In the first of a new series of conversations with some of the property industry’s leading influencers, we speak to Patrick Dougherty, founder of IVAR London to find out how his business has evolved since inception.
Tedworth: Where did the name Ivar come from?
The name Ivar has old Viking origins and also happens to be my middle name. When we launched the business 5 years ago we wanted a name that was short, distinctive and memorable, and after having considered lots of different options, we eventually realised that the best one had been right in front of us all along…
Tedworth: Tell us what you were doing before you started the brand?
I trained as a solicitor and worked for a magic circle law firm specialising in debt capital markets. It was stimulating, interesting work and yet I think I always knew that I would eventually start my own business. It was a natural progression to move onto property design and renovation work as I had already been moonlighting in this area while at the law firm.
Tedworth: How did it feel to transition from the world of finance to creating a design brand?
It was really pretty exciting and daunting in equal measure as I was moving from relative certainty to relative uncertainty and a realisation that one would pretty quickly either “sink or swim”.
Tedworth: Running a business can be really cut-throat, what skills have you had to learn to survive 5 years in the business?
Cash flow. With the benefit of hindsight, Ivar launched 6 months before the peak of the central London market, so at all stages we’ve had our work cut out to drive revenue. We’ve been really lucky, as we’ve managed to grow strongly each year from launch, despite the falling market in central London. Going forwards, with the falls in the prime London market levelling off, I see our residential interiors and furniture businesses continuing to grow by double-figures each year.
We have started taking on commercial work, and I sense that we will experience strong growth in this area – supplying hotels, offices and other commercial buildings. We’ve also had several investors approach us about creating an Ivar hotel/ club in/around London, and I think this could work really well, so perhaps next time we meet it will be there!
Tedworth: What inspires your design philosophy?
Proportion, function, flow of space and an emphasis on quality and natural materials.I’ve always thought that the best design is deceptively simple, and yet the paradox of course is the difficulty in creating such good simple design!
We really put a strong emphasis on clean lines and the relationship between the height, width and depth of furniture and spaces, and this is why we use our own furniture in so many projects – to carry through that relationship from the design of a space to the furniture within it.
– And tell us about your use of colour.
We use a lot of colour in our furniture and rugs to play off the more neutral tones that we typically run with for the wall colours.
Tedworth: How has the business changed since you’ve begun?
At the outset the business focussed on providing interior design to smaller 1-3 bed units in prime central London, whereas today we have a 50:50 split between furniture and design sales, work on much larger units (such as the Centre Point flagship and currently a penthouse and a mansion in Malta) and are much more spread in the location of the projects.
Tedworth: Have you been surprised by the loyal appreciation from your clients?
Yes. I had always imagined that a relationship would last the length of a project but not beyond, whereas what we’ve found is that we have a core of customers that keep coming back to us for their furnishing and interior design needs regardless of where in the world their homes are.
Tedworth We’ve heard a lot about the Centre Point show-case, how did you get involved in that and what made the project special?
It’s been a really great experience for us and has tied in nicely with our fifth anniversary. We were asked by the owner to do something contemporary yet original, functional yet involved. It’s a huge apartment on the 30th floor (with incredible views!), so we had our work cut out. The project really put us on the map, as it’s been widely featured in the press, including in GQ, and we’ve had so many interesting people through the doors, with everyone from Mike Hussey (CEO of Almacantar) to Edwin Heathcote (architecture critic at the FT) coming to see the project for themselves.