support. So travel really has been an influence to me at a very young age. Both my parents have their private pilot license, so they put me in a Cessna and fly me off. I love adventure. I love going to see new places, new cultures, new inspirations. I think it's both exhilarating and a privilege to travel. It's certainly something that I miss enormously right now.

Katharine:
Having said that, I was travelling so much, it's quite nice just to stop for a little while and breathe. I've lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam for over 18 years as I mentioned so a lot of my design work now is in Europe, Asia, Middle East, America. And with that comes an awful lot of travel. I get a great deal of passion from being overseas. It's a priority for me to travel and see my clients. I'm always traveling. It's not just my team—it's me as well. I also believe that having lived overseas in so many different continents, it helps me understand the clients cultures and lifestyles. I'll give you an example. Last night at midnight, I was talking to one of my clients who's just popped out from Ramadan.

Katharine:
It's unusual, isn't it, to have a call at twelve o'clock? I happened to be up and she'd finished fasting and wanted to have a chat. But because I lived in the Middle East, I understand that. And she was talking about her kitchen and, you know, could I include that in the price? And I said, look, "Absolutely—of course." It's an unusual request, Jon, because in the Middle East, they don't really care about their kitchens and they don't include them. Why? Their staff are in them. Whereas in the UK, we always include our kitchens because we're always in them. So it's things like that are actually the followers perhaps don't know or don't understand. And that's why I'm saying being culturally aware and understanding, whether it's the French or or the Middle East or Australia or America, wherever I've lived, it has a profound effect on everything that we do in our designs.

Katharine:
I also spent the latter part of my education years in France, so I speak fluent French and, whilst I'm not fluent, I did study Arabic and Mandarin. So language is also a great influence in the countries that I do my work. And then on top of that, every year I make sure I fit in some personal expeditions that, you know, real adventures, sometimes tough ones to challenge myself. For example, I climbed the highest mountain in Antarctic called Mount Vinson. I walked 100 kms across the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa. Or I might travel across Burma with my 85 year old father and family, who is also a very big influencer in my life when it comes to travel. We have a bit of a travel off, we call it—who's been to the most most countries. I do need a sense of freedom. I get claustrophobic. I love to be with nature. I think a lot of people that know me think that I'm incredibly glamorous and I stay in all these five star hotels. It's not. I'm actually more comfortable being in a tent than I am in a hotel.

Jon:
Do you when you have this travel off with the family, are you now in the lead? How many countries have you travelled to exactly?

Katharine:
Well, actually, it's only my father. I must define that because everybody else sits back and just watches us and laughs. He was in a very privileged situation in the 60s where not many people travelled as much as they do nowadays. So he's had the experience of going to some really unusual places like the Pitcairn Islands that you probably don't—sorry I'm not being rude—but you probably don't even know where they were because I didn't even know where they were until he challenged me on it. And it's past Easter Island and it's in between New Zealand. It's a British colony and it's in the middle of nowhere. And, actually, we said we were going to go and do it this year together. And, unfortunately, now we can't. So he's had the real adventure. You know, he got in a Mini and went across down to Africa, whereas I think nowadays it's much harder to do that. Having said that, I've now been to more countries than him.

Jon:
Well done. As long as you get to travel off, I mean, that's key. And of all of those countries which have been some of your favorites? And I suppose, most importantly for us, which countries have had— have been the most inspirational in terms of your work?

Katharine:
Kangaroo Island in Australia, which, unfortunately, was really badly burnt in the Australian fires, I would have to say, is one of my places, please go and see. It's like living in the past. It's full of wildlife. It's rich in nature. It's the most beautiful place, I think, that I've been to and I'm very passionate—I'd love to go back again and again. Bhutan is another amazing country. Again, it's quite isolated and difficult to get into. Only a certain amount of people can get into Bhutan a year. Their way of life, the way they treat each other, it's just like any other country. There's so much respect. They all wear the same clothes. It's just a beautiful country in terms of beauty and spirituality.

Katharine:
It's quite spectacular. Obviously, I adore Asia. I grew up in Asia—I'd like to say that, in my twenties. In terms of cities, I've always loved Italy and I think that has some great inspirations for us, for our designs.

