Although relatively new to the hospitality scene, Camden-based interior design studio, Avocado Sweets, has already made a name for itself with an impressive portfolio of high-end residential and commercial projects. The firm’s creative director, Evros Agathou, speaks with Hospitality Interiors’ Katie Sherry about celebrating at the SBID International Design Awards, the importance of putting clients’ needs first, and travelling back to the 1940s for his latest project.
Avocado Sweets was founded in 2010 by Evros Agathou and his wife, Susie, the company’s business development director. The firm has since impressed the industry with its original designs and business-focused approach, having been named a finalist in the Innovation category at the prestigious SBID”International Design Awards 2012 – no mean feat for a design studio only three years in the making.
Avocado Sweets owes this accolade to its humorous transformation of Insurance by LittleNLarge.com’s headquarters in Southgate, London. “This was our entry into commercial projects,” Evros explains. “We use our creativity to meet the clients’ needs – in this case, interiors have been used as a marketing tool. The offices are now used for commercial meetings, which saves the company time and money on travel as clients want to spend time there.”
Although Evros cites luck as a factor for Avocado Sweets’ success – “each job has come along at the right time” – it is clear that an established knowledge of construction projects has played a prominent part. Evros’ experience in managing large projects for the Civil Service gives him an understanding of how to balance the construction and aesthetics of a project.
This skillset has been useful for the implementation of both residential and commercial projects, as Evros explains: “The skills required are not so different,” he says. “In both instances we need to meet the client’s needs and make the user feel positive. I truly believe that we shape our homes and they shape us, and it is not so different in the hospitality business.
“However, for commercial projects – more so than residential – it always has to go back to investing in the product or brand, so that the client can generate more income. In short, the project has got to be financially viable.”
For the team at Avocado Sweets, utilising the client’s knowledge of, and passion for, what they do, is an imperative part of the design process. “The idea of having a personal relationship with the client is quite often underrated,” Evros says, “but you need to feel comfortable with someone in order to generate ideas. Our role is to make the client look good, and to meet the needs of the client’s client – ie the customer. In order to achieve this, there needs to be an evolution of ideas.”
Avocado Sweets’ collaborative approach has undoubtedly had a positive effect on the implementation of its latest project – an eclectic 1940s-inspired fish-and-chip shop in the Camden Town district. By working closely with owner and fish-and-chip shop enthusiast, Pat ‘Pop’ Newland, Avocado Sweets has created an authentic 1940s setting – complete with genuine memorabilia collected over the years.
Attention to detail has been paramount in this project, and every turn reveals an authentic 1940s twist. All fixtures and fittings have been specially-sourced by Avocado Sweets in collaboration with Pat, and include a restored vintage Wurlitzer 1100 jukebox from 1948, Thomas Crapper-designed toilets, reclaimed cinema seating and vintage lights salvaged from a war-time MOD facility in Stirling, Scotland.
Although the second Poppies to grace the capital – the Spitalfields venue has become a local favourite since its opening in 2011 – the 110-seater Camden restaurant is independent from its predecessor. Owing to the fact that it has to appeal to locals as well as tourists, the design is heavily inspired by its alternative location. A nod to the local music scene can be found on the first floor, in which a living room-style setting houses a stage on which up-and-coming and established musicians can play.
During the design of Poppies, Evros found himself completely immersed in 1940s’ culture, a process that he compares to method acting: “We really wanted to understand what everyday life was like for Londoners in the 1940s and 1950s,” he says.
“In the studio we only listened to music from the period, we watched 1940s films and studied black-and-white photos – which we then had to try and translate into colour – for inspiration. In the end, we developed quite an emotional relationship with that time.”
In addition to his own research, Evros placed great emphasis on collaborating with others – owner Pat in particular – to ensure that the restaurant’s look and feel was faithful to the 1940s era. “Some people knew more about certain elements, and it was useful to be able to ask questions in order to get authenticity,” he explains.
A high level of attention to detail was not limited to the aesthetics of the restaurant. Every effort was made to make the space functional, from ensuring that the potato palettes were exactly the right size to incorporating a side entrance for deliveries. Making work as easy as possible for the staff has a direct effect on customer experience by creating a positive atmosphere – resulting in the customer service on which Poppies prides itself.
This detail and care is something that Avocado Sweets puts into every project – whether a high-end residential property, a company’s head office or a quirky Camden restarant. With a range of projects – including a 100-cover restaurant near London’s County Hall – in the pipeline, Avocado Sweets is set to become a name to remember in the hospitality design industry.