Five reasons why you should commission a British interior designer


As big-spending international studios increasingly look to make their mark on the UK scene, Oliver Burns MD Alex Holden explains why British design - and designers - will always be in fashion...

Written by

Alex Holden

Managing Director at Oliver Burns

Oliver Burns is a luxury architectural interior design studio that thoughtfully designs the world’s finest homes. Working across an exclusive portfolio of international turnkey projects, our multi-disciplinary team has a world-class reputation for both bespoke private commissions and super-prime development projects. Our exceptional architectural, creative and development credentials together with the highest levels of personal service, enable us to act as trusted advisors to discerning private families, developers and commercial clients. This, underpinned by our values of Thoughtful Luxury, is reflected in our long-standing esteemed client relationships.

Over the last year, we have pitched for a diverse range of interior design projects, from larger-scale residential developments to country estates and holiday homes. What I have observed during the pitch process is the small but growing number of international designers who are also pitching for these projects, particularly developments.

Having recently completed a ski chalet in Switzerland, with a French chateaux project about to start work and a Mumbai penthouse in the pipeline, it reminded me that when it comes to crafting interiors in the UK, British designers have traditionally dominated the market. However, international interior design studios are now making their mark.

For small schemes, it’s still mainly British designers on the pitch list, but for larger scale projects, with the growth of foreign investors and developers, the competition is undoubtedly global.

Here’s my top five reasons for choosing a British architectural interior designer…

  • World Leading Design

Captivating the world for decades, the draw of British design for ultra high net worth individuals is down to its uniqueness and international status. UK designers have a global reputation for being amongst the most creative and innovative in the world, and this shows no signs of waning. Selected for some of the most prestigious worldwide projects, from hotels to museums, British designers consistently deliver world-leading design. London art schools are now so globally renowned they attract international students who then stay to make their career in the capital. We also get CV’s every day from students from all over the world wanting to work with us.

  • An Understanding of the End Client

When it comes to choosing the right interior designer for a project, developers and investors need to carefully consider the requirements of the end client. Whether the property is being developed for sale or rental, an understanding of who will live there is critical. Working closely with UHNWI’s on a day-to-day basis, we have learnt that they want more than just a London bolthole; they also want a true taste of British style. At the very top end of the market another key consideration is that as the ultimate luxury for these clients (both private and commercial) is time, most require a turnkey project, which is hard to deliver if the designer is based in a different country.

At the very top end of the market the ultimate luxury for these clients is time

This is why we have added construction to our services, as our design and build approach enables clients to have a single dedicated point of contact throughout their project, from initial concept and planning through to completion and handover. Whether a new build or listed heritage building, it allows us to take care of and guarantee every last bespoke detail for our clients. We realise our design vision to the highest level, leading a project’s transformation and acting as main contractor throughout the entire process.

  • An Appreciation of Heritage Buildings

As home-grown designers, we are familiar with working on quirky British buildings, from grand Georgian terraces and Victorian style residences to modern reinventions of classics. We are dedicated to preserving and restoring Britain’s incredible historical architecture and bring creative flair to complicated or unusual spaces. A key architectural challenge involved joining two separate listed heritage buildings together -one of which had a blue plaque- with floor plates on different levels.

In a classic Georgian terrace townhouse, we opened up a low ceiling to reveal a lofty apex structure, using the additional height to showcase two large bespoke chandeliers

In a classic Georgian terrace townhouse, we opened up a low ceiling to reveal a lofty apex structure, using the additional height to showcase two large bespoke chandeliers. In a five-storey listed townhouse in Mayfair, we subtly incorporated a lift throughout all five floors for the client without interfering with the existing footprint of the building. In a Georgian country house, we raised the roof height, adding an extra suite to create a luxurious family retreat.

Design at this level requires local knowledge, an extraordinary level of design expertise and a deep understanding of how to conserve and reinvent these beautiful British buildings.

  • A Deep Affinity for British Style
The uniqueness of British design is hard to pin down. This is because it’s not just one aesthetic, but an effortless amalgamation of different influences and styles. Drawing upon the finest materials and inspiration from around the world, it’s an artful blend of craftsmanship and originality with practicality, comfort and creative flair. It’s what the French would call ‘je ne sais quoi.’

Delivering British style requires a deep knowledge of the country – our cities, unique architecture and craftsmanship. For us, this means a fine balance between classic and contemporary style, underpinned by an understanding and appreciation of British buildings and their context. It’s also the ability to deliver a creative twist that instantly conveys Britishness. Whether that’s the English tailoring of Beau House or subtle hints of the location’s natural surroundings in The Park Crescent, the key is to get the balance right for the client.

It’s also the ability to deliver a creative twist that instantly conveys Britishness

In the luxury homes we design, you will find vein-rich Italian book-matched marbles, handmade Tibetan rugs and English sanitary ware juxtaposed with gold leaf gilding, embroidered silk wallpaper and marquetry. These elements are thoughtfully combined to deliver an aesthetic that is uniquely and quintessentially British that will stand the test of time.

  • Specialist Sourcing Knowledge

What helps make British interior design unlike anything else is the superior knowledge and sourcing of specialist items. There’s a wealth of artisan craftspeople in the UK to draw upon, which helps ensure that super-prime schemes are entirely individual. As designers, we recognise that we are supporting a network of artisans who, without collaboration from the interior design industry, may cease to exist. We work with our little black book of artisans on every project, commissioning new pieces with them time and time again.  From the exquisite upholstery of Aiveen Daly and Helen Amy Murray to furniture and objet d’art at The New Craftsmen, the range of specialist suppliers and consultants we work with is unrivalled and it’s growing.

A recent resurgence in British crafts has also seen new talent emerge

A recent resurgence in British crafts has also seen new talent emerge, which is helping reignite interest in this specialist sector of the market. London Craft Week saw its fourth edition this year and Walpole, who globally champion the best British luxury brands (of which we are a member,) promotes the craft component of luxury in a contemporary and sustainable way through its own talent programme, called ‘Crafted: Makers of the Exceptional.’

The epitome of understated British style and luxury is hard to replicate.  This, coupled with the high level of expertise required to work in some of the world’s most prestigious and historic buildings means that British interior designers will always be highly sought after.

Images: Oliver Burns