KATE CHALLIS (Principal)
Kate Challis Interiors is a unique design studio whose work is strongly influenced by its founder’s initial career as an art historian. Kate grew up amongst prominent artists, writers and intellectuals, and her childhood was spent amidst museums and churches, in both European cities and other places of the world. Kate is the grand-daughter of Bernard Smith, the esteemed art-historian who is considered to be one of Australia’s most important thinkers—and one of the most significant influences on her life.
These formative experiences did not simply bestow upon Kate a love of art and of aesthetics. They instilled in her a deep visual language in which she became fluent at an early age. By her 20s, she was ready to start a doctorate thesis on the topic of deluxe illuminated manuscripts from the early 16th century. This research took her across the globe to the likes of the Vatican, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. Today, in addition to her interior design practice, she remains active as a scholar, with her most recent research study having been published in 2018. She is passionate about contemporary art and is on the Board of the RAKA indigenous art award, one of Australia’s first, established by her grandfather in honour of his late wife—and Kate’s namesake.
Following the completion of her academic studies, Kate ventured into the business world and founded a yoga and Pilates studio in central Melbourne, with a focus on creating a stunning space to practice in. Selected by Wallpaper* for their guide on Melbourne, it was described as “a paradise” at a time when the design of yoga studios was not the norm.
Kate’s evolution into interior design began when she was a new mother. She sold her share in her business and began an interior design blog titled Urban Kaleidoscope. Soon after that, she was surprised at the following it attracted, especially the attention she conjured up for photographs of her own house. This led to features in Australian and international digital and print publications and, most tellingly, numerous requests for her to design rooms and houses for her readers.
Kate eventually consented to a few projects . . . and her new career was born. Since that time, she has worked on residential and commercial projects and been featured on many occasions on radio, television, and in print. Kate believes her greatest assets as a designer, boldness and fearlessness, are by-products of not having been trained as an interior designer, coupled with her deep understanding of the different styles of art.
Nurtured in childhood, her creativity—together with the project-management skills and business acumen she acquired in the understanding of commercial realities—allows her to successfully bridge the two most critical requirements of any interior design assignment: an uncanny ability to merge aesthetics with pragmatism, business with beauty, people with their surroundings.
The growing team at Kate, Challis Interiors comprises a group of highly skilled and dedicated individuals who are bring their unique perspective to the studio, yet are equally passionate about design and the impact of interiors in our lives.
EMILIE SMITH (Interior Designer)
Emilie joined Kate Challis Interiors in 2017 after a decade of working in advertising as an interiors and fashion stylist. Cultivating a reputation for layering, detail, and technical prowess, she traveled with brands such as Myer to exotic locations. Preparing sets and garments on safari was a distinctly magical experience.
Interior Design has been a natural progression for Emilie. Her love of fabrics, textures, and construction, which she explored in a textile design degree, is evident in the environments she creates. An intuitive designer, Emilie believes in the power of spaces to shape realities and influence moods. Presenting clients with elegant solutions and bespoke interiors makes her heart sing.
CLARE WALTERS (Studio Manager)
Clare has been organising Kate and the team at KCI for over five years. With many years of retail experience in homewares, importing, purchasing and styling, Clare is a natural organiser. She has the exceptional talent for scheduling, keeping everyone accountable, on-time and on-track.
The organisation of her desk is testimony to her sense of style, attention to detail and joy in keeping on top of all her tasks (fuelled by her always filled chocolate jar).