If you’re cash-rich and time-poor, there’s a whole industry of experts prepared to help. The number of people working to overhaul the homes of the super-rich is growing fast.
The reason, believes Philip Eddell, head of Savills’ country house consultancy, is an oversupply of information. “There’s so much out there that it makes it harder to navigate,” he says. “Plus, these days people are making their fortunes much faster than before, they are used to delegating and expect to have things in place at speed.”
Since establishing the consultancy 20 years ago (and prior to the advent of Wi-Fi), Eddell has watched the birth of new areas of consideration for wealthy owners. One is the installation of electromagnetic field “kill switches”. These shut off power to circuit breakers to prevent so-called “EMF stress” on the body, producing hormones such as cortisol while sleeping.
Architecture firm Michaelis Boyd installed an EMF kill switch for a client in their huge country house in Gloucestershire. “They were primarily focused on having this requirement in the bedroom spaces,” explains Tim Boyd, co-founder of Michaelis Boyd.
“While these requests are still very much in the minority, there certainly seems to be a growing awareness in the health effects our homes can have on our lives.” Another big demand from the super-rich is to get in security consultants to do “penetration tests” on properties to test the robustness of the security infrastructure.
Other expertise is thousands of years old, now used in a more modern guise: water dowsers drill for boreholes so that country-house owners can irrigate their kitchen gardens or fill up swimming pools at will and away from the watchful eye of water companies. It also adds an element of “self-sufficiency and pushing back on modern life”, says Eddell.
While anyone who’s anyone has an interior designer, how do you make sure you get it looking just right? Historical paint consultant Patrick Baty is often called in to bring his expert eye to advise on colour choices for listed houses such as Farleigh Wallop in Hampshire and Raynham Hall in Norfolk. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for anyone who puts their hand up and asks for help,” he says. He cites a current project on a house in Gloucestershire that dates from the mid-15th century and, like many, has been added on to in every century since. In this case, the interior designer has asked him to help to find the appropriate paints and colours.
“It’s not about trying to impose an era but finding something timeless that respects the decorative grammar of the interiors,” explains Baty. The approach involves filtering through the four quadrants of the colour wheel – blue, yellow, red and green – and working through the options. Once they’ve been narrowed down, he recommends painting samples on lining paper to see if you can live with the colour.
Another area where people get jittery is picture hanging. Knowing how to arrange pieces is an art – and an underappreciated talent. The great master is often cited as Alec Cobbe, a painter, designer and collector who can check off a number of important houses through his illustrious career, having hung pictures for Harewood House, Hatfield House, Knole and Petworth House.
Marcus Wells of Haviland Designs is another professional picture hanger who says business has grown in recent years now that people “have realised that how you frame and hang the art is the icing on the cake”. He finds himself on picture hanging projects from one-bedroom flats in London to mansions in Perthshire and villas in Athens. His clients tend to be “time-poor and cash-rich – they can afford to hand over to the experts to achieve full potential”.
Alongside these specialists, improvers with money who are in a hurry will call in consultants for everything – from audiovisual and lighting needs, to someone to curate your library and advise on antique collecting. There is also a big push to create everything bespoke: from beds (with sides tailored to the weight and position of the sleeper) to wall hangings and murals.
Before all that decorating, however, you need to get tidy. Despite the flurry of interest in home organising spearheaded by Marie Kondo (her Netflix series earlier this year was credited with sending John Lewis’s sales of trunks and storage units up by 75 per cent year-on-year), the concept of paying for someone to sieve through possessions with a professional eye was already firmly established.
The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. “But there’s no denying the so-called ‘Kondo effect’,” says Katherine Blackler, who runs her own consultancy, SortMySpace, and is president of the APDO.
On an average day she will be doing anything from organising paperwork in the home of a wealthy family in Chelsea, to spending the afternoon with a Local Authority client who suffers from a hoarding disorder. Decluttering expertise can be called upon during what Blackler describes as “rites of passage” occasions including moving house, having a baby or when a couple move in together for the first time (whether a bagel slicer has to stay or go has tested her powers of mediation). “I call the service interior redesign,” says Blackler, who charges a flat-rate fee of £55 per hour and will often call in on clients to make sure there’s no backsliding into previous cluttered habits.
Once space has been liberated in the wardrobe, the next step might be to call a style consultant such as Penny Bennett, who offers clients wardrobe reviews, planning and outfitting, and personal shopping, from £650. Some of her clients, who are mostly in their 30s to 50s, seek out Bennett’s advice once a year for a “season update”, while others are more demanding. “I’m sourcing items online and arranging for them to be sent to their homes and we use FaceTime to discuss.”
Since establishing her business, she’s seen a steady growth in this area. “In this fast-paced world people are happy to defer to experts to help them with their everyday challenges.”
After a complete overhaul, including a total interior redecoration, with new furniture, a decluttering service, EMF kill switches and security checks, what if something still doesn’t feel right in your home? Then it’s time to call in an energy healer, believes Georgia Coleridge.
Based in Chelsea, she specialises in energy healing – including on houses – and is often called upon to help when properties are on the market but aren’t selling for no obvious reason.
“It sounds peculiar but it can be a small ghost or a spirit that has wandered in from the garden and isn’t happy, or there’s some blocked energy lying underground,” explains Coleridge. She adds that our bodies are like tuning forks, ready to pick up on instinct but we often rationalise too much to listen to it.
To cleanse the energy of a home, owners first send Coleridge the floorplan and some photographs. A lot can be picked up remotely, she says. “If I feel nothing at all when I run my finger across the plan, I’ll say so and recommend they look elsewhere.” If she can help, the consultation, which can take between three hours and a full day (she charges £75 an hour), involves walking around the house to see what might have “got stuck”, sending the spirit on its way. She claims that by clearing oppressive energy and shadows, houses immediately feel happier and lighter.