The team at luxury interior design company Catherine Wilman Interiors have been creating incredible spaces for residential clients and property developers in London (and surrounding counties) since 2000.
Specialising in architectural drawings, interior designs and management of design build projects, the CWI team have become a force to be reckoned with.
We caught up with Catherine to find out where it all began…
What inspired you to become an interior designer?
My father John Wilman. He is a wallpaper and textile designer. He was the art director at Coloroll, one of the largest wallpaper companies in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. He used to bring lots of his designs home and they were all laid out on the floor and we would sit around and discuss the designs so I think this had a big impact on me at an early age.
Even now when he is in his early 80s he is flying Europe Asia and China still designing wall coverings. My two brothers are also creative. Mark, the eldest, has an online furniture business called Where Saints Go which is very successful.
And my brother Tim has followed in my dad’s footsteps and is a successful wallpaper designer, selling all over the world with his brand Sketch Twenty3.
I guess we are all entrepreneurial like Dad.
I’m sure there’s no such thing, but can you describe the closest thing to a ‘typical day’ for you?
At the moment a typical day involves juggling lots and lots of plates. Luckily during lockdown, work did not slow down for us and all our construction projects continued. We are also in the process of moving to a larger studio in Notting Hill, which is exciting, and all the team can’t wait to get back together again. The new studio has high ceilings exposed beams and an industrial, lofty feel and I absolutely love it. But with the current climate, I am not sure when exactly we will fully move in.
I guess a typical day starts with me reading my emails at around 8 am and by 9:30 am I am probably in the car driving over to one of the sites to check the progress of the project. At lunchtime I will be back at my desk looking over our latest plans or on the phone with a client. I do try to eat lunch with my partner Nigel, who is also involved in running the business.
In the afternoon I will probably be picking colour schemes or choosing fabrics or maybe even visiting a supplier with a client to choose furniture, artwork or sanitary ware.
I aim to finish around 7:30 pm but often work through till 11 pm if needed. In this industry you never stop thinking about a project or looking for ideas.
How do you begin the design process with a new client?
We start by getting potential clients to fill in a questionnaire and then I will give them a call to discuss the brief. We try not to have a generic interior look and are open to working with individual personalities. I don’t want every house to have the same look.
Many of our clients have collected fantastic artwork or furniture or maybe a book collection and we try to incorporate these into the design. Once we have been appointed, the process moves to an initial design direction.
We put our thoughts onto paper and use moods boards to get an understanding of the look and feel of the property and the client’s particular taste.
As we develop the design, we will create floor-plans, lighting plans and put a schedule of works together to cost the project before it goes out to tender with contractors. This ensures we keep to the client’s budget.
Then we will move on to looking for furniture, fittings and equipment (FF&E) with the client. Styles are constantly evolving, and there is need to stay on top of what is on trend, but you also want to keep an element of timeless elegance. Once the client has made a decision on the FF&E they may ask for a CGI visual of the room to help them make a final decision on the design.
What inspires your designs?
I always try to go to the trade shows, especially Mason & Objet in Paris. It is great to see the latest designs from all over the world – and of course a weekend in Paris is never to be missed!
I also keep an eye on the various interior magazines and other designers’ Instagram accounts – especially ones based in London and the States. But sometimes the most unexpected inspiration comes from being on holiday and staying in a beautiful villa or boutique hotel, especially in France where a quirky design detail will result in me getting my notepad out and jotting down some inspiration for a project I’m working on.
Your interiors are cool, calm and welcoming. Do you have any interior design tips for someone looking to re-design their home?
If you have an item or piece of furniture that you really love maybe use that as a starting point to build your design. It might be a piece of art, a piece of furniture or coffee table, but the colours, the shape, the style, can all help to inspire you.
I guess the best bit of advice I can give is to ensure the rooms are properly measured. Designers will always start with a 2-D floor plan to determine the function of a room. If you can’t work to a scaled plan at least put down a cardboard template to get an idea of the space and size of a piece of furniture. It’s important to get the scale right. You don’t want a coffee table that is too far away to put your drink down or a foot stool you can’t reach with your feet.
Lighting can also be easily overlooked but is an integral part of establishing the mood of a room. It’s important to get a good lighting plan that a contractor can work to. This can be based around furniture location, perhaps highlighting a bowl of fruit or a coffee table. Concealed LEDs in a bookcase will always give a wow effect when switched on in the evening.
What are your most loved interior design brands?
Flexform, Holly Hunt and 1stDibs. I like visiting antique markets and fairs, when I have the time. One of my favourites is the decorative antiques and textiles fair in Battersea.
You have been creating beautiful contemporary homes since 2000, which projects would you say have been your favourite and why?
I’ve enjoyed all my projects and they are all so different. Lately I’ve started to get a lot of listed building properties, which is always a challenge and fun to see what we can do. It is great to get a full home to renovate, especially if it is tired.
One I recently completed was a family home in Parsons Green, West London. We removed the original hallway wall and installed a crittall wall to allow light to flood through from the living room window. It looks fantastic and was such a transformation. I guess that is one of my favourites this year.
What does the rest of 2020 have in store for you? Do you have any exciting plans for 2021? (feel free to share any upcoming projects, events or any other exciting news!)
We have several projects on the go, including an apartment in Chelsea that has not been touched for 40 years. We have also recently taken on a fantastic 5-bed family villa in St John’s Wood. It is an amazing listed property and the clients are wonderful. We will be fully renovating the house and recently received planning permission for our designs, which was a big relief. It has large floor-to-ceiling windows and a beautiful curved staircase. It is quite unique.
And of course, we are very excited to be moving to a new studio after working from home during lockdown.
Images: Catherine Wilman Interiors