In the second of our Meet the Team sessions, we chat to Kate, Founder and Design Director of OCCA, to find out more about the spirit of the studio and her passion for design & innovation.
With almost thirty years in the architectural interiors, interior design and digital technology sectors, Kate has a wealth of experience and a rich background in hotel & residential design and the associated supply chain. She has a track record of leveraging innovation to solve design and operational problems and loves nothing more than delivering successful design projects and exciting new business opportunities for clients & the studio.
Tell us a bit about your role at OCCA
Kate: I originally founded Occa Design in 2003 and as the Founder & Principal of the business, I’m responsible for all aspects of developing & growing the firm, the team, and our client base.
As Design Director, I also oversee the direction of our projects, working closely with our clients, uncovering their aspirations for their property and in turn, delivering a stylish & successful design that is distinctive and unique to them.
What’s your personal design style and what inspires your design?
Kate: I like to design interiors that are stylish, comfortable and welcoming. My personal taste is eclectic and evocative with colour, lighting, and texture playing key roles. I particularly enjoy working with modernist furniture & lighting and curating pieces in a classic architectural context.
Travel, architecture, nature, trade shows, galleries, design blogs & innovative hotels are all constant sources of inspiration.
When you founded OCCA, what key problems did you want to solve for clients?
Kate: My ambition was to develop a great team of skilled and talented designers that specialised in hotel and hospitality design. Having worked directly for hotels, bars and restaurants for a number of years previously, I knew the combination of our design skills along with the commercial and operational insights I’d acquired, would give our clients the confidence to trust us with delivering successful operational as well as aesthetic interior designs.
In what way is OCCA different to other architectural and interior design studios?
Kate: Well, seeing as you ask, there are three key ways we differentiate in the sector:
(1) Clients tell us that it is the combination of our strong design flair, product knowledge and technical expertise that continually keeps them coming back to Occa.
(2) They also comment on our commercial acumen and our understanding of the importance of return on investment.
(3) Over the past 10 years, we’ve developed a reputation for innovation and harnessing technology to bring greater efficiencies and value to client’s projects.
Since launching OCCA, do you have a favourite project that you have worked on?
Kate: I fondly remember Team OCCA’s very first full-service hotel design project and the excitement of delivering the Crowne Plaza Hotel London Docklands in collaboration with Young & Gault Architects & BDL Hotels back in 2003. This was a stunning design and a huge success for our client. That project then led to many others for the studio, including the extensive Holiday Inn Spa & Conference Centre in Sofia, a truly international project and design team with interiors that have also stood the test of time. We’re privileged to have worked on a wonderful variety of over 300 projects with many amazing clients and each one of them is a favourite for lots of different reasons.
How have you combined your passion for technology and design within the business?
Kate: Blending my passion for design with my appetite for technology & innovation has delivered a variety of revolutions in the way we run the design studio, our projects, and our supply chain. As a team. we’ve adopted cloud-based technologies to streamline our workflows and this enables us to customise the way we work on each project. This means we are able to collaborate with the greater design team and deliver our clients’ projects more efficiently and effectively than ever before while sharing our design developments and project costs in real-time.
Do you prefer working on projects for global hotel brands or smaller boutique venues? What are the key differences?
Kate: I love them both! Working with global hotel brands who are constantly evolving, such as IHG, is a dynamic and exciting process that provides an opportunity to deliver large-scale projects in key cities for international hoteliers. However, there is a joy in leveraging all that experience and bringing the key learnings to our smaller boutique hotel clients with whom we have an opportunity to create unique, inspirational interiors that are specific to their style and location.
Why is it important to you to continue to disrupt the design industry?
Kate: By disrupting our own business model in 2009, we not only navigated the financial crisis, but we were also instrumental in fundamentally changing the way in which the design industry was working, by changing the way clients could access products and the way in which suppliers could reach a new and evolving customer base.
That disruption enabled us to pivot & diversify in what were very challenging times for the design industry. We went on to create a global retail eCommerce company supplying 20,000 luxury furniture, lighting & home décor products from over 200 brands to over 30,000 customers in over 90 countries in 2015.
While OCCA is no longer part of that business nor working in the retail environment, leveraging our extensive design knowledge & global supply chain experience, while being innovative and creative for our clients continues to be core values of the re-launched Occa Design Studio in 2018.
We are continually challenging the way in which we and the industry are working to bring more choice, better efficiencies and better value to our clients and their projects.
What’s next for OCCA?
Kate: In an industry that’s ever-evolving, I’m not one to sit still!
We have some exciting plans and developments for the studio in 2019 across design, procurement, branding, and development.
With over 20 years’ experience of successfully buying, shipping and installing furniture, fixtures & equipment on projects worldwide, the recent addition of our dedicated FF&E procurement experts means that we are also now leveraging our buying power and experience to deliver best value, high-quality purchasing solutions for our clients – ensuring their budgets go further.
Curious to find out more about life in the Occa Design Studio? Join the design team as they reveal all about their design process, great projects, working with clients and life in the studio >