Jon:
And also, there's quite an emphasis in your travel, it's not just about travel—it's clearly about a huge passion for the natural world. How does that passion for the natural world manifest in your design?

Katharine:
So I wanted to— I mentioned about, you know, the Antarctic, I think, is one of the places that I've been to. And it's when you're under duress, you know, I was carrying a 30-pound pack on my back, dragging a 30-pound sledge. The winds were horrific. It was the worst storm in 75 years. And I probably spent three weeks just crying. Just, you know, it really challenges you as to "Why am I here? What am I doing in my life?" But it actually it's defining moments like that that are critical in anyone's career because you've got to get out of the rut of this everyday life and say, "Why am I doing this?"—and you write your goals— and "What are you doing?" But, in actual fact, when I was at the summit of Mount Vinson, it did make me realise, "You know what? I don't want to be dealing with nonsense anymore. I only want to do things that I really want to do. I only want to take on projects that really inspire me." I wanted to quickly to say that, you know, when you pay attention to when you're travelling, what's the most inspiration? And I always say to my team, "Look up, don't look down." We're always looking at pavements, but actually, when you look up... The street lights or ceilings or architecture, there's so much beauty around us, whether we're in England or cities or outdoors. And, you know, I love markets and architecture and as art as much as the next designer, but it's really the natural world that truly inspires me. And, by that, I'd love to say in some sense, I believe you haven't really understood true colour until you've been to the Amazon. Or You haven't understood shape until you've ridden a horse across the Sahara at dawn. Or you haven't understood true minimalism until you've hiked in the Antarctic. All my travels and inspirations and expeditions have opened my eyes and stretched my imagination. You don't just get that from driving around central London.

Jon:
And do you think that that—what will now forever be known as the epiphany at Mount Vinson—do you think the fact that you kind of had that there was due to the fact that there was so much less visual and aural stimulation in that environment?

Katharine:
That's a very good one. Believe it or not, there's so much beauty in the Antarctic and yet there's nothing, right? So absolutely. I mean, think that's a very, very good way of saying it. It's a white canvas that gives you a chance to really be inspirational.

Jon:
So with all of this travelling, you must be a fairly prolific souvenir collector and I don't imagine we're talking fridge magnets. So can you tell us about what are some of your favorite pieces that you've acquired from your travels and how you've deployed them in interiors?

Katharine:
So that's a very difficult question and the list is obviously endless. But, you know, I have gone to Cambodia and I have incredible carved silver Buddha bowls, for example, that they would eat food out of, however, I would then but my orchids in them. So they make an incredible centerpiece. Or beautiful jade carved pieces from Hong Kong, which I now use as placemats. Old wooden carved faces that I got in Papua New Guinea, which I now hold on stands and I had stands made and they are statues in my house. I mean, there's so many things. Actually, funnily enough, predominately from Asia that you can take and create and transform it into some— an incredible artefact for your house. You have to be careful, though. You know, you can go to somewhere like Morocco and see all of this amazing product and then you bring it back into your own home [and] it doesn't actually work. So you've got to be quite specific.

Jon:
And do you have any tips for that in terms of helping people when they're when they're abroad, when they're thinking of bringing something back? Are there any sort of do's and don'ts for you?

Katharine:
So, look, my house is a museum and there's certainly history there. And my ethos is everywhere you travel to, you should always pick one item. And I think that's the key. Pick only one; don't come back with a whole container full because I've done that and it just doesn't work and you end up putting in storage or throwing it away. So just focus on one item. It's your journey. When you look at it again, you can talk to people and say, "Yes, I found that when I was in Papua New Guinea or Kangaroo Island or Bhutan [or] Australia. It's a memory.

Jon:
If I was to ask you, then— and you'll probably tell me that this is an impossible question to answer. It's like asking, you know, which of your children you love more. But, if you could pinpoint a favorite country to visit, which one would it be?

