Interior Designer chats to Clara Ewart, Head of Design at Kitesgrove, about her appreciation for architecture and design, and the importance of balancing studio talent.
London-based design firm Kitesgrove recently announced the appointment of Clara Ewart as its new Head of Design. Clara joined Kitesgrove in 2019 and has since headed up a diverse range of projects including a townhouse in Notting Hill, a family office in Mayfair, a villa in Kuwait and a listed vicarage in Oxfordshire. Her attention to detail and appreciation for the unique ensures that every Kitesgrove project is intelligently designed and steeped in narrative.
Clara combines a genuine creative talent with technical expertise. Throughout her career, she has developed her understanding of the architectural complexities of a project and is equally confident designing the interior architecture and flow of a building as she is selecting a rare artwork or the perfect fabric for a client.
Prior to Kitesgrove, Clara gained valuable industry experience, honing her aesthetic at leading London design practices, most recently at Todhunter Earle where she was Associate Director. She trained at KLC School of Design and believes that an instinctive approach to design creates truly personal interiors.
Here, Clara discusses her nuanced design ethos, organic design partnerships, and the continued importance of sustainability within the industry.
What is your earliest memory of design having an impact on you?
We spent a lot of time in Italy as a family when I was growing up, with my parents favouring visiting museums filled with masterpieces and Romanesque churches over going to the beach, instilling a deep-rooted appreciation for architecture, culture and design from a young age.
Where did you study design and what did you specialise in?
I studied Interior Design at KLC School of Design, undertaking the full time Certificate course that focused on Residential Interior Design.
What kind of designer did you aspire to be and who are your inspirations?
To create interiors that are unique and memorable, without being overly elaborate and different for different sake, but above all else, spaces that you ultimately want to spend time in. Both Ilse Crawford and Pierre Yovanovitch are eminently successful at achieving this delicate balance.
What was your first professional design commission?
Whilst I was working as an associate director at Todhunter Earle, I commissioned a bespoke leather floor for a client’s study made by Bill Amberg which not only looked truly spectacular once installed but further emphasised the possibilities of bespoke design not just relative to furniture, but concerning finishes too.
What has been your biggest design commission to date?
Our Kitesgrove Harrington Headboard, initially designed for a specific client, then became part of Ensemblier’s permanent collection resulting in a successful, ongoing collaboration with our Elborne sofa following shortly after. The partnership developed organically and was born out of a genuine need for something that we could not source elsewhere. As with the Harrington Headboard, we were unable to find the perfect shade of teal for a recent project so we collaborated with Farrow & Ball to create a ‘Kitesgrove Teal’. Looking forward, we are working towards the launch of our collection of /re/PURPOSE rugs with Jennifer Manners, designed wholly for their aesthetic properties but comprised of recycled plastic, a luxurious but eco-conscious step towards sustainability.
How would you describe Kitesgrove as a studio and a community of designers?
As our studio is not named after an individual designer, which is more common than not within the wider industry, this enables each designer to introduce their own unique backgrounds, influences and design styles whilst creating interiors that are identifiably Kitesgrove.
What are the key characteristics you look for when bringing new talent into your studio?
Ensuring there is a balance of skill sets within the design team is essential so that the overall strength of the team is not too heavily weighted towards the technical design nor the creative input.
You work a lot with property developers, how does this influence the way you approach design in comparison to your work with homeowners?
We approach each development as we would a private client, tailoring the interior to the design brief, architectural style of the building and client lead budget. Whilst the overall process is less personal, typically designing for a group of people rather than an individual, the end result is often indistinguishable from that of a private client as we focus on sourcing unique, unexpected and original pieces of furniture and artwork.
Where is the majority of your work based? And how has travel helped to shape and influence your ideas on design?
The majority of our projects are based in the UK with a strong international client base. With the world shifting towards a more global perspective, this has allowed designers to introduce inspiration from a wider variety of sources, whether that is a piece of furniture from a Scandinavian supplier or a method of timber slatting more commonly found within Japanese design.
What do you think should be a key focus for designers moving forward in 2021 and beyond?
Now more than ever, sustainability is at the forefront of people’s minds. Clients are now looking to us as designers to propose materials that have been responsibly sourced as well as understanding which suppliers have the most sustainable practices.
If you hadn’t become an interior designer what would you be doing?
Although the two are inextricably linked, if I hadn’t become an interior designer, I would be working as an architect. Ergonomics and space planning can be one of the most challenging and rewarding elements of the creative process and for me, one of the most enjoyable.