Having identified a gap in the market for a service that would connect individuals or businesses with exactly the right design talent, Alice Wells made the decision to leave her position within a respected interior design practice, and to found Carter Wells in 2012. Here, Alice talks about the agency’s work in the hospitality sector, her passion for the design industry, and about her future plans for international expansion ...
Could you please provide a brief introduction to Carter Wells?
Carter Wells is the number one source in London for finding distinguished interior design firms. The agency helps businesses and private individuals to find an interior designer to suit their needs: from large turnkey operations to smaller decorative jobs, all focusing on the high end.
In a saturated market we help people decipher what makes an interior designer or design company suitable for the project they wish to undertake. The designers we represent are chosen by myself and my team for their professionalism, creative flair and originality. Selecting a designer or design company from Carter Wells ensures a project is handled expertly and with stunning results.
"In a saturated market we help people decipher what makes an interior designer or design company suitable for the project they wish to undertake"
Could you tell us a little more about your own background in interior design, and why you were initially attracted to the industry?
Architecture and design have always been central to my personal interests and education. I qualified from Chelsea College of Art and Design in Spatial Design and entered into the high end world of interior design and retail with Marston & Langinger on Ebury Street, Belgravia.
It was the place where I discovered the importance of exemplary client service and the reality that good design is the winning combination of form and function and when the two come together the results are exciting.
I never bore of design, it’s living art. I feel the same way about getting the right designer onto a project – when the right designer and the right project come together the results are extremely powerful. The world of interior design is complex, compelling and constantly changing and by working with so many talented interior designers we are lucky enough to have access to some incredible industry secrets and hot topics. There is no better position to be in if you enjoy good design and decoration.
What motivated you to set up Carter Wells in 2012?
I recognised from my time at Marston & Langinger that there was no service available to the public for finding a good designer in the way that people could find a good architectural designer at M&L by talking to the new business team about their requirements.
Knowing that there are some incredibly talented interior designers and decorators in London it seemed extraordinary that there was no organisation helping Joe Public to find them, except through deep industry know-how or recommendation.
What key benefits do you feel the agency brings to the hospitality design industry specifically?
The hospitality industry is so closely connected with design. How does a hospitality venture determine the most important ingredient – Service? Food? Design? Getting the design right we believe can really make or break a place and twinning it with a brand is crucial.
At the agency we know how to bring the right designer into the fold to give a hospitality project the chance to succeed and excel. So for a new venture we act as an experienced sound-board. For established hospitality organisations we help breathe a breath of fresh air into their venture whilst saving time looking for talent and the right design organisation to collaborate with.
What qualities do you tend to look for in the design firms you represent?
The design firms we represent must be of course qualified and experienced, but bottom line they must be upfront, professional and believe in the power of integrity.
We choose to work with people who are straightforward, open and motivated. Design firms sign up with Carter Wells because they are interested in the variety of work we can find them and because they want to grow their businesses – we are not working with designers who choose interior design as a lifestyle choice – we only work with professionals.
What kind of hospitality projects are you looking to work on?
We want to hear from boutique hotel ventures, spas, restaurants and private clubs. With such a variety of design talent, we love hearing about the most exciting projects out there and ensuring they get the right company to really make the project sing.
"Working with talented designers and seeing how they balance their creative prowess with running a successful business is one of my favourite aspects of the job"
Could you describe a typical day for you?
As an agency we are involved in so many different elements within interior design: events, scouting designers, searching for projects, speaking with private clients or B2B clients about projects, visiting developments, marketing collateral design, photography. The list is endless!
But in a typical day we are on site visiting a new project, usually in Chelsea, Knightsbridge or Belgravia, and then in an office with a property organisation discussing potential developments, or at the Design Centre keeping abreast of design trends and marketing opportunities.
In the office we are keeping on top of interest from interior design firms and looking out for new companies to get on board. We then keep in touch with all the design firms that are pitching for work to make sure that they’re confident with their approach and proposal and to see how we can contribute to make sure it happens!
We might also be visiting a completed job or a project that is on-going and marvelling at the transformations. We are a team of three and one of us is always out of the office either seeing a new designer, a new client or an industry specialist.
Pounding the pavements and dashing around in an Uber is how we role. And we love it because it takes us to all corners of London and into some of the most beautiful and varied architecture and homes – we never know what’s around the corner for new interest!
What for you is the most rewarding aspect of the business?
Working with talented designers and seeing how they balance their creative prowess with running a successful business is one of my favourite aspects of the job. Of course seeing a completed project is always exciting and despite seeing so much good design I am yet to be underwhelmed. The originality we see is fantastic.
What would you say sets Carter Wells apart?
As a team we are all qualified from a good design school and immersed in the industry through our careers and through our interests. We all believe in the power of good design and revel in being responsible for enabling some of London’s finest buildings be improved and updated by some of the UK’s most talented designers. We are driven by a sense of responsibility to get a design team right for the sake of the client and the property!
What is your ultimate ambition for the agency?
I would like to see us set up offices in the US and in Europe. Our design firms can work all over the world and I would like to make that more viable by enabling us to network within other cities to introduce the world to the designers we have signed, but also to find new design talent in other countries. Mobilising good interior design despite geography would be another great responsibility and innovation I’d be proud of!