Travel-inspired design

By Sunita Sue Leng / The Edge Singapore | April 16, 2019 12:05 PM SGT
Globe-trotting British designer Katharine Pooley talks about how her move into luxury interior design was sparked in Singapore, and how her years in banking gave her the discipline and skills to build an international business.
(Apr 15): Award-winning British designer Katharine Pooley has travelled to almost every country on the planet. She has a thirst for adventure while on holiday, having crossed the Sahara on horseback and ridden a dog-sled to the North Pole. However, it is tiny Singapore, where she lived for three years, that is among her favourite places in the world.
Pooley loves the city state’s greenery and gastronomy, but what makes it special is the fact that it was here that she made the leap from banking to interior design (ID). Since then, she has built up a portfolio that ranges from villas in the Middle East to a boutique hotel in China. Her client list includes the super rich and celebrities such as Janet Jackson and Richard Branson.
Today, Pooley runs a 47-strong design studio out of London but still travels extensively as she has no less than 42 projects at the moment, mostly in locations far from the UK such as Qatar and Hong Kong. She was in Singapore at end-March as part of a working visit in Asia that included Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Shanghai.
“Seventy five to eighty per cent of my work is overseas, which is a good thing. Because with Brexit ongoing, the [interior design] world in the UK does suffer,” she tells Options in an interview at the Ambassador Suite at The Four Seasons. Pooley has just wrapped up her largest project to date, a 500,000 sq ft hotel in Shaoxing, which lies 200km south of Shanghai. The hotel is located trackside at the Zhejiang Circuit, a motorsport destination, and the owner wanted a modern and masculine feel for the interiors. That allowed Pooley to experiment with contemporary, edgy furnishings as well as immersive touches such as race track lines along the ceilings and floors.
Working in East Asia is second nature to Pooley, who spent 14 years in Hong Kong carving out a career in the field of human resources and business consulting. She arrived in the territory as a headhunter for Drake International, a Canadian-based firm that helps companies manage their human capital. After six years, she moved to Morgan Stanley, where she was in charge...