Deep in the heart of Marylebone, London, lies a penthouse that has been elegantly refurbished by the young 31-year-old upstart designer Ash Chawla, otherwise known as the man behind design and build company: Duke of Design.
This is just one of the examples of the many private residences Ash is converting in this, now fashionable and on the rise location. Bolstered by the unflappable popularity of the Chiltern Firehouse and surrounding milieu of edgy-chic independent shops, bars and cafes, homeowners in Marylebone are looking to upsell a slice of London luxury.
Duke of Design’s speciality is in hugely increasing the value of your property with low investment and thoughtful, well researched design. Creating bespoke homes designed specifically to suit the needs of the homeowners, or whom the owners hope to sell to… ‘Every area in London has its own unique demand’ explains Ash,‘for example in Marylebone the buyer and tenant profile tends to be intelligent, successful people from Europe and America. They are used to certain luxuries such as en-suite bathrooms, so we give them en-suite bathrooms. The wealthiest renters in this area tend to be embassy officials, international diplomats, corporates with young families so a touch of modern ambassadorial elegance goes a long way in creating the perfect recipe for a high asking price.’
Ash takes me through an exhaustive list of popular London locales, effortlessly reeling off the specific demographics of the wealthiest potential buyers and their prefered styles, materials, colour schemes. ‘Indian buyers respond well to marble and gold, people from Chelsea like properties with high ceilings and Chesterfield sofas…’ Are people really that predictable? ‘Yes, luxury is an acquired taste. It’s no surprise that one’s idea of luxury is to a great extent influenced by where one grows up ’ says Ash, ‘but it’s all about nuance; the devil is in the details and I suppose that’s where I come in.’
One such detail is the bathroom’s vast bespoke marble sink with copper taps, which Ash tells me, should have cost in the region of £5000. He however, to the delight of his client, had it custom built for around £2000. Why was he able to navigate such an unbelievable price? ‘Trade Secrets’ he replies, ‘no, really it’s just knowing the right people in the right places and how to navigate the architecture and design world. Being both a designer as well as a project manager makes me uniquely positioned to offer a more hassle-free, holistic package to the client. There’s no middle man, and being on both sides of the fence I know how much things cost and more importantly, how to get them at cost.’
Ash is a great believer in luxury being about design and not brands. ‘Why spend a fortune on a leather Cavalli coffee-table when you can get something made to measure of a much higher quality and a lower price?’ he says, ‘if you have good relationships with suppliers, which I do, then anything is possible.’ Ash’s dedicated research spans not only the buyer’s demographics and desired style but also brings colour psychology to the mix, ‘we are told by the estate agents that buyers are most interested in white spaces, but the research shows that buyer’s actually respond better to subtle colours.’ A carefully chosen palette of light earth tones can greatly influence and enhance the feeling of happiness within the home, he tells me. Makes sense. After all, isn’t enhanced happiness the ultimate outcome of luxury?
Duke of Design are a design and build company that take clients from the initial concepts, planning applications, listed building consents through to the completed project.