Catherine Wilman set up her Kensington-based interior design practice in 2000 with a mission to create sleek, classic contemporary interiors that have a timeless elegance. She has transformed the homes of some of London’s most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. As well as private clients, Catherine also works for various housing developers including L&Q, Countryside, Crosby Homes, Durkan Homes, and Moat Homes.
Catherine wanted to be a luxury interior designer from an early age. Her father John Wilman was one of the leading wallpaper designers in the UK and inspired the young ‘Kate’ to get involved in design. John would often talk to her about his work as he laid out his latest ideas on the floor of their Cheshire home. Catherine was also inspired by her mother’s ideas during a six-year renovation of the family’s old farmhouse. Observing the builders, stonemasons and other craftsmen working on the project showed Catherine how a neglected space can be transformed into a beautiful country home.
When Catherine gained a BA (Hons) Degree in Interior Design and Architecture in London, it was a natural progression for her to join her father at the family business, as a junior designer. She quickly worked her way up to be in charge of organising the company’s exhibitions in the UK and Europe. During her six years at the Lancashire-based company, she worked alongside many of the top interior stylists in London photographing home interiors for UK magazines, including Homes and Gardens, Living Etc, and Elle Decoration.
These days the reputation of Catherine Wilman Interiors continues to grow and Catherine is creating homes of distinction for an international clientele.
How do you begin the design process with a new client? What kind of questions do you like to ask?
I start the design process with a visit to the client’s property to get a feel for the space. I sit down with them and listen to what they hope to achieve. I like to find out how they live what inspires them. It helps if they can send me Pinterest ideas they have saved. Once we have the full brief we can prepare a mood board for each room – and if the project requires a full renovation we would compile a schedule of works for contractors. A large part of what we do is project managing. We take on the stress, while the client gets to enjoy the project.
How do you get to know your customer and what they want from you?
Gradually, after a couple of meetings and sending ideas from magazines or the internet back and forth, you start to build a picture of your clients’ needs and taste. Some have a very clear idea of what they are looking for and just needs help to project manage the work. Other clients need you to create interior schemes from scratch and guide them every step of the way. But it varies so much from project to project.
What inspires your interior design process?
I get my inspiration from various sources. I attend exhibitions around the world and subscribe to interior publications. Websites such as Houzz are useful too – and of course Instagram and Pinterest. But generally, I am inspired my everyday life. I may see something I like in restaurant or hotel for example. I may be on holiday and see a great idea in a beach bar. Inspiration can come from going out seeing things – exploring exhibitions, galleries, and visiting showrooms. I like to adsorb as much information as possible when I am working on a project.
How do you match personality and trends?
I like my projects to be on trend but also have a timeless quality. Some of the latest trends are short lived and if you’re spending a great deal of money redesigning your home you want it to last. So, I think you should be mindful of what trends to buy into.
Do you choose a theme for the house or try to match the bathroom to the house?
Once we have a style for a house or apartment, I try to match the bathrooms to the theme. If the house is ultra-modern, I will design the bathroom to suit the space. But I do like to mix old and new, it can be quirky – in a good way. For example, I might install a traditional free-standing bath in a modern bathroom. The current eclectic fashion now is fun and allows the freedom of mixing and matching. I think we are moving away from the standard fitting bathroom suite. There are interesting ways of combining styles and creating something new and exciting.
What is your favourite item to find?
My favourite item in a home is probably the hardest item to find and that’s artwork. An impressive painting can transform a space, add colour and make a statement about the client.
Trends for bathrooms 2017?
I feel 2017 is a fun exciting time in the world of interior fashion. We are seeing the return of pattern, colour and introduction of new finishes. We no longer feel restricted to the chrome, nickel and gold taps, with copper, bronze, burnished finishes coming through. There is a return the more traditional bathroom with free standing items. Patterned tiles are also making a come back and used correctly in the right quantity these can really add a statement to a bathroom. And there is a trend towards the industrial look, especially the New York loft-style Crittall glazing.
What is your bathroom at home like?
Actually, I am just working on a redesign now and it is about to be ripped out, so ask me again in six months!
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into interior design?
Interior design is a fun job, I love it. But it is also hard work. You should be prepared to work long hours and sometimes deal with difficult contractors. It can be tough as a woman standing up to some characters, but I always fight for my clients and get the results I want.
Where is your favourite place to stay and what do you do there?
This is a hard question as there are some many lovely places to visit. I am a big fan of Tuscany in Italy, Provence in France, and Spain’s Ibiza. I recently went to India and loved it. But if I had to pick a favourite place it would probably have to be Thailand. I would choose a remote island such a Ko Muk. It is the perfect place to relax and unwind. However, I’m not much of a sun worshipper and I like to travel around exploring, seeing how he locals live. I like to go off the beaten track, hiring a moped and explore the islands.
Top interior design tip?
My top tip for interior design would be plan the project in detail from the start. It’s important to cost a project correctly before you start work otherwise the budget may overrun. Consider hiring an interior designer. They will not only help and advise you, they save you money and prevent you from making costly mistakes. They have access to reliable contractors and you will achieve a high-quality result which will add value to your home.
Describe your interior style in 3 words
Timeless, classic contemporary.
For more ideas on luxury interior design in London, visit Catherine’s website