Andrew Dunning and Andrew Hyett of Islington-based APD Interiors talk to Katie Avid-Riordan about the success, the fun and the tough times of their illustrious business that celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2014 – and how Changing Rooms did more harm than good
There is a celebratory mood in the air when I meet Andrews Dunning and Hyett at their beautiful Islington home. This year marks the 10th anniversary of their company, APD Interiors, and as we speak the rightly proud couple are articulate and charming, going into detail about the history of their business and the areas that have brought challenges and delight.
‘Andrew and I had just bought our first property together,’ recounts Creative Director Dunning. ‘It was two flats, but we wanted to turn it back into one, so it was a big renovation project. I had studied in the evenings at The Interior Design School in Queen’s Park. I really wanted to get a handle on doing a big design project and everything that is involved. So then I spent six months on site with the builder, working almost day to day with him to specify and learn.’
So with a passion burning, Dunning decided to turn his hobby into a job. After briefly working as an intern for a designer, he founded APD in 2004. ‘I spent my life in the City running multi-million pound projects and I wanted to bring the same mythology to the interior design business; everything has to be structured. My history had already given me the skill set to do everything I needed to do’.
APD was born as an interior design consultancy, providing both interior design and construction services. ‘What we aim to give to our clients is a one-stop-shop,’ Dunning elaborates. ‘So they come to us for the design, the build and the project management. We have lots of professional couples who just don’t have the time to think about tiles or kitchens. So we start from day one and design everything in collaboration with them, presenting them with various ideas. We don’t have a set style because every single client is different. And then, as we move forward, we have our own build team who build the project for them. At the end of the project everything has been delivered. For them it has been the smallest headache possible.’
But it is not all work and no play. The two Andrews enjoy many aspects of the area in which they are based. Hyett, who deals with the commercial side of the business, reveals his affection for the area. ‘We love Screen on the Green,’ he enthuses, ‘it’s our absolute favourite cinema. And La Porchetta. We also like the French restaurant Le Sacre Coeur. We just love going out in Islington. It is a lovely area, it is a lovely eclectic mix of houses, an eclectic mix of clientele, some of whom have no money whatsoever and you’ve also got people in Islington who live in £3m houses and work in the City. And in amongst that is our client base.’ For Hyett, Islington is also wonderful architecturally. ‘The thing about Islington is that if you look up you will see so much more. There is so much gorgeous architecture if you just raise your eyes one or two levels up’.
So did Changing Rooms and DIY SOS have a positive impact on the interior design industry? ‘No,’ Hyett says emphatically. ‘The TV programmes on interior design have seriously damaged the industry. Because of those shows people believe all you have to do is throw a couple of cushions around and you can do interior design, which is a load of rubbish. Interior design is about knocking walls down, making the whole place flow. So when we are designing a project we are looking at it from the inside out, while an architect will design from the outside in.’
Aside from the detriment of these programmes, the recession was the biggest challenge the partners faced, as people became too afraid to spend money. In this time of sink or swim, however, APD undoubtedly proved they knew how to stay afloat. ‘What you have to do in business is adapt or die,’ the commercial director explains. ‘We looked at our business model – which focused on large extensions, large renovations – and we realised that took a long time to actually get the profits out. So what we did was readjust our business model and started to focus on smaller projects where we could do a quicker turn around and get the money out. And they were easier for people to afford per se’.
Asking the Andrews about their future plans for the company, Hyett responds: ‘Like any business we want to grow. We are looking to build the kitchens and bathrooms division. We can design a stunning kitchen at not a stunning cost.’
So this one stop shop of interior design can provide everything for your home solution. And though APD have experienced some difficult challenges, the easy laughter and good humour between the two would signify that things are now definitely tilting more towards the positive.
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