Interview with Joe Burns- Owner and Inspiration Behind Oliver Burns


Oliver Burns– Architectural Interior Designers & Property Developers

Oliver Burns has a superb profile with private clients who appreciate the private and personal service. The development of Walpole Mayfair in the heart of London opposite the Ritz Hotel has raised your profile. How has your business come to terms with this increase in interest?

When we achieved record prices per square foot on the penthouse for Walpole Mayfair, our profile seemed to rocket. These prices hadn’t been achieved in Mayfair or St James’s before so suddenly everyone wanted to know who the company was behind the prestigious development.

The growth for Oliver Burns has been exponential since we completed Walpole Mayfair, but we have evolved and adapted to meet the needs of the business. For instance, we have doubled the size of our design team to manage the increase in private client work. At the moment, I am still very hands on as I enjoy the detail, but the challenge will be to step back a bit as the business continues to grow.

You are building a reputation for creating interiors which move away from the boring beige interiors which have predominated the London developer scene.  How would you describe your style?

Our designs tend to be modern classic, but ultimately, they reflect the needs and aspirations of our clients. Requirements tend to be quite understated these days but this doesn’t mean boring interiors. We look for thoughtful ways to deliver the wow factor to our designs. Having private client work as well as developments means we are working day to day with ultra high net worth individuals, so when it comes to developing property for the super-prime market, we already have a good idea of what a prospective client might want.

Although you are known for your interiors, behind  is a company that really understands architecture and space optimisation which makes your  company so different from an interior designer. Can you give us an example of your work?

All good design starts with space optimisation and careful planning. We have a team of architects, designers and project managers, whose combined technical and creative expertise is designed to solve the most demanding requirements on our projects and provide turnkey solutions.

Our in-house architects work closely with the design team so that each project we undertake is carefully considered in its entirety. This often results in us taking on the architectural as well as the design work. Ultimately, we don’t see the two as separate – architecture and interior design should work seamlessly together in order to deliver the best end result.

We are currently managing the complete design and build for several projects including a townhouse in Mayfair and country mansion on the outskirts of London. Its complex and a lot of hard work but seeing the end result always makes it worth it.

The team at Oliver Burns is truly international. Carol Seikaly Ward, one of your interior architects has Arabic as her native language and is a specialist in the conservation of  cultural heritage. Is this a growth area for Oliver Burns?

Our client base is international so we feel that having a mixed team really allows us to appreciate individual cultural preferences. We have designers who have worked in the Middle East, Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore and the UK. First and foremost we look for exceptional talent and expertise, but  this often comes from designers who have worked in different countries around the world before coming to the UK.

We have worked on a number of period properties to date so for us it’s an added advantage that Carol has a wealth of expertise in heritage buildings.

You have a bespoke approach to property.  A client can ask you to find a home, obtain the necessary planning consents and use your interior architects and interior designers. Are you seeing a growth in the turnkey solution?

We offer clients a full turnkey service, from sourcing property, designing and building it, through to handing them the keys to their completed home. They can select any one of our services, or all of them. We are definitely seeing an increase in clients wanting us to manage the whole project. Our clients are extremely busy individuals with international schedules, so it makes sense that they have one company to oversee everything. It also means they only have one key point of contact for their project which is a huge advantage.

The art market is  playing a bigger part of the prime property market as owners decorate to show their acquisitions to the best advantage.  Are you seeing this trend in the work you are undertaking?

Yes, I would say it’s a long term trend. Art and sculpture continue to play a key role in the homes we design. Sometimes we design around a key piece a client already owns and other times, we handpick the artwork for them. Most of the artwork and sculpture we selected for Walpole Mayfair was sold with it.

Oliver Burns is international.  Can you tell us about your work in Italy?

We often work on several commissions for one client and this can take our work abroad. The project in Italy is a great example of this, whereby we are working on a number of projects for one client.

With international expertise within the team and a clear understanding our client’s needs and what they like, we can create beautiful homes for them anywhere in the world.

The super-prime owner has moved away from gold and glitter and is looking for a bespoke products  from cabinets to lighting.  This is encouraging the  resurgence of craftsmen. Are you supporting these innovative suppliers and young designers?

It is true that tastes are becoming more understated and elegant as trend moves away from conspicuous consumption and overt displays of wealth. Without a doubt, one of the main ways to realise a client’s aspirations for their home is through incorporating bespoke pieces. Increasingly we are designing individual features ourselves, from lighting through to cabinetry. We regularly use British craftsmanship to make these pieces because it contributes to making the interiors genuinely special.

How would you describe your own home and what has inspired you?

Modern classic with a twist. We are currently redesigning our own house and the end result will be very elegant and timeless, whilst at the same time a very liveable home. However, we try not to be too serious and are quite happy to add in some quirky pieces, especially in the rooms my young son occupies such as his bedroom and playroom.

What do you do to relax?

With the family. You are pretty much on call 24 hours a day in this business, so I try to spend all my spare time with my family.

Which is your favourite shopping destination and your favourite restaurant?

Sirocco in Bangkok which is an outdoor restaurant on the top of Thailand’s second tallest building. The food and views are amazing and they have live jazz music which really adds to the atmosphere.

My favourite shopping place is Capri in Italy. It has fantastic shops lining cobbled streets, from fashion, to art and collectables.