Kay Westmaas established her interior design and decoration company, Studio Westmaas, in 2016. Based in Richmond, Kay has built a strong portfolio that showcases her unique aesthetic, which has been strongly influenced by her childhood in both England and Barbados. The studio works closely with clients on bespoke residential and commercial projects to develop ideas and deliver beautiful, inspiring interiors. With travel at the heart of the design studio (Kay has lived and worked in Barbados, Dubai and England) the Studio’s signature style is eclectic yet timeless, with an emphasis on natural materials, textures and complementing areas of colour. Prior to Studio Westmaas, Kay worked for a number of luxury interior design companies including household names such as Kelly Hoppen and Rose Uniacke in order to learn and understand the industry to her best ability before setting out on her own path. Marguerite met with Kay in her Richmond home, to discuss the competitiveness of the interior design industry, the importance of being versatile, her favourite Marguerite event so far and what projects she is currently working on.
Can you summarise to me what your ethos is at Studio Westmaas?
It is evolving all the time. Primarily it is an interior design and decoration company for residential clients. However, I am now expanding into products. I am currently trying to find suppliers to make my designs; I want it to all be made in the UK - to be bespoke, not mass produced. Ultimately, Studio Westmaas prides itself on its ability to breathe new life into any space – encapsulating function, form and quality.
How do your clients hear about you?
Often google or word of mouth.
Can you say 'no' to projects?
I am slowly starting to do say No more. I think it is very important to be selective and make sure you love the projects you work on. But I do very much still get the guilt complex of saying 'no'. I don’t want to do a half hearted job for someone just for the sake of the money, I think that it shows.
Since establishing Studio Westmaas in 2016 can you summarise what you have achieved/done?
Since starting Studio Westmaas I have completed over 20 projects. I used to work on smaller projects at the start but I’ve recently landed myself a large house project in Holland Park which is a fantastic achievement for me. I also did a talk at Decorex in front of over 200 people last year which I would never have done before, that was both exciting and extremely nerve wracking!
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on a large Grade 2 Listed house in Holland Park that needs a lot of work. It is great because I am working a lot with the architect on the structural side of things - that is what I want to be doing more and more of. This will keep me busy for 18 months. In my down time (the weeks of planning) is when I am working on my products. As I said, I haven’t found a supplier yet so have decided to do it myself for the time being.
What are the products you will be working into Studio Westmaas?
Lighting will be part of it. I used to do ceramics, so I am getting back into it. I start my course next week. I will be creating one off objects and potentially homeware. I used to sell cushions. I will do embroidery and that sort of thing. The market is so commutative at the moment I think it is important to be versatile. A lot of designers have their design company but also a shop. Sometimes the shop is more profitable!
How did Barbados influence your interior design aesthetic?
I guess it is colours really. I used to work with Rose Uniacke whose style is quite British with more muted tones, which I quite like where as Barbados it is totally different - it is so colourful. So when I began to merge the two together people started to come to me for that particular style. I did interior design in Barbados for two years, mainly working on Sandy Lane Estate and Royal Westmoreland - big villas - holiday homes - this was with a company called Archers Hall and their work wasn’t really muted at all. People over in Barbados didn’t want an English style home. The clients we were working with were mainly Canadian and English. They wanted Caribbean Colonial style. So that all seeped into my work. I love the Colonial bamboo look, which my clients quite like as well. Even though I was doing that years ago it has very much come into trend recently, which is useful!
Was it always part of your plan to go on and start your own business?
Yes. I always knew that I wanted to start my own thing. When I was growing up I was obsessed with art and being an artist but I wanted something a bit more secure so I didn’t pursue it further. I also loved fashion and textiles as well as the idea of property development, so I guess I sort of fused the two together.
Can you tell me what your clientele are like - are they often very similar?
Some of my clients are quite young - in their twenties. I’m 29 and few of them have been younger than me. Then I also have clients who are approaching retirement and want to do up their home. The styles have been very varied. The younger clientele want clean muted tones where as older clients have more money to spend so they tend to want the best and to source different styles. A lot of the older clients are very into their art collecting. I had an art collector in Kensington who I worked with to help finish her home - an incredible space with wonderful objects, art and furniture (which included a 3d plastic rocking chair that is incredible).
Do you still make art?
I do. I just find it difficult to manage my time and fit it in. When I paint I mainly use acrylic.
Do you work with galleries/artists?
There is an art broker I try to use who is also a Marguerite member - Julia Bell (Parapluie Art). That was for my Kensington client. I have tried to propose my friends who are artists as well but a lot of my clients like to go out and source their own work. The Decorative Arts fair is a good one - I often go there as well as . People who want to invest in art usually take a lot longer to decide.
You source art, antiques and custom made furniture from all over the world for your projects - are there any cities in particular that suit your aesthetic most?
When I worked in Barbados we made a lot of the custom furniture on the island and also imported antiques from Asia a lot. Again, Decorative Arts Fair and Pimlico Road is very good. Paris is also good and sometimes New York — but shipping can be difficult. At the moment I find that clients are very conscious about what they are spending, they want to see the product before they purchase it - they are more savvy, which I think could have something to do with Brexit. So I would say Europe really is where I source most of the pieces. London is also fantastic - everything is on my doorstep!
Are you drawn to any art movements or styles in particular/ones that influence your aesthetic?
I don’t have any art movements in particular that influence my style, often the art is lead by the client and what they already have in their collection. Sometimes I use van Gogh and Matisse as references if clients don’t have art.
Why did you join Marguerite?
I joined thanks to a friend who recommended the members' club. I used to be a member of the South Kensington Club and Quintessentially and my friend suggested I should join Marguerite instead given its strong programme. I’m so glad I did, all the members actually talk to one another and ‘networking’ is so easy. At the first event I went to, which was at Chess Club, I met Julia the art broker! It is so good at helping connect people. No one seems to have an agenda, which is so refreshing. Its also a great excuse to come into Central London. Although Richmond is still London, I have everything on my doorstep so can easily stay there for weeks on end. Marguerite is a perfect way of drawing me into the city.
What has been your favourite Marguerite event?
Zandra Rhodes. It was fantastic. It was like walking into her wardrobe but we were in fact in her living room! She was so interesting and very helpful on how to grow in the world of business. Her brand director was also there who was brilliant at speaking to all of us. We also got to see her screen printing downstairs which was very special. That was the stand out event for me. Now that the Summer Programme has been released I’m looking forward to Plants in Contemporary Interior Design and also HOW TO: Make It
If you could go have any four artists to dinner, who would they be?
The 4 artists I would like to have dinner with would be: Matisse as he made painting look easy and I love his use of colour and shapes; my childhood friend Rebecca Harper as she's always good fun to have dinner with - her art is figurative and is often from places she visits around the world; Leonardo da Vinci as the Isleworth Mona Lisa was found in Rebecca's parents' house and it would be interesting to find out if it was the real one; and Grayson Perry as he would be great for conversation.