An Interview With St James Whitting

This week my blog is heading down under to chat to Australian interior design company, St James Whitting.  In the Southern Hemisphere, spring has descended and there is no better time to revamp and redecorate. Not to be left out, the Northern Hemisphere’s Autumn/Fall season is a great excuse to check out the fabulous rugs and cosy interior ideas. And the artwork is fab too! Welcome…

Catherine on the left; Kate on the right

Who are “St James Whitting”?

Kate St James FDIA and Catherine Whitting AssDIA, are two designers passionate about creating eco-friendly, sustainable interiors and products that are healthy for people and the planet.
London born Kate is the founding editor-in-chief of Grand Designs Australia magazine, Home Design and several additional magazines, a role she held for 16 years before co-founding St James Whitting.  Prior to her editorial role, Kate ran an interior design practice for more than 15 years in Brisbane and Sydney. 
Along with co-founding St James Whitting, Sydney-based Catherine also lectures interior design at The Design Centre, Enmore, Sydney’s pre-eminent college for interior design studies.  Catherine also ran her business Décor Instyle prior to co-founding SJW. The company creates interiors for residential and commercial projects. It also has a range of homewares called The Elementals Collection which includes five designs for Designer Rugs Australia; 147 paint colours across 21 palettes coloured by Resene paints and seven designs for fabrics with Hemp Gallery Australia and a range of products for social enterprise company, Vida.  There is also a fine art collection of limited edition Giclee prints, represented by The Curious Art Bar.

What was it about interior designing that made you want to pursue interior design as a career? What was the motive behind setting up St James Whitting?

Interior design allows us to indulge our creative sides, but it is also a practical skill.  Creating beautiful, well-designed spaces for people to live and work in is an exciting opportunity. We both understand how spaces affect the way people live and work, and how architecture and design can influence our lives in a positive way; and we love finding solutions to problems,and making people happy! St James Whitting came about after we met at an industry function and spent many hours talking about our passion for eco-friendly design and how we would love to design an eco-resort. While the resort is yet to be realised, we have created many beautiful residential and commercial interiors and look forward to continuing to change people’s lives through great design.

Inked Up pure wool rug by St James Whitting for Designer Rugs shown with the Inked Up Palette from the paint range

I love the custom designed rugs that you do. To date, what has been your most popular art work or item?

The most popular rug in the range has to be Alcatraz, although all designs have been well received in the marketplace.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

Our favourite piece in the rug collection is Inked Up.  We lovethe swirling pattern and the way in which the design suits both classic and contemporary styles.

When it comes to interior design, I do like pale clean walls (currently favouring pale silver grey and aqua shades of blue) with brightly coloured accessories.  What colours/styles do you tend to favour?

There are no specific colours or schemes we use as each new project comes with its own brief and we use colours that provide the best outcomes. For us colour is under, or poorly used in many situations and it is our mission to bring a greater understanding and use of colour to our projects. We created our own range of paints with Resene paints this year.  There are 147 colours in the range and we love them all!

Walls painted Teal Terrain from the SJW Elementals Collection coloured by Resene. Quilted bed topper in Ripples designed by SJW for Hemp Gallery Australia; cushions designed by SJW for Hemp Gallery Australia including Wildflowers, Ripples, Kindling Sticks and Firespike.

Kate, you’ve written 3 e-books on sustainable design & interiors; Ian is a passionate advocate for sustainability and the creation of low impact, sustainable urban communities. What ideas could a person incorporate when designing their home to make it adequately sustainable?

My top tips for creating a more sustainable home are:

  • Use passive-solar design principles when creating a new home design or renovation
  • Insulate – floors, walls and ceilings
  • Use double glazing to thermally control temperatures
  • Use zero VOC paints, glues and grouts, board and materials for a healthier interior environment
  • Select furniture and furnishings that do not contain or are manufactured with toxic materials
  • Provide good ventilation
  • Use as many natural materials as possible including FSC timber, hemp fabrics, eco paints, pure wool carpets and textiles, linen bedding and products with a clear provenance and chain of custody.

Growing up, did you all have dreams of being interior designers or did you have other career plans?

Kate: In my teens  I studied classical music and wanted to be an opera singer. However, a move to Australia halted those aspirations. I pursued a career in journalism in the early 1970s but after meeting husband to be, Ian who was studying architecture, I turned my sights to interior design.

Catherine: I studied art and painting; my  lifelong passion.  After teaching art, I moved into design and now I teach interior design when not designing for clients.

Nantucket Sunrise I & II by Kate St James and Catherine Whitting. Limited Edition fine art giclee prints of original mixed media

As St James Whitting is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

The rugs, fabrics and artworks can be shipped worldwide. We do not yet have any overseas stockists, but we’re working on that!

If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new interior design collection or artwork collection, where would you go and why?

Catherine and I have been talking about Avignon of late, and we are also planning a trip to Italy next year. Both places would provide lots of inspiration.  But there’s nothing like the Australian landscape with its diversity of flora, fauna and topography, not to mention light and colour, to provide inspiration for our designs.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Kate: We both have a penchant for natural fibres including hemp and linen.  I love red and Catherine loves shades of green. My shoes  are flat and heels for Catherine.  We both wear black and love to dress this up with scarves from our collection with Vida, and jewellery by MisSMash.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

We both try to shop locally, in small boutiques where quality fabrics and local designers are represented. We rarely buy clothes online.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Kate: With summer on the horizon, more linen and casual pieces in soft colours and neutrals.  I love espadrilles as I live near the beach.  Catherine: I love hats – so perhaps one or two summer ones may find their way into my wardrobe. We are both very conscious of not buying too many clothes and prefer to buy quality over quantity and recycle them wherever possible or give them to charities.

 Boots or Shoes? 

Kate: Boots in winter, shoes and sandals in summer, for practical reasons.  I like tailored styles.

Catherine: I have a penchant for Victoriana; with laces!

For Pinning Later.
Elementals Collection coloured by Resene colour chart

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebooketc so that readers can find out more about St James Whitting

www.stjameswhitting.com

www.facebook.com/stjameswhitting

www.facebook.com/stjameswhittingart

www.instagram.com/stjameswhitting

Thank you for chatting to me ladies and I do so love your artwork and vision! I share Catherine’s love of Victoriana lace up boots too! Something very elegant about those boots… 

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kate & Catherine (St James Whitting).

© 2018, Linda. All rights reserved.

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