You’ve got a brief, you’re trying to keep 50 million people happy, and you’re looking to offer something extra special to a globe-spanning, ultra-high-net-worth client base, who invented the word sophisticated.
Who do you call?
It was 2015 and this was the dilemma facing Savills director Richard Dalton when he was selling 5,000 square feet of prime real estate that was the £20m penthouse apartment based atop The Buckingham, three meticulously converted Grade II-listed Nash-style town houses located opposite Buckingham Palace, and a rather famous resident.
Dalton called David Collins Studio.
Within this estimated £100m-plus development near St James’s Park and comprising a further five luxurious apartments, a town house and two flats for staff, the penthouse became literally the pinnacle of interior design, and very deliberately so.
David Collins Studio beat seven rival design agencies to win the project because of its global reach and its singular style. Says Dalton: “In some ways it was a perfect bid as you had a world-renowned and unique location, a hugely impressive building, and a very international audience. With all those elements what was important was to choose an interior designer who reflected the uniqueness of this opportunity and who would have that global recognition.”
In its favour also, was the impressive client base the Studio has - just the type of people who want and can afford a 3-bedroom, 3-terrace duplex with a magnificent helical staircase and a 60 foot vista overlooking the royal domus.
Rumour has it that some of the ultra-rich “collect” David Collins Studio-designed properties. True or not, the desire to associate with the studio’s stunning projects, from beautiful private homes to uber luxurious hotels is manifested in the estimated impact a David Collins design can have on a property.
Typically in situations like this an agency of the quality, brand strength and international recognition of DCS can add up to 25% of the property’s value
“You are selling the lifestyle to those who are, as the cliché goes, cash rich and time poor, where often purchasers will buy the whole package and you can literally move in, and make the process smoother and easier. And so, if you have the right designer working with you, you are making that process easier still, it adds value undoubtedly but also accelerates the speed of sale,” he adds.
Dalton runs Savills’ prime central London flat team, where £30m apartments are not uncommon. He was involved in The Buckingham penthouse from inception in 2012 to its sale in 2017, a year in which the super prime London property nose-dived by 22% to £1.4 billion in sales value, against the previous year. In 2017, the number of £15million-plus properties sold to the super rich crashed to 51, nine down on 2016 and 22 off the recovered 2018 figures. It was against this backdrop, that client investors, Brockton Capital, Clearbell and Lord Jacob Rothschild’s charitable foundation, demanded the profitable exit they had anticipated back in 2012.
How did Dalton and the investors find working with the David Collins Studio team? “They can be quite bold and sometimes you’ve just got to have the faith in who you’re working with to deliver, and to deliver it in totality. What you can’t do is have half a David Collins flat and half done by IKEA. You need to commit to it because you get that feel through the apartment and there was very much that feeling throughout that apartment,” says Dalton.
“Sometimes it’s easy to choose someone who’s very safe and actually if you’re moving into an apartment such as this you want it to be really thought out and considered. They are quite different, stylistically well thought out.”
Go with it, trust them, embrace, don’t dilute their ideas, he adds. Recognise also that client focus means the Studio are not precious but in fact pragmatic in their approach, as witnessed through various meetings they held with potential purchasers to ensure that their personal art and furniture would be accommodated within the design.
So what became of the glamourous and beautifully poised penthouse? A mysterious individual bought the entire development for his family in 2017 for an undisclosed sum, including the apartment and the entire David Collins Studio design scheme. The buyer was not a previous client but was very familiar with David Collins’ work, says Dalton.
Since the successful collaboration over The Buckingham, Dalton has put the Studio on speed dial and the two parties are working together again. The studio is currently undertaking the design for the interior of a £30 million private Mayfair apartment Dalton is selling.
“It’s a benefit to say the scheme has been designed by DCS. Where real value lies is for a luxury brand such as David Collins to do private commissions all over the world and to bring part of that experience into this design process. It is hugely important,” Dalton concludes.
Helen Slingsby is a UK based business journalist.
Dylan Thomas is a portraits and interiors photographer.