Discover Élan: The Interior Design of Kate Hume, An Lh Exclusive Interview
It was March 10th, 2020 when Amsterdam-based interior designer Kate Hume and I got on the phone for this interview. I was still working from my office, but COVID-19 lockdowns were rapidly spreading around the world. Kate’s new book Élan: The Interior Design of Kate Hume, first set to launch in March, had then been pushed back to June. Which, at the time, seemed maybe plausible in some form. Then the year 2020 turned upside down, albeit with some silver linings, and now here we are in October and Élan will finally be available at the beginning of November! If you love design, Kate Hume’s elan (energy, style, and enthusiasm, for those who aren’t familiar with this word!), along with her keen sense of color, appreciation for the artisanal, and ability to create elegant, comfortable homes are sure to delight you!
First, a little about Kate Hume
Raised in Buckinghamshire, Kate Hume has been practicing interior design internationally for over 20 years. Based between Amsterdam and southern France, Kate and her eponymous firm have created everything from high-rise residences and family beach houses to country manors and boutique hotels.
Kate’s early career as a fashion stylist informs her work along with her appreciation for the timeless craftsmanship of artisans and the many artists whom she involves in her projects. In addition to interiors, Kate is also a renowned glass designer, and, together with her husband and collaborator Frans van der Heijden, designs timeless pieces of furniture showcased in their Heijden Hume collection.
Élan: The Interior Design of Kate Hume is her latest project and a must for every interior aficionado. Published by Rizzoli, the book reveals stories created with layers of texture, fascinating objects, and vibrant shades, that is Kate’s signature style.
Read on for my chat with Kate and be inspired! And join Kate and Linda O’Keeffe for a virtual book launch Nov. 12th.
Lh Exclusive Interview with Kate Hume
Love Happens: What first sparked your love for fashion?
Kate Hume: It was always there I think. My mother is a very good seamstress so I was always getting her to make things for me from as early as I can remember. She made all of my clothes and my sister’s clothes. We could give her anything and she would make it. So I guess it was that too.
Lh: What led to your decision to leave fashion and start your furniture business, Heijden Hume, with your husband?
Kate: We were in the film business. He was a director for commercials and I was styling. And we basically had that company and were doing all sorts of things for that all over the world. We were based in New York when we were busy with that.
Then we bought a summer house in France and couldn’t find any furniture that we liked. Which is strange when you think about what’s on the market now. But for some reason there just didn’t seem to be much. It was a while ago honestly.
So we started making things. He started making furniture and was quite good at it. He always had made bits and pieces all his life and I had grown up with it also because my dad did that. Again it was from a similar background. So we just started making our own stuff. We were really intent on designing this house that we’d bought, well any property we had, it was always our property first, where we would experiment.
Lh: After starting Heijden Hume you transitioned into interior design, tell us about this.
Kate: Largely it was because someone saw the furniture and really liked it. I was promoting that and then this woman said “oh could you do my house, I don’t know who to ask.” The industry, I think, at least in Europe, has somehow exploded. There wasn’t so much around then. I mean there were these factories that made dining chairs and tables, but they were all pretty standard. Each country had its thing, there were the Danish ones, the French ones, the Dutch ones, and the German ones, all those established old companies. There weren’t so many new innovative companies popping up, and now of course it is much more normal.
Lh: What led to your desire to work with glass and start the Kate Hume glass collection?
Kate: At our first trade show I thought we needed some accessories because it was like three tables, some chairs, and a mirror. And again that was the strange thing, there was nothing. You could buy vintage glass in the states, there were a couple of really good places in California. As a stylist, I knew the vintage resources. But there just didn’t seem to be much out in the market being made. Unless it was really craft at a high-end level or really bad craft.
At first, I just chose glass because that was what was possible. Because you don’t actually have to learn how to do it. You work with craftspeople that do know how to do it. Because there is no way I would ever catch up or even be strong enough to make the things that they make for me. So I am there with the process, every single time we make anything. And I am involved in the production but not in a heavy lifting, literally, way.
I didn’t know about glass at all. I was really into ceramics, and I still am, but I realized I would have to really go and study that, but I thought I don’t have time, I need it by September and this is July. So I better find someone that can just be on board with me and make what I design. And that’s really basically what happened.
So, it wasn’t necessarily a choice of the material, but it developed into that. But you know I love all sorts of vessel type objects in any material actually. So that’s sort of a passion. I collect more ceramics, I don’t collect anybody else’s glass, I am not particularly a fan myself of other people’s glass. I like my own obviously and have plenty of that. But I just don’t really particularly like other people’s very much, but I love other people’s ceramics because I can’t do it, or metalwork, or timber work, anything like that that I’m not doing.
Lh: Tell us about how Élan came to be! First, what led to your decision to do a book? And how did co-author Linda O’Keeffe become involved?
Kate: I was just sort of batting the idea around really for quite a while. I knew Linda…I mean I know books are advantageous for publicity and so forth…but I also thought it’s about time. We had enough things we could say that are at least slightly different from what we’ve seen around. And it’s a European point of view to some extent.
