An interview with Katherine Sorrell,
design and lifestyle writer
Design and lifestyle writer Katherine Sorrell has written twenty books covering themes such as the use of pattern, inspirational homes and combining design influences from the past and present. She also regularly writes for a number of the biggest interior publications including House Beautiful, Ideal Home, 25 Beautiful Homes and Grand Designs. In this interview, Katherine discusses what led her to the design and interior industries, some of her biggest published titles and the biggest design events of 2017.
I’ve always loved anything creative. I spent a childhood making things out of yoghurt pots and wire coat hangers, Blue Peter-style. My father’s a designer, and I grew up surrounded by art materials and conversations about design projects, so I suppose that was an early influence. Once I’d decided to go into journalism, it was probably inevitable that I’d end up concentrating on a creative area. And I do think that how we arrange our homes is so important – interior design is not just about the colour of your curtains, but about fusing practicality and style so that you can feel completely comfortable and at ease. However, you could say the way I got into the industry was pure chance. I was out of a job at one stage and sent off hundreds of applications for freelance work. Elle Decoration replied and everything went from there. I knew nothing about the industry to start with, and they were very patient with me.
I can’t choose! I love them all. It’s like being asked to name your favourite child. In fact, I’d say my favourite is always whatever I’m working on right now.
I think the series is fresh and innovative, and what is particularly great, for me, is the combination of well-researched architectural history with style ideas and practical challenges.
The Vintage/Modern home is an exploration of how to make a home work when you have a mixture of hand-me-downs, high-street pieces, junk-shop bargains or the odd quality antique – basically, things you’ve accumulated over the years. It’s easy enough to pull it off when you start with a blank canvas, but I wanted to look at real life, and not with a huge budget. Retro Home, again, is aimed at people who love retro style but don’t necessarily want to spend a fortune on rare pieces. Retro is quite a broad church, so I looked at the different types – cool Scandinavian or vibrant Sixties-style, for example – and delved a little into some of the key people and themes of the era, which was fun.
I am pretty eclectic – I get to see so much that it can be really hard to choose between styles, and it would be all too easy to end up with a mish-mash of different things. So I try to be disciplined (I’m not sure I always succeed) – the aim is a classic/contemporary mix that suits a modern lifestyle in a period house. We moved fairly recently and, whereas our last house was late Georgian with colourful, retro influences, this time (in our Victorian home) we’re going for a plainer style with more naturals and neutrals, and just the odd jolt of colour. The aim is calmness in an increasingly stressful and busy world!
Definitely DesignJunction. I went last year and it was so exciting, and I think it will continue to grow and grow. The London Design Festival as a whole is an incredible thing, and I hope to get to as many of this year’s events as possible. I’m fond of both Decorex and 100% Design, very different but each unmissable in their own ways. I also really love the Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey in Devon, which is jam-packed with incredible makers, workshops, activities and demonstrations.
There is huge potential to develop LED lighting in all forms (safe, long-lasting, cheap to run – what’s not to like?), while smart home devices such as thermostats you can control from a mobile are set to grow and grow. Style-wise, I think there’ll be more 70s style to come, and also an increasing emphasis on nature, texture and the hand-made. Lastly, I think there is already a backlash against too-cheap, ephemeral design, and I’m hoping for more of an appreciation of well-made things that will stand the test of time.
So hard to choose, but I’m going to say the Bayern table lamp. The shape is strong and interesting, and the crackle glaze gives it an appealing texture. I’m always drawn to turquoise, or the white colourway is lovely and subtle.