The founders of the Accouter Group of Companies aim to fulfill their customers’ interior dreams, including a bathhouse that fits 10 people and a sound-proof party room, writes Lucy Tobin
You wouldn’t expect to find much common ground between the neutral Grease decor of the £500,000 Berkeley Homes show house in the darkest suburb and the charming interiors of a £10 million Hyde Park pad.
But there’s a really good chance that both interiors were designed in the same building: the Fitzrovia headquarters of the Acouter Group of Companies. The 55 employees work under eight brands to design and furnish flats and homes for buy-to-letes in Canary Wharf, from apartments in Belgravia Townhouse and Royal Atlantis in Dubai. The team has done 4000 so far.
Founders Stella Gittins, 41, and Alec Watts, 52, worked in operations and property respectively when they decided to start their own residential interiors business. He called it the Accounter. The super-rich now offer homes in Mayfair, Belgravia and Hyde Park for everything from furnished kitchens and spas to furnishing toilet roll holders for upwards of £100 per square foot.
Today the brand is a member of the luxury Bible Walpole and a well-known name in the “home staging” industry – but their start-up journey wasn’t always as smooth as the Marble Slab Islands Accouter set up in customers’ homes.
“Our first task was to furnish the apartment in Wimbledon to a large French bank,” explains Gittins. “Our headquarters at the time was my parents’ house in Hillingdon, and we were given 14 days from the date we received our check to fit in the show apartment.
“But the check didn’t come for ages, and then my mother told me it was stuck in a AA flyer, which she accidentally halved. Luckily I managed to sell it back together and somehow pay HSBC The machine accepted it and we went shopping.
His work was paid for and customers flocked through word-of-mouth recommendations. Watts and Gittins took on more designers and gave them the autonomy to find specific opportunities.
“We now have eight brands under the Accouter umbrella, all born out of someone in the business saying, ‘We’ve seen a difference in the market.’ They put together a business plan and if we think it will work, So we support them,” Watt says.
Those brands include: a. London, which works on “luxury staging” for buyers and renters who borrow furniture before it is put on the market; BoxNine7, which offers furnishing packages for investors to purchase; Bazaar, a décor website that sells £21 candles called “the lingering scent of despair” and a £6000 bar; and Knight Frank Interiors, a white-label branch serving the estate agency’s wealthy clients.
Turnover hit £7 million by May, and entrepreneurs are still reaping the rewards of their own initial £40,000 investment, which has never given backers a begging bowl.
His own office is an Art Deco shared work space – so no home alterations are allowed – but a “wow wheel” stands out. Top artists spin it every month and win prizes ranging from a day off from the warehouse to a piece of furniture.
Customers come from all over the world. “I boarded a flight to Jakarta to sign wallpaper samples [by a client],” laughs Gittins. There were also regular visits to Hong Kong with developers to sell pre-Covid, London flats.
“People come to buy an apartment like they’re going on an afternoon shopping trip,” Watt says.
The pair aim to fulfill their clients’ interior dreams – including a bath that fits up to 10 people and a sound-proof party room with a DJ deck in a quiet Westminster Street – but not everything is possible. . An international client asked the two to commission Banksy for a piece of art. “Needless to say, it didn’t happen,” reports Gittins.
Covid saw a consultation switch for Zoom and Teams, but “it really accelerated things,” Watt says. “Instead of waiting for customers to take off, we can make more plans right away, and luckily all [furnishing and installation] The work was allowed to continue.”
In the years to come, both want to see their new brands grow. Watt says, “We want to give people the opportunity to spin up brands through management buyouts, but we also want to carefully grow the group of companies – we’re not looking for growth for that.”
The pair designs plans for their company as well as their customers.
Accouter Group of Companies
Business: £7 million as of May; £10 million forecast for this year
the headquarters: Fitzrovia