The very talented Kate Guinness shares her interior design secrets …
“..Working in Stage Design taught me a lot about the importance of light in a room, both natural and artificial, and how to create mood and atmosphere in my work…”
Kate Guiness is a wonderfully talented interior designer who specialises in creating interiors that have a sense of accumulation: meaning that she expertly combines objects, fabrics, colours and artworks that feel like they’ve been collected over time. Since launching in 2016, Kate and her team have built a stellar reputation, featuring in House & Garden’s Top 100 interior designers for the past four years running, and her Instagram feed is a glorious feast of colour.
We chatted to Kate about her approach to interiors, her background in theatrical design and her clever ways with lighting...
Portrait photo top by Robert de Segundo. Interiors photography by James McDonald
Tell us about your background … How did Kate Guinness Design studio come into being?
I came to Interior Design via a career in Set and Costume Design for Theatre and Opera. I loved working in theatre but came to realise that I wanted to create real spaces for real people, which would last and grow over the years. So I enrolled at the KLC, after which I worked at JR Design for four years and then briefly with Adam Bray and Christopher Howe, before starting KGD in 2016.
It wasn’t until I was working at JR Design that I realised I’d made the right decision to change careers. Jane’s bold use of colour allowed me to be fearless too, and to discover my own taste.
How would you describe your interior design style or ethos?
My team and I specialise in creating interiors with an authentic sense of accumulation through combining antiques, fabrics, colour and art that have the appearance of being gradually developed over time. Listening to our clients’ needs is really important to us as well as respecting the architectural integrity of each space. Our collaborative working ethos ensures clients’ needs are addressed whilst allowing their taste to shine through.
What are your biggest interior design inspirations?
The great designers: Chester Jones, Robert Kime, Jaime Parlade, India Mahdavi. Jaime Parlade had the most amazing sense of colour and created beautifully comfortable layered rooms.
I’ve also been lucky enough to have been brought up surrounded by beautiful interiors and my childhood in Ireland was spent surrounded by the colour and style of Irish Georgian country houses. I love their brave use of colours which has had a huge impact on my palette. My mother, an erstwhile art dealer, has a fantastic eye and has always created homes layered with beautiful antiques, artwork, and African textiles.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
I love the variety and how many different hats I have to wear. I love being a business owner and having a wonderful team. I love getting to know clients and working out how they live and how to create the most functional and beautiful spaces for their lives. I love the creative side and scheming for a project: the moment when it suddenly clicks what colour a room should be, or what the perfect curtains would be. And I love the admin! Interior Design involves an awful lot of admin!
Any recent projects you’re particularly proud of?
Last autumn my family and I moved into a project of ours in Wiltshire which I’m really pleased with. It was probably one of our most challenging projects, which involved the rebuild and conversion of a stable block that had half fallen down. We rebuilt half of it from scratch, converting the other half and joining the two. One of the most challenging things about it was also being the client! I found it really hard to separate myself from it, knowing how many options there are rather than being presented with a shortlist as we would to our other clients.
I’m also very proud of a recent London project where we were given free rein by the client to be very bold in our use of colour, and to choose some really interesting light fittings, fabrics, and furniture. We were able to include a lot of vintage pieces and antiques as well which I always feel adds to a room’s character as well as being much better for the environment than buying all new.
Luxury canvas lodge by the Safari Canvas Co, interiors designed by Kate. Featuring Pooky's 45cm straight empire gathered lampshade in teal savannah block printed cotton. Photo: Ben Stevens
How does lighting play a part in your interiors?
Working in Stage Design taught me a lot about the importance of light in a room, both natural and artificial, and how to create mood and atmosphere in my work. It is so important to have different levels of light to create different moods, as well as task lighting. Kitchens and bathrooms, for example, need task lighting that gives really good bright light to key areas, but they also need softer lighting for the times when you’re not chopping onions or putting on your make-up. I tend to specify dimmer switches practically everywhere in a property to allow a further level of flexibility.
Any lighting tips you’d like to share?
Where possible I think about the lighting very early in a project, the moment that furniture plans have been decided. I always include a 5 amp circuit which allows you to have beautiful lamps for low-level lighting, but gives you the ability to control them from a light switch along with your pendants, wall lights etc. If you are unsure whether you want a wall light somewhere, put in a 5 amp in that location instead as this gives you the ability to put a plug-in wall light with a beautifully twisted flex if you move in and decide a wall light would indeed be good in that position.
What would be your dream interior design project?
I’d love to design a boutique hotel, ideally somewhere warm and beautiful to make site visits all the more enjoyable! Most of our work is residential and I feel that a boutique hotel would give the opportunity to be a bit bolder with the design of bedrooms given they’re not being used as permanent living spaces. I’d also love to work on the bar and restaurant areas, we had such fun designing The Elder Press Cafe and would love to do another space like it.
Finally, do you have a favourite Pooky light (and if so, why that one?)
I have the Mo Double Wall light in my bathroom. I’d been looking for a double wall light to fit between two mirrors as our ceilings are sloped and we didn’t have the space for a light above either mirror or to the sides. This fits the bill and looks so smart. I love the mid-century look it has, and it is also incredibly practical: directing light at both mirrors.
Get the look
Inspired by Kate's designs? Here are some Pooky lamps and shades that might well tickle your fancy...
Find more inspiration on our interiors blog and browse Pooky's enormous range of stunning lights and shades here.