Clifton in Conversation With...

Karen Howes of Taylor Howes

1. Firstly, many congratulations on celebrating 30 years of Taylor Howes this year! What will you be doing to celebrate?

We’re putting together an exciting programme of events that kicks-off with London Craft Week [in May] and of course there will be some fun parties throughout the year. We will also be announcing some new design collaborations. We never standstill and this will be reflected in our celebratory activities!

2. I guess good taste doesn’t age, but what do you think have been the biggest changes in interior design since you’ve been in business?

Interior design has changed hugely since I first started out. It used to be considered just the cushions and accessories, but now we’re working on really complex interiors. The level of professionalism in the studio is the same as any architectural practice in that we need to understand all of those challenges and to support a full team on the really big projects that we work on. I think interior designers are now recognised in that professional role and that they are really crucial in that process. Rightly so, one of the biggest shifts in the last decade has been sustainability and buying and supporting British.

3. Your latest project is of course this wonderful apartment on Charles Street in Mayfair on behalf of developers REDD. What challenges did you face along the way and what did you draw on from a design perspective?

This is the second project that we’ve worked on collaboratively with REDD. The building is Grade II-listed and we wanted to put back some of the character that had been taken out over the years. Although it’s an apartment we wanted to make it feel like a really special townhouse in Mayfair, as it sits on two levels. We wanted to maintain the levels of light as you travel through the space and to create a feeling of elegance and classicism. I think the end result ticks all those boxes.

4. Why is London the greatest city in the world for you?

For me London has everything that you could ever need from a city: the inherent culture that we have, and the amazing shopping and restaurants that go without question. London is a series of villages, and each one has its own uniqueness about it. That’s very much something that we apply when we’re working on projects. You can’t design a project in Mayfair the same way you would design a project in Chelsea, and I love the nuances of all the different areas.

5. What is your favourite building and why?

It has to be St Paul’s Cathedral. I married my late first husband, Simon, in the OBE Chapel in the Crypt. Everyone thought I was related to Princess Diana and the ushers sold tickets at the back.

6. Who is your greatest inspiration both personally and professionally?

When I was 18, I shared a house with the amazing Martin Waller, founder of Andrew Martin, who is still a dear friend and mentor. That really was my introduction into the world of design – and into the world of a collector. I’m something of a collector myself, but not on Martin’s scale. So he ticks both boxes, personal and professional.

7. You have produced some incredible interiors in your time. What has been your most challenging project?

One of our most challenging projects was the church conversion St Saviour’s in Knightsbridge. Working within a church environment, we wanted to create something that felt homely and approachable. We created triple-height space and volume, which had its challenges in terms of lighting and mood. And of course churches don’t have windows that you can look out of because they want you to concentrate and focus, so we were creating a space that was quite inward-looking rather than outward-looking. The end result was a space that was very serene and calm, so we managed to overcome all those challenges.

8. Which building (anywhere in the world) has the most inspiring interiors?

I love going to the Wallace Collection here in London. The collection is fabulous, the colours are amazing, and it’s right on my doorstep.

9. What or where would be your dream interior design commission?

I’ve got a long list! One would be an amazing house in the Caribbean. Another would be a castle in Scotland. Any volunteers?

10. Who or what is the next big thing in design from your perspective?

As a studio, we’re really focusing on our green credentials. We’re currently going through a rigorous process in order to demonstrate our commitment to this to our clients. I think our industry has a bit of catching up to do in this area, and Taylor Howes wants to lead the way and collaborate as much as we can with our amazing suppliers to make sure that we’re all doing our bit.

11. London is a great city, no doubt, but what would you do to improve it?

I’d love to ban cars from certain areas of London, to make it more pedestrianised and safer for everyone, and to have more restaurants and cafés on the streets. Once you walk around London you see it from a whole different perspective.

12. Favourite holiday destination?

Like most people, I have a few! We’ve been going to Cornwall every year with our daughters since they were tiny, and that’s a non-negotiable. It’s simple but absolutely beautiful. I also love going to the South of France and have lots of friends there.

13. What is next for Taylor Howes?

We’re working on a brand refresh to celebrate our 30th anniversary, so there are lots of exciting things happening. What I love and am most passionate about is working with and developing our team. They’re incredibly talented designers and professionals. Watching and enabling them to grow into their roles is what I will be working on next.
Posted: 22.02.2023
Tags:  in conversation
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