Creating a haven to reflect an owner's charm

"It's a home not a show home" is a constant mantra of British interior designer Katharine Pooley.
Creating a haven to reflect an owner's charm
Ti Gong

in the center of the living room there is a beautiful fireplace with ornate carvings flanked by richly colored marble with Louis-style-carved-show-wood armchairs and a classically elegant scrolling mirror above it.

While the interior should always be balanced and tasteful it must always contain the personality of the owner and reflect their individual outlook, culture, wishes and desires, Pooley says.

Pooley was looking for a comfortable, elegant home in Chelsea for a family of four, with classical detailing and plenty of space inside and out for her family to enjoy. 

“Properties like this are becoming quite rare in central London now but, with the contacts and experiences I have built up over 10 years of finding and developing property for my private clients, I was able to locate and refurbish this property to move into within only four months,” she said.

Set across four floors, with a large open-plan family kitchen and living room leading out onto a beautiful exterior terrace, Pooley could see the property had potential.

The fabric of the building was in good condition so the majority of the changes were superficial. For example joinery finishes were updated and wall and floor finishes changed throughout.

“It was important for me to create a timelessly elegant interior that was also a peaceful and serene space for my family. City living can be hectic and I wanted a comfortable and relaxing environment for us to enjoy together,” Pooley said.

The palate of muted soft greys, ivory and blue works as a perfect backdrop for favorite works of art, furniture and unique accessories from her boutique in London. 

Only small quantities of accent color are used throughout, and Pooley prefers to layer differing textures and gentle abstract and geometric patterns for interest. Natural fibre fabrics are preferred throughout and the combination of cashmere, linen, cotton velvets, calfskin leather and silks creates a sumptuous and inviting interior that feels as good to sit as it looks.

Creating a haven to reflect an owner's charm
Ti Gong

Light and informal family dining area with scalloped base dining table and matching chairs made in Italy.

“I would say that this reflects my personal interior style — a subtle balance of the contemporary and classical, with unique and exquisite detailing and craftsmanship always a must. I love eclecticism, and this interior draws on my extensive travels, with one of a kind antiques and artifacts from Asia combined with beautiful contemporary European pieces commissioned from my favorite suppliers and artists,” Pooley said.

The living room has at its center a beautiful fireplace with ornate carvings flanked by richly colored marble. 

“It was important to me therefore to embrace some traditional detailing so I introduced Louis-style-carved-show-wood armchairs and a classically elegant scrolling mirror above the fireplace,” she said.

The room has high ceilings and expansive windows, which flood the space with natural light so it was perfect to showcase sculptural contemporary furniture pieces such as the crackled bronze coffee table and the antique brass and bronze display case she was inspired to use. Striking and textured works of art complete the space, while carefully chosen crystal, semiprecious stone and beaten bronze and brass accessories and objects are layered throughout the space for warmth and richness. Together a balance of the classical and the contemporary create a fresh, playful but refined space for entertaining.

There are two separate dining areas — the family dining is less formal and part of the open-plan ground floor kitchen and living area, while the other is more formal.

“I wanted to keep the family dining light and informal so I had the scalloped base dining table and matching chairs made in Italy in a beautiful cream lacquer. Contrast linen and woven leather on the seating and nickel inlays ensured a glamorous finish, but it was most important that these pieces were comfortable and functional for daily usage,” she said.

Creating a haven to reflect an owner's charm
Ti Gong

The house's basement features a custom-built deep L-shaped sofa, a snug for watching films, listening to music and completely relaxing with family.

The formal dining area is a much more glamorous and grown up affair. Pooley combined dark glossy timber and bronze on the table with a softly tactile charcoal grey velvet and elegant bronze studding to the chairs. The tableware is the immensely popular art deco design she created exclusively for the Fortnum and Masons. Cut-crystal candelabra was added and a spring arrangement of hellebore flowers for a sophisticated but understated central setting.

The master bedroom, as a personal space where Pooley spends a great deal of time, is a peaceful and luxurious sanctuary of light colors, flattering lighting and the highest quality linens and bedside accessories. 

“I love the softly undulating headboard shape which was made specifically for me inspired by a bed I saw in the Cameron Diaz film ‘The Holiday,’ and I had the burr walnut side tables with marble tops made bespoke to fit the room perfectly,” she said.

Pooley chose her favorite color celadon which is soft and light in tone for the basis of the fabric scheme and combined it with ivory, crystal, mother of pearl and silver accents for a feminine and serene interior.

“I selected and designed the furniture for this home very carefully. As with every project, I wanted seamless craftsmanship that would last for many years, comfort and beautiful finishes that would really wow my guests when entertaining,” she said. 

“I make sure to view and test each piece before installation to check they meet these specific requirements and as I now have ‘a little black book’ of all the very best manufacturers and suppliers worldwide discovered and tested over hundreds of projects, I’m rarely disappointed.”

Regarding the artworks, Pooley said: “Galleries and artists are always happy to loan pieces to me and it is a great way to check that art has the impact my interior requires. My favorite piece of art is the large painting by Yin Xin, from my personal collection and makes a fabulous backdrop to the dining table. 

“There’s also a beautiful seascape painting on aluminium sheeting by British-Bulgarian artist Stiliana Alexieva which hangs in the informal family living area.”

The smallest touches make a big difference in completing an interior and creating a welcoming and cozy ambience, according to Pooley. 

Scented candles, fresh flowers, personal mementos and family photographs are key, while generously sized cushions in luxurious fabrics and soft cashmere throws are ultimate cozy additions.

With two young sons, a musician husband and quite a few family dogs, Pooley enjoys spending time in the basement family snug. She custom built a deep comfortable L-shaped sofa which they all pile on to catch up while watching films, listening to music and relaxing.

Creating a haven to reflect an owner's charm
Ti Gong

Katharine Pooley

Ask The Owner

Q: What’s the best thing about living in London? 

A: London has the best of everything: parks, restaurants, architecture and museums. It’s impossible not to feel inspired every day by your surroundings. 

Q: Describe your home in three words. 

A: Elegant, timeless, unique 

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home? 

A: Kiss my husband, children or dogs (order depends on whom I come across first)

Q: How do you unwind? 

A: With a hot cup of honey ginger tea. 

Q: What’s your best view outside your window? 

A: Across the terrace to the beautiful living wall of green lush planting I commissioned. 

Q: How do you scent your home? 

A: With my own Katharine Pooley scented candles and with room sprays such as the Shanghai Tang lily spray — such a fresh and uplifting scent.

Q: What’s your favorite object at home? 

A: On the dressing table in my bedroom I keep some favorite jewelry pieces and framed photographs that each inspires personal memories that are precious to me. 

Q: What are your favorite spots for furniture shopping in London? 

A: Guinevere and Christies for Antiques, my own showroom for contemporary pieces. I always get great service!

Special Reports