Industry Profile: Karen Howes

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As the name at the helm of renowned international design firm Taylor Howes, Karen Howes has carved a niche in the interiors world, offering luxury interior design to private clients, property developers and hoteliers. A rare talent, Karen has a reputation for having a highly creative brain and true entrepreneurial vision. Joining us at Decorex 2014 as part of the Seminar Programme with Rebecca Weir of Light IQ, Karen gave us a wonderful insight into creating the emotional context for a design project.

We caught up with Karen after the show to find out more about this inspirational designer...

Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself?

In 1991 I set up a small interior design practise in London. Twenty-three years later, I am very proud to say that the company is still going strong and is now internationally renowned throughout the industry. I employee a team of twenty seven, all based in our beautiful Chelsea studio, who work with me on a wide range of projects, from private residences in London and villas in the middle east, to marketing suites and show apartments for London’s top developers.

What first drew you into the world of interior design? 

I bought my first flat in London when I was sixteen, did it up and then invited some property developer friends over for dinner. They loved what I had done with the property and so the instructions started from there – I guess you could say that I sort of fell into the industry, however having left school at seventeen to work for an art dealer, followed by a short spell in PR and then for an estate agents, I think that the amalgamated lessons I had learnt from each of these jobs made for the perfect skill set to run a successful interior design business.

Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration? 

I have an amazingly supportive husband and children – without their help and encouragement I would not be where I am today. It is so important to have the backing of your family – the best inspiration that you can find.

With regards to a design inspiration, I would have to say Mary Fox-Linton – she was so ahead of everyone else and is the most remarkable woman. An incredible role model for any interior designer. 

If you could describe your work in 3 words, what would they be?

Glamorous but practical and colourful – everything should look beautiful but also serve a purpose. Colour, in accents, adds energy to a design.

Can you tell us about a current project you are working on?

We are very lucky to be working on a large number of very different projects at the moment – by working on a large range we can ensure that all of the designers are able to constantly challenge themselves and remain stimulated. Some of the projects we are currently working on at the moment include an amazing 9-storey townhouse in Kensington, with two basements; a villa in Abu Dhabi, a large development in Kensington and very excitingly, our new office in Knightsbridge!

You joined us at Decorex 2014 to present a talk with Rebecca Weir of Light IQ on ‘creating emotional context’ – can you tell us more about this topic?

It was really fun collaborating on the talk with Rebecca from Light IQ - we work together on a number of projects so it great to be able to get together to do something a bit different. I am very passionate about lighting and totally respect what lighting designers bring to our projects.  I hugely enjoyed being able to sit with those who attended the seminar and reflect about the emotional components of designing an interior. This is of course something that I find I do intuitively as a designer – continuously thinking about all the aspects that will help to create a beautiful, harmonious and safe home for our clients.

You have recently launched your first lighting collection; can you tell us how this came about, and what the ethos behind the collection is?

As a lot of our job involves designing beautiful bespoke pieces for our clients, we have always known that at some point we would like to put what we do best into our own collection. We have worked with the Urban Electric Company for a number of years and having developed a strong relationship with them, decided that the time was right to design a collaborative range. It is very important to us that we work with companies who share the same ethos as us, particularly when it comes to the people and quality behind the product. UECo share this passion and so having worked with our team to come up with initial designs, Karen travelled to Charleston to work in the UECo factory with their team. We are very proud of the new collection, which features five individual pieces, and are very excited that it is now available.

With a reputation for working alongside renowned property developers, can you tell us a little about the challenges faced in the developer / designer relationship?

We love working with developers and working in a team – the best developments are those where we have been involved in the pre-planning, working alongside the Architect and the full design team, ensuring that every aspect of the project is considered both practically and aesthetically. As interior designers we recognise developers need to have something new and exciting that will make their project unique but we also bring an awareness of the target market to the scheme. Not only can we provide knowledge that we have gained from working with our high net worth clients but we also invest a great deal of time and money into looking around the world for new products and trends. We have been working with a number of our developer clients for many years now and I think this is because we know how to work in a team to deliver a great product – the egos are left at the door!

What does the future hold for you?

We have a very exciting and busy year ahead of us! Alongside the lighting launch, we are also currently designing a new office in Knightsbridge that we will be moving into around Spring of next year. Whilst we will be very sad to leave our lovely home in Chelsea, we are all looking forward to a new start in a new building – with lots more space! Over the next couple of years, we hope to launch more product collaborations with our favourite suppliers and fingers crossed put together a coffee table book – and that’s all whilst completing all of our amazing projects! So lots on but as they say “a diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure” – I like to think of Taylor Howes as that diamond!

As a renowned figure within the industry, what would your advice be for aspiring designers?

I definitely think that as well as an enquiring mind, a passion for what you do is the key to success. I have been designing for over twenty-five years now and I still learn something new on every project. Make sure you don’t stay in your comfort zone – I ensure that I leave mine by surrounding myself with an amazing, young, talented team who are constantly pushing the boundaries.

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