Katharine:
Well, I've got to go back to the favorite children story because it's quite funny. I was doing a talk and my two kids came to watch me speak. It was really— it was the Design Harbour. And my older son, who's normally quite shy, stood up and said, "Mama, can I ask you a question?" I was like, "Yes, darling". And he said, "Which is your favorite child?" I just thought that was— I had to answer it, "Darling, you are right now". I've mentioned Kangaroo Island. I like to go to places that are hard to get to. Not most people have been to. One of my favorite places that I want to go to go next is Raja Ampat which not many people have heard of. It's deep south of Indonesia. It's very, very hard to get to, but the marine life there is like we've never seen anywhere else in the world. So it's these hidden secrets that I'd love to go to.

Jon:
And as I said, you are racking up new countries at quite a rate. Clearly, there has been something of a hiatus of late, but what's the plan? Where are you off to next?

Katharine:
So I feel very privileged that I've travelled. And I really have travelled. I would say I've been to over 150 countries. There's 196 in the world, talking to the UN. And, now, I want to really educate my kids. I think it's the gift that my parents gave me. I think travel is very informative. It helps with history. It helps with geography. It helps with cultures. It's going to be a big part of my children's lives. So travel nowadays is not so much about me, it's about my kids. We were meant to go to Africa, actually, in April, which, of course, was cancelled. My husband's from South Africa and I wanted to really go and show the kids a safari—the wildlife in their natural nature. I also wanted to take my kids, which was going to be next year, which is obviously now going to be pushed back, maybe three years to Japan. My children are both into samurais and sword wrestling.

Katharine:
And so I wanted to go and give them a bit of education on Japan. For me, I want to go to Pitcairn Islands. I want to go and do an adventure again where nobody else has really been. Untouched territory.

Jon:
So, Katharine, we've heard about your style. We've heard about your travels. Now it's time to hear a little bit more about your home life, which means we've entered the section of the show called How I Live, which gives our listeners an insight into your home. So let's start with where is home for you?

Katharine:
I would say right now, Oxfordshire. It originally was Scotland because I'm from Scotland originally. But my kids are now at school there. So I've moved there and I've made myself a beautiful base there. But it's also where my heart is.

Jon:
And how would you describe your home style? Apart from a museum.

Katharine:
So my house in Oxfordshire is more traditionally English, it's elegant, it meets international eclectism. The Georgian proportions of the architecture are a perfect backdrop for a balance of Asian artwork. You know, Parisian textiles, it's very comfortable.

Katharine:
My kids, obviously, and my husband, particularly, have to deal with an awful lot of my designs and projects so I try to make the home as comfortable and as relaxed as possible. Obviously, I want to make it beautiful because that's what I hopefully do. But it's also a place where my children can enjoy.

Jon:
So not a portfolio piece necessarily.

Katharine:
I hope not, because I think there is an art on making a house look interior-designed without being designed.

Jon:
And what's been your most recent home purchase?

Katharine:
Gosh, my husband would say that's every day. Look, as part of our— [Jon: Anything arrive this morning?] I'm in London today, so that's okay. And I'm actually terrible. I probably get packages and I put them in secret nowadays. But anyway, as part of my business, we have a home accessory division. So I'm in the throes of a very big project. So I'm being exposed to some incredible ideas and options.

Katharine:
I did just spoil myself with some gorgeous sheets which are made in Portugal by a supplier called Celso de Lemos. And if you don't sleep well, I suggest investing in them because they changed my life. Another amazing treat was a tulipiere, which was from Sophie Conran. And it's a piece of art. If you don't know what a tulipiere is, it's a vase which is quite high and you put one piece of tulip in each piece of vase. So it's an art piece.

Jon:
And which room do you spend most of your time in at home?

Katharine:
Well, unfortunately, at the moment, my dining room, because it's become my office. [Jon: I think that's the same across the country, isnt it?] I have more space to spread out there.

Katharine:
I love working in my drawing room. I have a beautiful duck egg blue Chinoiserie desk, which I purchased at the Battersea Arts Fair about four years ago.

Jon:
And when you're not working in said dining room, what's your favorite way to relax at home? What do you guys do?

Katharine:
I hate to say cleaning, but no. I don't really relax, I have to be honest. And my— having mentioned the cleaning part of it which will make my husband laugh– I do clean, actually, to relax. But my biggest pastime is I love gardening and I love spending time— I have chickens and I now I've adopted a wild cat.

