Starting any kind of work on your home or development is a big commitment - made harder by the fact it’s often difficult to know who you’re dealing with. Chances are you’re going to want to work with the company who you feel a stronger connection with. The individuals who, after all those initial meetings, tender documents and specs have been decided, are still on the other end of the phone and are still putting 100% effort in, 12 weeks into the build.
But how do you get to know who you’re dealing with before starting a project?
Here we chat to Co-Founder and Managing Director Rob Sutherland, and his wife Sarah, about the challenges of starting your own business and what inspires them to get out of bed in the morning. Of course, it won’t give you an instant connection. But it may give you an idea of what Inspired Dwellings are all about.
Tell us a bit about your background and why you do what you do.
Sarah: I worked in Marketing and Advertising for a long time, for companies such as Sky, Virgin Media and Channel 4 – now most of my time is spent in property development.
Rob: The majority of my career has been spent in the private sector. I have an extensive background in IT, which gives us the edge over our competitors. Our priority is networking – making sure every aspect of the home is properly wired, connected and working. Once we can be sure you can get Wi-Fi and phone signal in every room, that’s when we start to focus on the media room or state of the art music system.
Sarah: We’re very design led – home owners and designers usually have a very clear idea of what they want from a home. Our first fix team makes sure the cabling is in place to facilitate that vision, plus extra data points should anything want to be added in the future. Once that’s done, then the fun bits can start. Lighting systems, music control, home cinemas, heating control on your phone, HD televisions.
Where do you live and work and how do you balance the two?
Rob: One of the perks of setting up a company is getting to choose your own offices – living in Fulham, we chose Parsons Green as a base for our offices and workshop. That being said, with such a young company, we do a lot of 12+hour days. Juggling family life with home life can be quite challenging. It’s just as well our offices are so close!
What is your greatest achievement - what are you most proud of?
Sarah: Children aside (Sarah and Rob have two small boys), it has to be Inspired Dwellings.
Rob: Inspired Dwellings started in 2007 with myself and one other employee sitting in our family kitchen. Now we have three offices, holding a team of twenty full time members of staff and do multi-million pound projects throughout London and Southern Counties. In 2013 we were the fastest growing home consultancy service in London – and the fact that it has been done during a recession, makes it even more of an achievement.
Where’s your most inspirational place, home or away?
Sarah: Our favourite project, has to be the one we get to enjoy! We recently kitted out an old family ski-chalet which had been renovated from an old Shepherd’s hut. My family have been going to that resort for years so it was crucial we got it spot on. Despite being perched 4,000 ft. up the French Alps, the chalet now has stable Wi-Fi, with a full basement media room and 3 cameras to monitor the snow fall and security whilst we’re not there. Like a lot of our clients, our family really didn’t want the technology aspects to get in the way of the period features (the hut’s weather-beaten front door and oak beams, remain). Luckily, we knew just the home technology company to do it! It’s now one of my favourite places - our first family Christmas there was magical.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Rob: Now that Inspired Dwellings has grown, there’s more time for us to sneak in some week-end getaways. We’re a very active family. During the summer, we spend a lot of weekends down the South Coast sailing in competitions, and the boys love our Winter ski trips.
Sarah: (Cuts in) They’re so fearless!
Rob: Food is also a biggie. We love spending our evenings cooking or eating out around London - & fitting in a few drinks too!
What is your favourite space in your home?
Rob: The 65” TV! Although my latest purchase is a Nest learning thermostat, which I’m having a lot of fun with…
Sarah: The garden in the summer – it’s so great having an outside space in London.
What is your top tip for creating a lovely home?
Sarah: Plan, plan and then plan some more. So many people come to us half way through their build or revamp, with some amazing ideas – many of which require cabling in order to get the best results. It’s always cheaper and easier to lay cable at the start of the project. Whilst it’s not always possible, I advise everyone to spend a lot of time thinking about what exactly they want out of their home. Not just now, but 5, 10 years down the line. Young children’s bedrooms is a really good example of this. It may not be necessary for them to have internet access now, but ten years down the line may be a different story.
Rob: And, if you share your home, make sure everyone’s on the same page! Quite often in our initial talks, we realise the man of the house prioritises HD audio or projector quality, whilst the ladies are more interested in getting the ‘feel’ of the home right – how will the lighting control system work, will the speakers really be ‘invisible’? To set a realistic budget, the end result must be apparent to everyone involved.
Inspired Dwellings Sample Drawings