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UNREPORTED: A SUDDEN SHORTAGE OF DESIGNERS AND ARCHITECTS

27 May 2021
With so many property transactions taking place, and demand for architects and designers at record level, how can buyers get immediate access to the talent in such short supply?
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Newspapers are filled with stories about a surge in sales and prices of homes driven by pent-up demand during lockdown, yet the knock-on effect of this surge has gone completely unreported. So many buyers in both London and the country now want to transform their new homes that they are unable to get the work done. Demand for the best architects, interior designers and builders is unprecedented, putting many new owners’ dreams for their new homes at risk. And it is here that RedBook has been stepping in.

A veteran architect in Notting Hill specialising in the borough’s super-homes reports wryly after being approached by yet another potential client: “That is the second billionaire we have turned away this week”. Elsewhere, a big building firm specialising in large new country houses says that it, like many others, is taking no longer taking on new work: “Our order book is full until mid 2022.” And a leading London interior designer, unable to take on any new clients until next year thanks to the rush of new business, says with an exhausted sigh: “It’s absolutely mental.”

In the face of extreme competition for the services of the most in-demand firms, RedBook has shown its value, sourcing the best talent and most trusted specialists so that clients can launch their projects with ease and without a pause.

A recent project in Chelsea is a case in point. The clients had bought a large Grade II-listed family house, last modernised 30 years before. With RedBook’s help, they appointed ideal architects and project managers, both highly sought-after firms. When it came to choosing interior designers, though, the clients hesitated to engage their favourite among the three firms RedBook introduced as they were unexpectedly swamped by the pressure of their own business.

At just this point, the designers received confirmation that two clients they had previously been speaking to confirmed they wanted to proceed with their projects. Next morning, the designers withdrew from RedBook clients’ project. Our clients were bereft. But RedBook is not easily deterred.

As RedBook’s CEO Tom Adams, explains: “RedBook has such strong relationships with the carefully vetted firms it works with that we can often find capacity with an in-demand designer or construction firm where there initially appears to be none…”

We began immediately to analyse the timeline for the project and work out when specific inputs were required from the designer and architect. At the same time, we looked closely at the responsibilities of the architect and interior designer to see whether small shifts in their respective scope of work could magically resolve the impasse. Then by negotiating with the architects and designers over their responsibilities, and juggling the timeline for delivery, the impossible became possible. The clients were overjoyed and immediately appointed the designers.

But there are rare cases where even RedBook’s intervention cannot entirely unblock a log jam, for example where ‘hot’ designers have received major magazine coverage on the back of a high-profile project and been engaged suddenly by a slew of new clients. Yet even then, facing such demand, RedBook has been able to help its clients.

This was exactly the story at a project in Richmond recently, where a couple in their early 40s bought a 5,000 sq ft Victorian house in need of complete modernisation. They had set their heart on a designer’s particular style of contemporary interiors but their preferred designer found himself over-committed and instead of overloading himself referred the clients to RedBook.

Our first step was to work with the clients to explore the exact look of the interiors they wanted, and what it was about the portfolio of the designer they first approached that they liked so much. RedBook has a highly visual and enjoyable process for this, refined over the past 10 years, enabling us to understand not only what clients like but also explore exciting possibilities they had not thought of previously.

This exercise revealed that there was a small number of other designers whose style and portfolio overlapped with the client’s taste. It was then a simple matter for us of identifying the particular designers who would be best suited to them, not only in terms of style but also the all-important personal chemistry, before arranging the ‘beauty parade’ of the ideal candidates for the client, and advising them on designers’ fee structures.

 

 

“We are incredibly excited about starting on site later this month,” says our client, a private-equity financier, having engaged designers he is delighted to have secured. “Hopefully, we will be moving into the house with our children in the summer next year, just as we planned.”

As RedBook’s CEO Tom Adams, explains: “RedBook has such strong relationships with the carefully vetted firms it works with that we can often find capacity with an in-demand designer or construction firm where there initially appears to be none. We can also look closely at a project and establish exactly which experts are needed and when, and how to dovetail their expertise. Often this means our clients find even the most hard-pressed and ‘hot’ firms can fit the project in around other commitments.”

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