Katharine:
And I think after a long and hectic trip overseas or a frantic day in the studio, tending to a vegetable patch and seeing growth or getting eggs from chicken, I need something that nurtures me and getting a perfect calming balance that I need. It goes back to nature again, isn't it?

Jon:
Completely. And that tangible change, as well, I suppose, that you see in gardens, but you also see in interior design. I mean, that seems to be a big thing for most people who work in the industry.

Katharine:
It's quite funny because I was saying this to my husband the other day. You know, in May all the flowers come out and it's been beautiful weather and we have a tiny little lawn and we were just trying to do the Andy Murray top 100. And I was looking around, I said, "Gosh, darling, isn't the garden just beautiful?" And he said, "Ah, I love it this time of year. It's amazing how these flowers just pop up". But what he doesn't realise is the hard work behind it and all the weeding. It really is a lot of work. Any people out there who love gardening will appreciate that. But I love the fact that he just thinks it turns up.

Jon:
He clearly believes in the magic of nature and not the magic of labour.

Jon:
And now on to the section we call Who, What, Where and Why. Some deeper questions, which we hope will reveal a little bit more about you for our listeners. So let's start with Who? Who is your ultimate style inspiration?

Katharine:
It's a tough one. I thought about this, but I'd have to say Karl Lagerfeld. He was a complete maverick and quite over-the-top, actually. But, although he got older, his viewpoint never really dated and his mind always overflowed with incredible ideas and magical new creations, which were timeless, I have to say. There was a commercial side to his work, but obviously he was also a true creative. He was an inspiration.

Jon:
And would you say if you considered fashion designers and their impact on interior design, would you say that there is one that stands out and has had perhaps more impact than any other? Would that be Karl or would that be someone else?

Katharine:
I'd say Ralph Lauren on this one, because, again, it's very hard to run a business, it's very hard to maintain a business and it's very hard to continue a business, as we can see now with the virus that's going on here. But he has, throughout his whole generation, has maintained that I have the utmost respect for him and his quality is incredible.

Jon:
Okay, so question two—the What? What is the most defining characteristic of your style?

Katharine:
I would say it's eclecticism, it's global, it's quality, and it's elegant.

Jon:
And where were you the last time you were inspired with a great idea?

Katharine:
Back up a mountaintop!

Jon:
Was it the vegetable patch?

Katharine:
No, it wasn't. I have to say that I had a knee operation and I decided to test the knee out so I went across one hundred miles across the Drakensberg Mountains. And it was really at the top of this that I got some ideas. I think we have to live the best lives we can and we have to strive for a greater ideal and hopefully leaving the world kind of happier and more beautiful than when we found it. So that was really my inspiration when I was in South Africa.

Jon:
So the next time I injure my knee, I'm going to need to think of a more ambitious test, I think.

Katharine:
I've just done the 5K challenge and actually it's really hurting now so not sure I'll be taking the knee out for a test run again.

Jon:
So, finally, why is living beautifully important to you?

Katharine:
It's quite interesting this and I hope my mum's not listening to this because my mum never really wanted to live beautifully. And I don't mean that as an insult. She just— She was quite messy. And I am so spotlessly tidy and everything has to be perfect and everything has to be beautiful. But, ironically, I spoke to my father about this and he's really, really anal about being tidy. I mean, when he travels, it's one tiny little hand holder and yet he's the best dressed man I know. And I can never understand how he always looks beautiful and perfect and the typical British gentleman. So I must get quite a lot from him.

Jon:
And if you find yourself in environments that are the opposite of what you generally prefer and are chaotic and messy. How do you respond to them?

Katharine:
Oh, I go around tidying them up.

Jon:
Take matters into your own hands, quite literally.

Katharine:
Take matters into your hand. Absolutely. Always. It's very hard, isn't it? It's a bit like a hotel room. The first thing I do, believe it or not, is to take rid of all the manuals and magazines and clutter and put it in a cupboard. I like to have nice clean spaces, I like to have order. I like it to feel like a home and I get all my toiletries out, make them look pretty along the sink. I mean, it's amazing, really, isn't it? Once you're an interior designer, it's in every part of your life.

