MOJEH meets with Dubai-based artist Kate Toledo, to discuss her transition into the bold world of interior design. Translating her historically-inspired paintings into maximalist home interiors — from chairs to tableware and travel accessories — Kate Toledo Home offers a collection of bespoke decor pieces that are made to be loved and lived in.
Why did you decide to launch Kate Toledo Home?
As a painter there has always been, in the back of my mind, the challenge of extending the life of my paintings once they have left the white gallery wall. A way of somehow incorporating the images and colors into our everyday life be it the entire picture or carefully selected details of the whole. The first project was Kate Toledo Scarves, exquisite silk scarves printed with great care in France and Italy. It somehow seemed a natural progression into fabrics for furnishing and we then expanded our inventory into a carefully curated selection of items for our clients.
Was it is a smooth transition into retail?
The challenge was immense, from being an artist, whose work is a very lonely profession, I suddenly found myself in a team environment. I had to quickly learn all aspects of production, technology, sourcing, and the endless trials of product samples. The challenges never end, but I’m loving the new environment and ultimately seeing my art being part of a family’s cherished memories.
Describe the aesthetic of the home collection?
Our first homeware collection is from my exhibition called the Portuguese Collection. This series translates to the modern day, the tradition, beauty and versatility of the Portuguese tile and Faianca work of the 17th and 18th centuries. Although the colors I have used in these paintings are from my Brazilian palette the influence of these tiles and Portuguese life is also reflected in the special combination of colors we see in our homeware pieces. The aesthetic we offer is the brave use of color, the unique subject matter that translates so well into a massive feature wall or a small feather filled silk cushion. You choose.
How does the collection reflect your artwork?
The collection is my artwork translated into bolts of fabric, wallpaper, leather, stoneware amongst other materials and surfaces. It transposes the canvas art into what we like to call “living art”, art that surrounds your everyday life.
Tell us about the production process?
Before we launched the brand, we did extensive research, over a year, so that the art may be correctly imposed on products. As an artist, my colours, my brush strokes, etc, are all part of my art and very important. Making sure that this is emulated in our products was the basis of selecting our suppliers. We have been over the globe to source suppliers, we have suppliers from UK, Portugal, India, USA, and other countries. Each piece is made and sourced from the best there is. And to ensure that each supplier produce the exact tone and impression as the others… well you can imagine!
What kind of home do you envisage your products fitting into?
Our customers are mainly women in the 30 to 50-year age group, well-travelled, well read, educated with disposable income. They will be strong, lively and bold women who love to surround themselves in colours. They will be tech-savvy on the lookout for different and interesting additions to their homes and their lives. The home that would showcase KTH pieces would be a home whose dwellers invest in individuality, art, beauty and a specific style.
How do you think your interiors appeal to the Middle Eastern market?
We believe our collections are perfect for the market. The culture not only is known to love colours, but love exclusivity. The market’s customers accept the bold, and love to experiment. They are always looking for something new that can express their liveliness and represent their love for life.
What kind of impact do you think your products bring into a home?
There is of course the immediate impact that comes with a KTH feature piece, be it a sofa, a wall papered wall, or a dining room with our KTH chairs around the table, one that shows originality, boldness and an understanding that artful objects come in different forms other than paintings and sculptures.
You’ve recently launched a new app and an e-commerce site — how important is it to appeal to a digital market?
We very aware that many consumers do almost all of their shopping online nowadays. Digital marketing provides a reach to these people, expanding the offerings to a larger audience. We try to cover all the bases as our consumer market covers different generations; those that are comfortable shopping in their laptops or those who love to shop on the run over the app.
Which products have been the most popular so far?
The wallpaper series has made a big impact along with our 3 chairs: the Azulejo, Evora and Occasional chairs.
How would you describe your own interiors style?
My personal style is rather eclectic, we are great travellers and collectors so we have a huge mix of pieces from Chinese porcelain from the 19th century, to Murano glass pieces from the 1950’s, to pre Colombian pottery, carpets amongst others plus a rather large art collection.
What do you like about living in Dubai and how does the region inspire your work?
Living in the region for the past 15 years has been a great privilege. The diversity in the population has to be one of the defining features and the way this diversity colours our lives. The Middle East, its art and ancient treasures were the themes of my first three exhibitions in Dubai. Yes, we live in an inspiring region for sure.
Are you still painting and exhibiting your artwork?
I am still painting of course and working on my new series which already has five completed paintings. I have also been learning how to throw, paint and glaze pots. A very new challenging venture for me.
What’s next for the Kate Toledo brand?
We do have a growth strategy plan, not only with KTH, but also branching out into other industries. But for now, our main focus is to ensure Kate Toledo Home grows and becomes part of everyone’s home.
Kate Toledo home is based in Dubai and ships worldwide; Katetoledohome.com