There’s always a lot of pressure resting on Echlin’s shoulders. When you’re dealing with the level of developments that they have become so well-known for then you can understand why. Especially when you consider that Echlin is formed of a team of architects, interior designers and strategists who work on every single aspect and preside over every single detail of its exceptionally well-crafted spaces. The level of devotion is quite remarkable. What's more impressive, is that all of those components and personalities regularly come together to inspire some of the most talked about development projects across the capital – including the Leverton House and Rathbone Square to name just two.
So, when we were presented with the chance to learn more about the inner-workings of the studio we jumped at the opportunity because we knew it was an opening that doesn't come around too often. We’re glad to say that they jumped at the opportunity too, but that's probably because it's given them a little break from all the work they’ve got on. Either way, we found the time to sit down with Echlin founders Mark O’Callaghan and Sam McNally to find out how they and their team manage to juggle it all and to dig deeper into the creative ethos of one of London’s most interesting and well-rounded architecture and design studios.
Who are the typical Echlin clients and why do they want to work with you?
Anyone who understands detail and appreciates design. Our work tends to resonate with Brits or people who appreciate what British design and luxury stand for, which is more open-minded and innovative than it is often given credit for. Our clients and buyers have come from all over, with the likes of Greece, the US, the Middle East and Liverpool being in the mix. The term “foreign buyers” is often seen as negative, but we forget that the Capital’s openness and international appeal is something to be celebrated.
Describe a typical day in the Echlin office?
Very varied. We’re based in Notting Hill which is an exciting combination of established heritage and emerging creativity. We also have a great view over rooftops and chimneys of Kensington which brings in lots of natural light and of course is great to design in. Our team travels around London every day visiting our projects or attending design shows; but there is always a core group in the office and they’re usually having a healthy debate about which is more important, interiors or architecture.
With the variety of opportunities out there, how do you decide which projects to work on to maintain the signature Echlin aesthetic?
For our developments, it’s about choosing projects that are really underused and unloved where we feel we can breathe new life into them. This usually involves enhancing the connections between inside and outside space and bringing natural light into the core of the property.
For our clients, we work with companies on residential and commercial projects, and also private individuals. We’ve worked on everything from bringing character to impersonal new-build apartments to complete restoration of listed properties; it’s always about bringing places to life, enhancing connections to the local area and introducing personality.
You guys literally handle everything, but how do you approach each project to begin with?
We like to handle everything if we can, but we do recognise that the world is full of really passionate professionals, so we know when to bring in another expert if someone can do it better. These parameters are set out at the beginning as part of the brief stage, but we often find our clients asking for more services as the project develops.
What excites you about homes? What do you think a home says about the person that lives there?
The true excitement for us is that there is no creative limit to what you can do with a home, regardless of budget. For some of us we are in an endless pursuit of an accurate portrayal of who we are, others about meeting the changing needs of their family, and for some, simply trying to find somewhere sensible to store the ironing board.
What are the most important things that you’ve learned along the way in the journey of Echlin?
The importance of having a great team around you, and to always try and approach tasks with an open mind.
Echlin is a proud collective of property professionals – and that includes architects, interior designers and strategists – but what advantages does that hand to you as a company and how does that set you apart from anything else out there?
It means that we’re thinking about the very final look and feel of a scheme from conception, rather than bringing in different disciplines at later stages which can dilute the project integrity. For our clients, we don’t always have to offer every one of these services, but it means that even if they hire us just for an architectural extension for example, they get the benefit of our interior design experience or our commerciality from development.
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You’ve worked on some incredible projects, rather than picking out a favourite, could you explain which one was perhaps the most challenging?
Our most challenging was probably our Kenure House project in Holland Park, a unification of three properties with façades on two streets, previously owned by the same family. One of the facades was Victorian so we restored it, but the other side was 60s infill, so we knocked it all down and started again. This gave us the opportunity to unify the various levels and fill the place with light via a central courtyard with a two-storey living wall.
Echlin was the first developer and architecture practice to be awarded membership to the Walpole British Luxury group, what did that moment mean to you?
As a young company it felt like a real coup to join Walpole and the ranks of some of Britain’s finest brands, and we still sometimes feel like imposters when chatting with Rolls Royce or Burberry. Most importantly it’s great to feel a part of a wider community of creative companies that are passionate about delivering quality and flying the flag for Britain all over the world. It’s enabled us to meet with and work with great heritage brands like Floris and Ettinger, and also brands of tomorrow such as Richard Brendon and Hamilton + Hare.
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