Jon:
And are the said cupboards tidy though. This is the thing. Is it tidy on the outside and chaos on the inside or are the cupboards also spotlessly tidy?

Katharine:
What do you think, Jon?

Jon:
I think they're spotlessly tidy.

Katharine:
'Fraid so. I even got the stickers on. I'm not like Julia Roberts in that terrible movie, where they're all facing forward, but they'r sort of facing forward, but just not perfect. I think that's because I'm busy and I think people who are busy need to have structure in their lives so that they're not focusing on where is the sweet corn. It's— they know where it is and it's facing forward.

Jon:
I mean, what would we do if we couldn't find the sweet corn? So last, but by no means least, A Question of Taste, which is our quickfire round, where we ask you ten questions about taste. Katharine, at what age did you have the worst taste?

Katharine:
What age? Gosh, that's a tricky one. Maybe I should say I don't think I've ever had bad taste. Well, actually, probably 13—

Jon:
But it's a relative question.

Katharine:
Yes, of course. 13's never a good age, isn't it, really? In the sense that, 13 to 15, you don't really have any money so you can go and buy your own clothes. They're normally chosen by your mum. There were flares when I was 13, but yeah, probably 13.

Jon:
13 in bell bottoms. Fair enough.

Katharine:
There's nothing wrong with bell bottoms, by the way. They're coming back.

Jon:
At what age will you have the best taste?

Katharine:
Oh, I would say 40. And I'm afraid to say I'm a little bit over 40. Just a little bit. But I would say 40 was my best taste. I think that's where— It's a bit of a debating question because I'm wondering, are you ever born with good taste or is it something you acquire? I'd like to think that there was some natural good taste already there. Whether I learnt it from my father, my stepfather or my mum, I don't know. But I'd have to say there has to be something there.

Jon:
The nature nurture debate.

Katharine:
Yes, exactly. But I think you can be taught good taste because that's what we're trying to do, isn't it, with with our clients all the time? Or not "good taste", but beauty or what works and what doesn't work. So I think it's a learning all the time. I have to say that I'm— I've got good taste right now as well, hopefully.

Jon:
And what's the most tasteful object in your house?

Katharine:
I would have to say it's from Patrick Mavros. So he has a beautiful shop on Fulham Road and I have a Tree of Light, it's called, and an elephant herd for my dining room table. It's elephants and I think they're cassia trees, made out of solid silver. And it bores my dining table.

Katharine:
It was given to me by my friends for my 40th birthday. So every single one of them brought me a little elephant, which is what was so beautiful about it. And of course, the Tree of Life. But it's— it has a great meaning, but the quality in his product. There's nothing else like it in the world, actually.

Jon:
So this is certainly going from the sublime, by the sound of it, [Katharine: It is] to the ridiculous. What is the most tasteless object in your house?

Katharine:
Again, I hope my mum's not listening to this, but it's probably something my mother's brought me. My mother has this wonderful art at Christmas of taking freebies out of magazines and putting them in a stocking for me. So I'd have to say, Mum, thanks for that. It's it's been a joke for many years now.

Jon:
She sounds like an incredibly thrifty woman.

Katharine:
She's actually an extraordinary woman. I mean, she's— she's got a pilot's license and she still flies sea planes and she's 84 so she's pretty— She's inspirational, she really is.

Jon:
Extraordinary. So sticking with tastelessness. What's the most tasteless thing that you've ever worn?

Katharine:
So I think you need to ask your your your followers also. Would you— don't we all want to wear tasteless sometimes? It just feels good, doesn't it?

Jon:
There's always a kind of tasteless.

Katharine:
There is. And I actually love it when I'm tasteless and I take my kids— Sorry to step back. I'm obviously at work most days of the week and we're always dressing up, always looking immaculate always wearing makeup or having your hair done. So an opportunity to do the opposite, I would jump at it and I take my kids to the Wilderness Festival every year. And if you don't know what this is, it's a bit like— it's a film— it's a musical festival. But it's for kids. And that's what I love about it. And I dress up in the most ridiculous, tasteless clothes. And I feel fabulous.

Jon:
Festival chic, I'm sure.

