Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Kate Thornley-Hall: Partial to patterns – bolder the better

Kate Thornley-Hall designed this room in a converted mill in Mulmur, Ont. She transformed a simple underused room into the client’s favourite spot in the house by making it bold, bright and full of life.

Susan Gouinlock

Kate Thornley-Hall is partial to patterns – the bolder the better, as seen in the eye-popping line of products she's designed since 2007. Whether it's chevrons or toile, each Thornley-Hall design has a cool, modern sensibility. The Globe asked the Toronto interior designer to reveal her favourite colours, paint and materials, and the secrets behind her style.

Most important element of a room: The carpet. I always start with the ground and move up, probably why I started making carpets. I'm hard to please and had trouble finding contemporary carpets I was inspired by. It gives you a base, working this way, and it is often the most outstanding piece in the room, so building around a carpet makes sense.

Favourite paint colour: Farrow & Ball Lulworth Blue, I use it a lot, usually on exterior details, such as shutters in the country. It's bright and bold and happy – a little bit French, a little bit Swedish and oh, so pretty.

Story continues below advertisement

Favourite front-door colour: Dark purple. Currently my front door is Benjamin Moore Gentle Violet 2071-20.

Favourite tile: Brilliant coloured Spanish tiles.

Best way to make a room feel more spacious: Beautiful mirrors to catch the light and/or paint the ceiling the same colour or a shade up from the walls.

Your design rule: Buy and use only pieces you love. It helps in the decision process and eliminates prevaricating. If you really, really love it, you will be able to use it somewhere, and if you don't love it, don't buy it. Simple.

Design pet peeve: Overuse of shades of beige, greige, taupe or stone colour leave me cold and make me sad.

Favourite lighting trick: Low-level lighting, lamps on tables, scones, delicious sparkly chandeliers, and never, EVER, pot lights!

Best use of $500: Buying antique or vintage pairs of chairs (I have a chair obsession) and re-covering them in fabulous new fabrics.

Story continues below advertisement

Signature room: I love this room, in a converted mill in Mulmur, Ont., for lots of reasons. It's bold, bright, happy and full of life. The inspiration was ancient Scottish castles with grand yet cozy rooms. We tracked down a mill in Scotland and convinced them to weave the client's family tartan in no time at all. They said no until they said yes, and we upholstered the walls in the gorgeous wool tartan. We used a huge button-backed leather sofa, from Montauk, love to go local.

Blue velvet curtains with wonderful swooping valances adorn the 12-foot high windows and we threw one of my medallion pillows designed by the Smythe girls on the sofa, a bolt of bright blue and orange that picks up the colours on the tartan-lined walls. A set of antlers make up the chandelier and we used a beautiful ancient piece of heavy French ironwork, covered in thick glass, as a coffee table. We transformed a simple, underused room into the family's favourite room. My goal was to create a space that all the family gathers in, that combines traditional and contemporary in a vivid but harmonious setting.

This interview has been condensed and edited by Kathryn Hayward.

Report an error Licensing Options

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