In Conversation: Karen Howes & Jane Landino of Taylor Howes on game-changing projects & longevity of design

By PrimeResi Editor

PrimeResi meets the CEO & creative head of the acclaimed interiors studio that's worked on over three billion pounds worth of prime and super-prime London real estate.

One of the biggest names in the luxury design world, London-based studio Taylor Howes has worked on more than £3bn worth of real estate over the last three decades, delivering over 1,000 projects – including a number of genuine game-changers. It has, at one time or another, been present in every major development in the capital, either as the appointed development designer or by appointment of a private client.

To mark the firm’s 30-year milestone, PrimeResi caught up with founder & CEO Karen Howes & creative director Jane Landino to discuss the biggest changes they’ve witnessed in the sector, why they’ve decided to rebrand and launch a new sister company & what today’s clients really want from their homes…

Karen Howes & Jane Landino

Taylor Howes has completed over 1,000 projects and worked on over three billion pounds worth of real estate over the last 30 years; can you remember your first major project win, and what was one of the big lessons you learned early on?

KH: At Taylor Howes, we talk about game changing projects, this is when you work on something you haven’t done before, and you feel like you are punching above your weight. One of my first of these project wins was overseeing the development of Saint George Wharf in Vauxhall for St George property developers. It was a tremendous success, we sold the first penthouse on the night of its launch. I’ve always sought to keep nudging the bar higher and higher in the work we do, so in that sense, it taught me the importance of never standing still.

JL: Our development of Saint Saviour’s Church in Knightsbridge really was a game changing moment for the studio. It spread the word amongst UHNWIs in London and beyond about the work of Taylor Howes and taught me about the power of collaboration. We always aspire for our projects to be greater than the sum of their parts.

Does the studio have a house style or particular aesthetic; what sets it apart from other design firms – and is there such a thing as a typical client?

KH: At Taylor Howes, we prioritise longevity of design. Thirty years later, our designs are still in situ. We are all about working with the existing building and sourcing collectors’ items that will be passed on from generation to generation.

JL: If you were to identify the unique house styles of Taylor Howes, it would be our love for colour and our appreciation for fine art. However, we offer a completely bespoke service, and therefore, there is no such thing as a typical client. No two clients and no two properties are the same. Taylor Howes prides itself on its versatility, and we fulfil requests that range from the contemporary to the traditional, and everything in between. From a punk rock-inspired hotel on Denmark Street to celebrate Soho as the birthplace of the iconic British music scene to the restoration of a Grade II listed manor house in Epping Forest, we really do it all at Taylor Howes!

Château Denmark

Do you have a personal favourite amongst the properties or developments you have worked on? Is there a scheme that sticks out as being especially challenging, and if so, why?

KH: Projects are like children and we love them all equally, although I am always most passionate about the project that I am currently working on. It’s also very special when we get commissions from clients we have already worked with. We had a recent request to work on a four bedroom apartment in Chelsea Barracks from a client whose penthouse flat in Kensington we developed over twenty years ago. We’re now also assisting his sister with one of her projects. It’s such a lovely thing to follow a client through the many stages of their life.

It’s such a lovely thing to follow a client through the many stages of their life

JL: Château Denmark was especially challenging because of the Covid-19 lockdowns and ongoing social distancing rules, which delayed the project’s developments. On top of this, the development was set across sixteen different buildings, all with different listings and complex architectural schemes. We found creative solutions to unify the separate spaces and sourced from British craftsmen and suppliers to keep the project moving forward. It really pushed the boundaries for us as a studio and was a truly extraordinary project in terms of creativity and design.

Château Denmark

What element of your day-to-day role do you most enjoy now?

KH: For me, it’s all about people. I love meeting with clients and getting to the heart of what it is they are looking for. My first ever client was one of my very dear friends. I love building on these relationships in my work.

JL: I’m really in my element in the sample room where I enjoy experimenting with materials, finishes and concepts.

What’s your best advice for making sure a luxury scheme gets delivered on time – and on budget?

KH: You are only as good as your suppliers. We have been in the industry for thirty years, which means we have a considerable network of tried and tested suppliers, whom we trust to ensure timely delivery and adherence to budget.

JL: Communication is key! We employ the most talented and creative people in the business and train them all in house. We find that collaboration between architects, project managers and contractors is essential to meet budget and time constraints.

How have design briefs changed since you started out? Are there any specific attributes or features that today’s HNWIs and developers are looking for in their residences/projects? (e.g. sustainability credentials; materials; layouts)

KH: Design briefs have changed with the changing nature of Taylor Howes. We started out as decorators, and we have developed into a studio which offers a full interior design service, overseeing a project from initial brainstorming sessions to its completion. We are now appointed ahead of architects, and with that responsibility means design briefs have become more and more complex and technical. We worked on the first phase of The Old War Office renovation, which involved space planning eighty-four apartments and three miles of listed corridor. It was without doubt one of the most complicated space planning I have ever done in my career.