Katharine:
I wouldn't say chic but definitely festival!

Jon:
What's the worst thing you have ever tasted?

Katharine:
So I went actually to Belize. Belize is in Central America and my brother was in the army there. And we went to a restaurant that serves street food. So I tasted snake, rat, cockroaches... I mean, it's a bit like on that that program Down Under in Australia. They make you eat all these insects, yeah? It was a bit like that.

Jon:
So how did snake compare with rat?

Katharine:
Well, snake actually tastes like chicken, believe it or not, so it's okay. Rat's a bit like a venison and a bit hard and not much of it, of course.

Jon:
Which restaurant serves the best tasting food?

Katharine:
Look, there are so many. We're blessed with so many amazing restaurants, aren't we, in London? But I have to say, one I've been to recently is called Lucky Cat. It's a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and it's in Grosvenor Square. It's small amounts of food, which I love. Incredible. Tasty. It's got a twist of an Asian influence in it. If you haven't been, I highly recommend it. It's fabulous.

Jon:
And aside from your good self, which interior designer has the best taste.

Katharine:
I would say David Hicks. I think he was— he is one of my icons. He was one of the first to start it. And I think that for that period, when he was doing design— was— he had some incredible inspirational ideas. I love to use his wallpapers in many of my projects and his fabrics.

Jon:
What is the most tasteful historical period of design?

Katharine:
I would have to say Art Deco. I think it's timeless and it keeps reinventing itself.

Jon:
What is the best acquired taste?

Katharine:
I would say, if you have the funds, then it has to be art, in whatever form you might call that. The bets could be priceless, but if you have it on your wall, it would really highlight and accentuate designs.

Jon:
Which country, out of all of those you've visited, has the best taste?

Katharine:
Gosh, you're coming up with some tough ones today, Jon.

Jon:
Well, I blame you for the number of countries visited.

Katharine:
I would say diversity, if that's okay, probably New York. So America. But I wouldn't say America as a whole as a country. So let's— We'll go specific. New York has got some great diversity there.

Jon:
What is the number one crime against good taste that people commit in their homes?

Katharine:
I think not trying. No personality and no originality.

Jon:
When is bad taste actually good taste?

Katharine:
When it's personal or meaningful to the client. A house is a home. If you love it, then it's fabulous. We're all different and we should really celebrate that.

Jon:
And when is good taste actually bad taste?

Katharine:
I say when it's too prescribed and says nothing about the person who lives there.

Jon:
Why does taste matter?

Katharine:
I'm not sure anymore that it really does. And don't forget, I've been in the industry now 16 years. I think what I would like to do is to encourage people to listen to their own hearts and have what they want. Not really what they've been told to have. Life is too short. We know that more than ever now. And we need to live how we want to live. Having said that, if you're uncomfortable making these decisions, always ask for help. A great designer will help draw out what is beautiful to you and hopefully make it a reality.

Jon:
Wonderful. Thank you, Katharine. Can you tell us where people can find out more about you?

Katharine:
So katharinepooley.com. And, please, Katharine is K-A-T-H- with an A-R-I-N-E, not E. So katharinepooley.com.

Jon:
Perfect. And, of course, we've also got many, many articles about you in our online magazine, The Luxurist which we'll also linked to in the show notes.

Jon:
Well, Katharine, thank you so much for coming onto the show. Whilst it has absolutely worsened my wanderlust, it's been incredibly informative and hugely inspiring nonetheless. So thank you.

Katharine:
Jon, it's been a great pleasure. Thank you so much for having me today.

Jon:
That wraps up this episode of The Tastemakers. Thanks for listening. If you'd like to be notified of new episodes, please subscribe, wherever you get your podcasts and if you enjoyed the show, please do rate and review of us. You can discover related images, articles and products in our show notes at LuxDeco.com where you can also shop over 150 of the world's finest design brands and subscribe to our online magazine, The Luxurist. I've been your host, Jon Sharpe. You can follow me on Instagram @jonsharpe—that's J-O-N-S-H-A-R-P-E—and follow LuxDeco @luxdeco.

Jon:
I'll see you next time. Until then, live beautifully.

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