Dee Gibson is a British-Sri Lankan interior designer, avid traveller and first-time hotelier. She is as passionate about craftsmanship, antiques and sustainable design as she is about making a positive social impact through her work. Dee founded Kalukanda House, a private, luxury villa in Weligama on Sri Lanka’s south coast and rents the property to travellers for exclusive use, providing them with a relaxing, soul-nourishing break which combines slow, conscious and luxurious travel experiences. Shortlisted by Hip Hotels in their 'top 5 slow destinations for 2020', Kalukanda House is a design-led destination that focuses on experiences and has a strong focus on social responsibility.
Having lived in Sri Lanka during her childhood before returning with a family of her own, Dee is heavily influenced by the colours, textures, materials and fixtures used in Asian art and design. Ethical luxury underpins how Dee runs Kalukanda House, combining luxury services and actively contributing in a socio-economic way back into communities in Sri Lanka. The designers she showcases throughout the villa are friends who she admires for their thoughtful, responsible approach to designing and creating.
We have a shared passion for discovering and collaborating with skilled local artisans when designing the interior schemes for properties abroad and at home in the UK and Ireland. Our shared interests lie in not only the aesthetic benefits of incorporating these beautiful, luxurious and intricate elements into our work but also the social and economic benefits of supporting local talent while doing so.
From leather, wood, and metal workers to knitters, weavers, glassblowers, and ceramists, traditional crafts can be seen as an embodiment of a country or region’s cultural heritage and an integral part of its identity. Whether it’s an ancient weaving technique that has been passed down from generations or a particular ingredient used in fabric dye which is exclusively native to a certain part of the world, we as designers are continuously learning from local and indigenous craftspeople.
Sourcing artisans who can take influences from a different culture to create something new and unique is a fun part of the job and expanding your creative community can have a great positive influence on your work, allowing you to experience points of view and techniques which you may not have previously come across.
In a world where disposable, mass-manufactured goods are often churned out at the expense of workers’ health and safety and the wellbeing of our planet, having something which is crafted with care, holds a unique story behind it, and is fairly sourced, is a luxury in itself. Purchasing these items brings value to the creators as well as ourselves as the owners. Our homes are a place to feel comfortable and secure. The way they look and feel is in many ways a reflection of our inner selves, and we want the items we fill them with to communicate our personal identities. We want them to tell a story and be a talking point, particularly when inviting guests into our interior spaces.
Artisan-made products can have beautiful imperfections, as the materials and traditional production methods used to create them tend to be natural and sustainable. They are often driven and dictated by nature, which is beautifully imperfect. For example, the way in which wood ages or leather darkens and softens with time.
What we admire about Dee Gibson’s philosophy and her work at Kalukanda House is her sensitivity towards the cross-pollination of creative ideas and emotional connections across cultures. Essentially, it’s an emotional design approach with a strong focus on ethical luxury and supporting a circular economy, which ultimately leads to a gorgeous end result that is a winner for everybody involved throughout the process. Designed by Woulfe’s Managing Director and Founder Brian Woulfe has sat on several panel discussions on the topic of emotional design and next month, on November 5th, will be discussing ethical luxury with fellow BIID members and interior designers, Dee Gibson, Harriet Forde and Henry Prideaux as part of ‘Interior Designers Leading the Change Webinar’. The conversation will discuss how interior designers can be thought leaders and affect change in the industry’s campaign to deliver ethical and sustainable interiors for a healthier and happier future.