My first meeting with Alex and Michael Christou was in their Mayfair apartment off Park Lane. It’s not often that a design firm has a finished product to be able to hold meetings in and show off their work. I knew it then, and after two meetings with Alex and this interview, I know that these two brothers are no ordinary design firm. They have built a hybrid solution that crosses seamlessly between being a developer and interior designer.
What is your design signature/style?
1.61 London has completed a number of different design styles for our clients, ranging from industrial warehouses and contemporary London new builds to Georgian restoration projects. Every client we work with has a different idea about what constituents make up their ideal design space. This diversity is what makes our work so interesting and exciting.
Typically we like to keep to classical symmetrical design structures for our elevations and then apply luxurious finishes and textures. We feel that it is important that the tones of these finishes should work throughout the whole property, moving in subtle directions from one space to the next. We incorporate dark undertones to cast the backdrop in both depth, base colour and contrast to the foreground.
On our more luxurious projects we try to ensure our designs are unique and seamlessly integrate the latest technology. If you take our latest project off Park Lane – we designed duo sync sliding glass that sit in front of underlit white crystal onyx panels, set next to metallic bronze doors, touch panel kitchen cupboards and a bespoke magic mirror TV to ensure this didn’t ruin the more classical look of the room. These features not only enhance the visual design but also the functionality of the space.
Above all else, which is quite different to most interior designers – my brother and I always make sure that our designs make sense from a financial perspective for our client. We have a wealth of experience in property values and so we always ensure what is being spent will enhance our clients asset value. We do considerable analysis before each project to ensure we achieve a financially efficient design, where each design feature is not only considered from an aesthetic viewpoint, but also from a value added perspective.
Thus far we have yet to meet someone that doesn’t like making money whilst they are spending it!
What type of people do you love to work with as clients?
We work with property developers and end user clients, as well as developing our own apartments for sale. Each has a very different skillset but generally we love to work with design passionate people, that live and breathe design and love the journey from beginning to the end.
We take our clients through our entire design process and they get to see every facet and detail step by step, which makes them part of the project and ensures they are getting exactly what they want. Most importantly these types of clients give you the time and budget to be able to create the unique elements that make a space stand out. That makes these projects the most exciting and interesting to work on.
Can you tell us about a particularly exciting/challenging project?
We did a 4,000 sq ft house redevelopment project in Belgravia. Originally the structure of the house was very closed, lots of small and awkward rooms. The house also has angled walls, low ceilings and not many traditional features. Our American clients had very open plan preferences and had a passion for collecting fine art and wines which needed careful placing. To incorporate all these different elements in a unique way was very challenging.
It was a year long project and culminated in us winning two international design awards for the work we carried out. The symmetry of our elevations contrasted with the asymmetrical angled sections to the architecture. This created an extremely unusual design product. Areas of harmony contrasted with areas of individual showcase pieces of art and objet d’art. This delivered an amazing result and our clients were so happy with it.
If you had £10,000 to spend on a piece of furniture/accessory/art/decor item, what would it be and why?
A custom made walk in wardrobe. Isn’t that everyone’s dream for their home! To have all their clothes displayed in beautifully made wardrobes with integrated lighting and places for shoes. Areas for all their accessories and personal items. We have come up with a large variety of wardrobe designs. If anyone has been on our Instagram account or website they would have seen quite a few.
Does your home reflect your professional style?
My brother and I have moved around quite a bit in Marylebone and Mayfair which means our style is always evolving in our homes. We always enjoy trying new things and our homes are the best place to do that. Currently our apartment in Mayfair is something that definitely reflects our professional style.
What’s next for your business/brand?
1.61 London has grown very quickly over the past few years. We have completed over 100 projects in that short space of time winning multiple international design awards. Currently we have been working on some amazing projects off the back of our showhome. A 5,000 sq ft penthouse overlooking hyde park is one example.
I think what excites us the most about the future is how much everyone’s home is about to change and being at the forefront of that. There are so many innovative products coming to the market – both finishes and technology – bringing all of those things together in a seamless and unique way will deliver the next benchmark in luxury homes.
Which new/up and coming designers do you currently have your eye on?
I don’t think there is any one designer that we feel is stand out at the moment. For us what is interesting is seeing the evolution of design within homes. We have definitely seen a transition to a more classic luxurious look which is not too heavy and complicated. There was a phase where ultra-minimalist and industrial seem to be the fashion, but times are changing!
If someone reading this was about to begin their own home redesign project, what would be your best advice to them?
Without question the biggest piece of advice I would give anyone is plan everything upfront and make sure you give yourself time for the design process. Great design doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it has to be well thought through before you start building anything.
I’m still shocked at how even developers don’t realise how integral the interior design process is on the build side of a development. As both a property developer and interior design company I see every day how the vision for the interiors adjusts the build side of a property.
Pure developers just don’t get that seamless transition that can occur between the flow of a space and the integration of the interior. If you start wanting to make changes during or after the shell is created then it costs double the amount and creates huge delays so always plan ahead!
You can contact Alex and Michael through their website.