Want to become an interior designer?

Evros Agathou, Creative Director of Avocado Sweets gives his hot tips for aspiring interior designers, the concept behind the popular Poppies of Camden restaurant design, and what he believes no home renovation should be without.  Interview on Homestyle PR (reproduced here with permission):

Ever wondered what it’s like to be one of the world’s top interior designers? We recently caught up with Evros Agathou, founder of Camden-based interior design studio Avocado Sweets, to discover where he gets his inspiration from and to hear the low-down on the success of one of their latest projects, Poppies of Camden...

Evros Agathou, Creative Director, Avocado Sweets
Evros Agathou, Creative Director, Avocado Sweets

1) You were tipped as ‘one to watch’ by FX magazine in 2012 and have been shortlisted as finalists at the SBID International Design Awards for two years running. Congratulations! What has been key to your success and what makes you different to other interior design companies?  I always trust my gut instinct. Whether that’s in a design or the direction a project should take. It hasn’t failed me yet! I like to think I’m a down-to-earth person with high-flying ideas. My entry to the design world was Chelsea Harbour, which can be a bit staid. Design doesn’t have to be boring but it shouldn’t be crazy for the sake of it. At Avocado Sweets we bring new original ideas but our designs always aim to achieve our clients’ objectives, not stroke our own egos.

2) What made you decide to set up Avocado Sweets (we love the name by the way!) and what’s your experience and background? Why thank you. I’ve always been obsessed with design. In my early professional life I was a project manager for large construction projects and decided to re-train as an interior designer in my 30s. I went to the KLC school of design and graduated with honours. Setting up Avocado Sweets was a no-brainer. I knew I had the skills in client relations, design and project management. My wife Susie fills in the rest. Her background is in PR and communications so she runs that side of the business while I focus on coming up with unique designs for our clients.

3) You do a range of projects from house renovations to commercial projects. Do you approach commercial projects any differently and how do you go about meeting a client’s brief? I approach each project in the same way. Find out what the client wants to achieve and plan the project around that. Sometimes the client will have a strong sense of the aesthetic, but others look to me for inspiration and advice. A commercial client needs to stand out from the crowd in a way that’s in tune with their brand ideals. For homeowners, the design needs to fit their personality. It’s got to have the staying power to bring them joy everyday too.

Loft style apartment London; open-plan kitchen; colourful kitchen
Loft style apartment London; open-plan kitchen; colourful kitchen

4) What was the design concept which went into one of your recent commercial projects, Poppies of Camden?  Poppies was a really fun project and a challenging one. The owner, Pat ‘Pops’ Newland’s a fish and chips veteran from the East End who loves vintage memorabilia. His first restaurant in Spitalfields had already been a huge success. When he decided to set up a sister site in Camden he brought us on-board to get the design right for the area.

Initially my local friends were sceptical. The site on Hawley Crescent, NW1 has seen a number of well-known brands struggle to make a success of it. Locals had seen closure after closure and become jaded.

Pat’s brief was to evolve the vintage 40s and 50s concept of the Spitafield’s restaurant and make it work in Camden. Tourists would be attracted by the tradition of the restaurant. It was the local market we needed to crack. We looked at the competition, spoke to locals and market traders and looked at published research. We found a clear gap in the market for an older clientele and families, with music being a major pull.

From here, we came up with the idea of creating a new micro-venue for bands, offering free music to diners on Friday night and over the weekend. We filled in the building’s top floor mezzanine to create a stage. This could be clearly seen from the street too, drawing in passers-by.

The interiors were a lot of fun to create. We used reclaimed or traditionally-made fixtures and fittings to match the quality of the Poppies food. The lighting, from the 40s and 50s, all had former lives: illuminating a top secret MOD facility in Scotland; factory workers in Halifax; and everyday street life. Original 40s wallpaper made a ‘living room’ effect for the stage. The biggest show-piece is a restored 1948 Wurlitzer 1100 jukebox that greets you as you enter.

We designed the overall setting in the style of a Victorian pub, which would have been common in the 40s and 50s (as they are today). Even a trip to the toilets is part of the experience. You head down a London underground-style tunnel where magnificent Thomas Crappers await you.

I’m pleased to say the restaurant has been a huge success. A year on and the place is as popular today as it was on the first weekend it opened, with diners queuing to get in. As well as two shortlists for our Camden restaurant design, Poppies was also crowned best independent fish and chip restaurant in the country in January. Not a bad year for 70-year-old Pops.

Poppies Fish and Chips of Camden by Avocado Sweets.
Poppies Fish and Chips of Camden by Avocado Sweets.

5) What projects are you working on at the moment and what can we expect to see from Avocado Sweets in the future? On the commercial side we’re busy putting the finishing touches to a fun East London bar garden in time for summer, and an exciting new cafe in Southgate. We’re also working on a number of London-based residential projects.

6) If you had three tips to pass onto anyone who is considering a career in interior design what would they be? 1. Get qualified. Too many people call themselves ‘interior designers’ without any qualification or quality check. Never stop believing in your own style though. Your tutors come with their own preconceptions and tastes. Don’t let theirs become yours. 2. Build up your portfolio. You need to show what you can do if you want people to trust your work. 3. Don’t give up. Be prepared for rejection and don’t assume it’s a reflection on your talent. You’ll find the right way if you’re really determined.

7) What is the one item everyone should splash out on when they are renovating a house? A good interior designer of course! You will enjoy massive savings - financial and emotional - by having a professional who’s experienced at running building projects, has the right contacts and can source products beyond the high street. You’ll also get a home design you love to live in, which is priceless.

8) What trends should we be following in the next 12 months?  None! Set your own style and have the confidence to follow it.

If you would like to learn more about Avocado Sweets, make sure you check out their website www.avocadosweets.com and call 020 7284 0348 to discover how their fantastic interior design services can help you!