I was talking to Linda about it, asking her advice because she had written a couple of interviews with me, and then the idea just came up, let’s do it together. It was very organic. And then it sort of went away for a while, we all got busy with other things. It’s been a long time coming actually, I mean really, I’m like come on let’s get this thing published!
Lh: Where did the name Élan come from?
Kate: That was my husband’s idea actually, he thought it suited the way I am. We wanted a word that looks good written down. We’re well aware of the fact that most people don’t know what it means, at least in the United States. But it doesn’t matter. It seems to sum up how we attack things.
Lh: Now that the book is done and finally ready for the world to get their hands on, do you have any plans for future books?
Kate: I would never say never, but I think you need a lot of material to get to having enough projects to make a book that you like. Also for me this was sort of the best of the last ten years, so do I really want to wait another ten years? I don’t know.
I wouldn’t mind making a book on another point of view. That might be more interesting. I think if I did another book it would be more about mixing things up, something cross-media, but not just mine, everybodys.
But my husband art directed this book and I mean honestly I think he wanted to shoot himself. He was like why did I say I was going to do this. He is very good at this but it was a lot of work. When you launch a product like this, you have to think of a concept behind it. That’s the first hurdle. And then you have to get everyone to agree that’s the concept and it’s going to look like this.
The thing about it is that it has to say something about me. You’re really putting yourself out there. So, he art directed it and photographed it. And then my sister was writing for it, it was really a group effort. And then there was Linda as well, editing, editing, editing, editing. It was interesting, I don’t know if I would go through it again. I would like to do it in a different group maybe. Not that I don’t like this group of people [giggle]. But if I did it again it would have to be totally different.
Lh: In Élan your love of color is highlighted, a signature you have also become known for. Do you attribute anything in particular to your love for color?
Kate: I love it and then I don’t need it at all, as well. So it doesn’t really matter. I think it’s just a question of what’s right for that moment. What’s right for that client, and what’s right for that location. I don’t know I would ever want to live in a house that’s completely white, I don’t think that’s me, because I like texture, and I like invention and I like prints. I like to see stuff and there is so much stuff out there.
So color has become a sort of second nature in a way. I am not scared of it, I would literally use any color, I think. I am very sure of what works in certain places. So that’s the thing, I have to convince my clients of I guess. You know that this is going to be violet. And they’re like, oh alright. And I’m like, it will be, but it will be fine. Whereas if you’re a designer that says we are going to do taupe, and then we’re going to do chocolate, and then we’re having some cream…I’m actually doing a house right now that is literally 500 shades of white-taupe, they think it’s outrageous because they aren’t expecting that from me.
Lh: What three pieces of advice would you give to a young designer/entrepreneur?
Kate: Stay true to yourself, in anything. I think that’s really important. You have to have your own voice. And you will find it. You probably have it already if you want to do this, but you’ll find it if you don’t.
Strangely I think it’s an industry you are sort of born with, so it’s a very difficult thing to come up into and say I am going to do this as a job if you don’t have a knack for it. But there are all sorts of parts of the industry, like the financial side of it, or on the promotional side, which I’d love to have more of that ability. So there is never a reason not to be in the industry. You could have an incredibly successful design firm but you could be the promotional-financial person and somebody else be the designer, there are so many elements to the business. But I think if you are a designer, it’s like breathing really, I really think it’s just something you know in your heart what’s right, and everyone’s different.
It’s never too late to begin, which is quite pertinent to me. I was doing all sorts of things before I got to this. You can have a career change at 40. I wasn’t scared of it. Having a career change at any point is a daring thing to do. But don’t be frightened of that. Sometimes coming to this business later can be an advantage, you’ve lived a bit, you know what you like, you’ve traveled, seen things, you know what works.
Lh: Do you have any mottos you like to live by?
Kate: I was just thinking, every cloud has a silver lining. It sounds so tacky, but I am wondering what it is right now as we are facing total lockdown. The silver lining right now is probably that ecologically the world will recover a few carbon footprints. Good comes out of bad situations. It is not always very easy to believe that, but it helps.
Lh: What’s next for Kate Hume?
Kate: Project wise we are doing quite a few nice projects. We have a big loft in Berlin which is a very peculiar shape of a building so it’s been very challenging. And then we have a big huge, huge house near Moscow. And we are doing a 17th-century Captain’s house in a beautiful village in Holland.
I really want to try to go out and meet people with the book. Originally the book was supposed to be out this month, I really thought I would be on the road in March. It has been pushed back to June, but by then we don’t know where we will be…
And here we are in October, almost to November 3rd! So at long last, congratulations to Kate and the entire team behind Élan on the fabulous celebration of Kate Hume’s beautiful designs! And for all the fans out there, Kate looks forward to getting out in person with her book as soon as she can safely do so, so stay tuned!
Interview by Anna Beck Bimba
All Photographs by Frans van der Heijden