Meet the interior designer: Phoebe Oldrey, Smartstyle Interiors

We chat to the very smart brain behind Smartstyle Interiors about ‘holistic interior design’ and how our homes shape our lives…

"...Churchill said, 'We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us'… I see that as the essence of why I design… The spaces we spend time in reflect us and allow us to be safe and protected...."

Phoebe Oldrey is the founder of Smartstyle Interiors, a Kent-based interior design practice that brings a distinctive ‘holistic’ approach to projects, focussing on the individual and creating a space that works for them functionally, aesthetically and emotionally…

pheobe oldrey kitchenSitting room by Smartstyle Interiors. Photo: Daniela Exley

Tell us about your background … When did you realise you had an ‘eye’, and how did Smartstyle Interiors come about?

I didn’t start out in design. I spent my early twenties being an actress but by my late twenties I knew that my big break wasn’t coming. I could feel the call to do something else. I had always loved interior design and decided, literally one afternoon, to retrain to be an interior designer at KLC. As soon as I started the journey I fell in love with designing and creating rooms.

When I left KLC I did a short Internship with Mark Humphries and then worked for the lovely Sue Symons who mentored me as a young designer. I always say I learned to design at KLC but I learnt how to implement design with Sue. After having my first son in 2005 I decided it was the time to make the move and start my own company. That was when Smartstyle Interiors was born.

It has evolved over the years and in 2012 I moved out of London and reshaped it to work in Kent. In 2017, after doing a TEDx talk about the power of interior design I adopted a new ethos of being a ‘Holistic Interior Designer’, which means that the nucleus of any design is the individual for whom spaces are created for. To do this the design needs to work functionally, aesthetically and emotionally so the client can thrive in their home.  

How would you describe your interior design style ethos? 

Churchill said, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Though he was discussing rebuilding The House of Commons after the end of the bombing raids on London, I see it as the essence of why I design and what inspires me. I believe that the spaces we spend time in can be places that support us and then they become our havens. They reflect us and allow us to be safe and protected. It goes beyond what an interior looks like but also how it works and how it feels to live in.  

barristers chambers ft verduraBarristers' Chambers by Smartstyle Interiors (featuring Pooky's archive Verdura table lamp). Photo: Daniela Exley

What are your biggest interior design inspirations?

The people I design for are my biggest design inspiration. The joy of creating a space that works in symbiosis with the person using the space transcends trends. I believe a home should bring people joy, support their lifestyle, embody their values, and represent their identity. Alongside that it needs to improve their health, mentally and physically. To do this I have to try and understand them, their lifestyle and aspirations. My goal is to design a home that will fit them like a glove and bring them daily joy.

I am also in love with design and want to see as much as possible in my life. I make time to go “experience” design, not just look at it. I love visiting the fashion exhibitions at the V&A, the detail and craftsmanship on the clothes is amazing and to see it up close isn’t to be missed. I love visiting designer hotels and amazing building, not only looking them but sitting in the chairs and feeling the curtains. I’m always looking and taking photos. This summer I went to Hoxton Hotel, V&A Menswear Exhibition, The Design Museum in London, Copenhagen and Cuba. All those visits will weave themselves into my work this following year. I’m already putting in stuff in my diary for this winter to go see.


What do you most enjoy about your work?

The moment you see a client fall in love with the design you have done for their home.

 Bedroom and sitting room by Smartstyle Interiors. Photos: Daniela Exley

Any recent projects you’re particularly proud of?

I recently did a project where the clients had had a hard couple of years and their home had gone on the back burner. They couldn’t even comfortably watch TV in their living room together, one would have to lie on the floor, so it was far from a haven for them.  When I started on the design I said I wanted to create a space that “brought joy.” This was my ‘north star’ for the project: the colours, the shapes and the feeling of the design.

When the rooms where finished, my client started to cry because they made her happy and were so different from before. They can also both lie on sofas and comfortably watch TV now! It’s fair to say the design has changed how they live.


How does lighting play a part in your interiors? 

For me lighting plays two key roles. One is creating a layered lighting scheme that provides atmosphere and zones spaces; and the other is bringing an articulable element to a room.

The shape and scale of a central light takes your eye upwards, anchors the centre of a space and brings drama to a design. I look for the same quality in table lamps, wall lights and floor lamps, looking at shape and colour as well as how the light is going to work.


Any lighting tips you’d like to share? 

Scale is key. If the light is too small, it kills the whole design. It is always safer to overscale and have the drama rather than to under scale. Small lights just look weird.  

Sitting room by Smartstyle Interiors. Photo: Daniela Exley

 What would be your dream interior design project?

A small boutique hotel or perhaps an Air B&B. To design a 'holistic destination' venue would be amazing.

orb chandelierPooky's Orb chandelier with coloured roundels

Finally, do you have a favourite Pooky light- and why?

I love the Orb chandelier with multi coloured glass roundels (above) which is a real statement piece but with a bit of a vintage vibe. I’m itching to get that into a project.

However, the most useful light I keep specifying is the Niche wall light. It’s perfect next to beds for reading and is a very smart clean design. I love that it sits in its backplate when not in use. Simple and useful.

niche wall lightNiche wall light in antique silver 


See more of Phoebe’s work at and follow her on Instagram and Pinterest.


Portrait of Phoebe top: photo by Jade Tinkler.