JL: I would say we lead our clients when it comes to sustainability agenda. We procure as much as possible from British suppliers, looking to reduce travel emissions. We also recommend the most eco-conscious options, which, more often than not, are the best quality and most highly trusted, and our clients are therefore very receptive to this. We are, in fact, currently collaborating with Graphenstone Eco Paints to launch our very own range of paints that are carbon neutral and toxin-free because we recognise the importance of having eco-friendly options to present to a client.


What are some of the more “out-there” requests you have received – and delivered – for your clients to date?

KH: We were once asked to create a tunnel to connect the main house to the mews house, allowing for differing secret entrances/exits!

JL: Some requests that spring to mind include installing a Formula One simulator in the basement of a private residential home, a snow room, and a Cryotherapy chamber.

To what extent is AI changing the design process, and where do you see things evolving from here?

KH: From a sustainability perspective, AI is particularly useful. It helps us improve technical planning, which, therefore, reduces waste.

JL: We sometimes use MidJourney at the start of the project. It can be fun to see what creative inspiration it can offer us. While AI offers benefits, our emphasis remains on maintaining human connection. I believe that understanding the nuances and subtleties of a client’s request is something that can only be done by us.

The TH client roster includes some extremely successful and wealthy people; how are they feeling about London and the UK as a place to live, invest and raise families?

KH: For International Women’s Day, we hosted a women in luxury panel, all of whom had ties to the Middle East, either professionally or personally. It was lovely to hear that London will always be home to them and have a special place in their hearts. I’ve seen that while clients may spend time away, they often return to the city because it’s home. Despite this, it’s crucial for the government to foster a welcoming environment for new business, through promoting tourism and foreign investment. There’s incredible talent here in the UK, and we need government backing to ensure it is fully recognised and reaches its potential. We, as a studio, are also always adapting to the changing times and seeking opportunities across the globe. We have worked on incredible projects recently in the US, Switzerland, Ireland and Kuwait.

Can you give us a flavour of the projects you are currently working on, and a few of those coming down the line?

KH: We are currently working on three incredible duplex penthouses in London, a ski chalet in Verbier, a large family home in Kuwait, a beach house in the Middle East and a yacht.

JL: We are also very excited to have three new product collaborations in the works, having previously collaborated with AGA, C.P Hart and Urban Electric.

You have just revealed an all-new brand and identity for the studio; can you talk us through the revamp and your motivations behind this?

KH: Our rebrand allows us to evolve and adapt to changing times. It is also one of the most exhausting and time-consuming tasks you have to do as a designer! We are also really excited to announce our sister company, Studio Howes, which looks to marry the youthful energy and individualism of our team with the wealth of expertise from Taylor Howes. Studio Howes looks to offer both furnishing solutions for landlords, developers and private clients and a trusted pair of hands for the next generation of property owners.

JL: While it’s great to celebrate our thirty year heritage, we as a studio are always looking forward, which is what motivated our revamp. It allows us to ask ourselves what we want the studio to be in ten years’ time.

Where would you like to see the studio in ten years’ time?

KH: We want the studio and the brand to have a life of its own and to have fresh, new talent on the team pushing the boundaries of great design not just for the next ten years but for the next thirty and beyond.

What are your greatest sources of design inspiration?

KH: Art serves as a central inspiration in all our designs.

JL: Nature, particularly my beloved garden, serves as a constant source of inspiration.

Karen, the annual carol concert you co-founded has raised over £500k for children’s mental Health charity Place2Be; can you tell us more about your other charitable initiative, RestNest?

KH: I founded RestNest as a way to say thank you to our incredible NHS nurses. The initiative, supported through the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust’s Covid-19 legacy programme, has seen the transformation of over thirty staff break room facilities for NHS workers throughout the UK. We make sure to tailor each RestNest room to each hospital staff’s unique needs and requirements, just like any other client project. The process involves extensive client briefings, a studio visit, a design presentation and complete procurement and installation. Rest is essential to us all, but perhaps especially to our key workers whose work often goes unrecognised. We also see it as a way to bring NHS teams together through providing a sociable and inviting environment.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

KH: Never ever ever ever give up’ was a piece of advice given to me by Martin Waller of Andrew Martin, who has been a friend and mentor of mine since I was eighteen years old.

JL: Treat everyone as you wish to be treated yourself,’ which sits at the core of our values at Taylor Howes to be kind, honest and passionate.

The Taylor Howes showroom in Knightsbridge
Images: Taylor Howes/Anna Moody