London Property - Home of Super Prime

Bespoke joinery & furniture design - St James Interiors

April 08, 2022 London Property - Home of Super Prime Season 4 Episode 7
London Property - Home of Super Prime
Bespoke joinery & furniture design - St James Interiors
Show Notes Transcript

Today's podcast guest is Pritesh Lad, who is running a successful family business in construction and is also the founder of a high-end bespoke furniture maker and joinery company, St James Interiors.

Pritesh talks about his grandfather's passion for details and craftsmanship, which inspired him since childhood. Having experience with private clients and multi-unit building projects alike, we discuss with Pritesh the top differences in working between one and the other and the different demands.

Furthermore, we consider the uncertainty of the macro environment, especially the delays in the supply chain, which pose a challenge to businesses.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to contact us for all enquiries at

At London Property, we use our experience, expertise, and deep-rooted relationships to connect super-prime property owners and tenants with hand-picked experts. We also aim to inform and entertain Londoners through content across multiple platforms.

Interviewer - Farnaz Fazaipour  | Property Investment & Ownership

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farnaz Fazaipour  0:11  
Hello, and welcome to the London property podcast. I'm your host Farnaz, and today we're in conversation with Pritesh Lad, who is running a family business with the third generation of running the successful business of construction, and bespoke joinery, welcome to our podcast.

Pritesh Lad  0:28  
Hi, Farnaz! Very lovely to have you here in our offices today and workshop. So thank you.

farnaz Fazaipour  0:33  
Pleasure, it's always it was always nice to talk to people who are running a family business because I feel the passion that drives the family business makes such a difference to the outcome for the customers. So let's start by talking about it was your grandfather who set up the business? 

Pritesh Lad  0:52  
It's correct. Yes. 

farnaz Fazaipour  0:53  
And tell us about how it all started with him and kind of where where the talent came from.

Pritesh Lad  1:01  
So my grandfather used to have a workshop in Uganda. And obviously, when they came here and moved to the UK, he got into construction, him and my father used to work really close together. And over the years, my father slowly gradually took over the construction company grew the company into, you know, a small, medium sized successful company within London, had a really good reputation. At that time, it was called Lad Construction, as soon as but unfortunately passed away, sort of 16 years ago. And I set up a company called Ethos Construction purely because there's a certain way in which we do business, you know, the way we treat our staff, the way we treat our employees, the key people we work with the subcontractors, the clients, I think every time we would go to an interview would always start off the interview, our ethos is and it just felt right that you know, to choose that name and continue that legacy of what my grandfather and father had taught me throughout the years. And it is not just what they're taught me is also from working with different types of people within the industry, architects, engineers, designers. So it's fascinating growing up within that environment and learning as so much, which is actually enabled me to make the businesses more successful than when they had them.

farnaz Fazaipour  2:23  
So talking about growing up in the business and the things that you learned from from your father and grandfather. So as a child, what were the sorts of things that you got exposed to and did I mean, it must have been really exciting being around construction as a boy.

Pritesh Lad  2:37  
In the younger in the younger years is great, because as a child, like eight, nine years old, going to building site wearing a hard hat, messing around in the mud lifting tools was fantastic. And it's actually without you realising you actually learn a lot just by being in an environment of, you know, different types of trades, and see how a bricklayer would level off, you know, make sure you know, the brick work with level, just little things, that little details like that, which you don't realise at the time, but you actually learning just by being around those kind of people. And then as you get older it got when you start making friends and when you want to be out with your friends on Saturdays, or on this summer holidays, but instead you're having to go to work. You know, those sorts of sacrifices that you didn't realise what sacrifices actually again helped me be much more successful now because you understand the hard work and the sacrifice that other people have to make. And being around that environment just really helped me sort of fine tune or the details of craftsmanship, the business side of running a business. So being involved from like top to bottom was just an amazing experience.

farnaz Fazaipour  3:47  
There are there are so many layers involved threads in what you end up with as a result takes a lot of experience to get the layers before it right. So as you say, seeing what the bricklayer does, will affect what happens with the plaster and will affect what happens with the pains and so on. So, you know, as you said, without realising these things were all taken on board. So your your your business was construction, mainly until recently where you've added your own flavour to the to the family business. So tell us about how that all came about.

Pritesh Lad  4:22  
So I've always had a passion for design, you know, being working with designers and also like I mentioned before that my grandfather used to have a workshop in Uganda and he's really passionate about details, craftsmanship and that, you know, he thought that when he came over to the UK he was in sort of like going for him it was a dream land right here in the UK, the craftsmanship is just second to none. And being experienced to that and exposed to that environment, just going around shops and restaurants and other buildings and just seeing the quality that you know people produce here. You know, it's always been in the forefront back of my mind that one day I'll want to do something which is homage to him, at the same time is a big interest of mine as well being involved with the design side of what we do. So construction as a construction company is growing, I've always had the passion to one day set up St. James, to not only supplement Ethos Construction, but you know, build up its own, you know, with worthiness within its own right. So, when that's the sort of angle, which we're going for, in terms of St. James are working with different types of clients high end, working on really interesting projects, because I think the team within our workshop and be all like the sort of variety of work that we get now.

farnaz Fazaipour  5:42  
So talking about design, so, you know, to people who are not involved in construction, obviously, you've got, you've got the infrastructure that goes in, and at what stage does the design step in? And then what is that process that happens? So you know, how much of that input comes from you how much of that comes from the client is client driven, tell us, you know, where kind of construction stops and design starts.

Pritesh Lad  6:07  
So we'd like to get involved in terms of the design side of the furniture, as soon as possible, or potentially when they've got a concept design done. Because again, coming with the construction background, we can sort of give our advice in terms of this is what we suggest, in terms of material in terms of manufacturing, in terms of like fixing certain pieces of furniture, so it works with the fabric of the building. So getting involved early doors really does help. So, you know, the design side and us coming involve being part that design would be our most, you know, we think the most efficient way to take projects forward.

farnaz Fazaipour  6:48  
And you've worked with, with private clients, and you work with multi unit buildings. And I suppose when it comes to working with individual houses, it's it's kind of a lot more hands on and the clients a lot more involved. Whereas if you're in a multi unit situations, but more investment driven, and everything has been more standardised. Right. So, first of all, what's the difference in working between one and the other? What would you say are the sort of top differences?

Pritesh Lad  7:16  
I think when it's when you're doing a project, and as an end user, they're much more passionate, it's their own home. So they're going to be not as decisive because there's maybe too much choice and maybe so much uncertainty, but then having the right people around them makes such a big difference. So when we worked on projects, where they've got an interior designer, there was an architect on board, maybe a cost consultant when having that whole framework around them, supports them moving forward. Whereas with a developer, or you know, where it's much more financially driven, but now what we're actually finding is actually, even the developers are now because they're looking for that little added bonus, you know, USP, they're much more passionate about the actual end resorts and making sure the finishes are of a certain qualities that and design makes such a big difference. But generally, that is the big difference we find, whereas end user, it's because they're not exposed to that kind of environment, they're a bit more in not indecisive, but they just need the right people guiding them. Whereas with a developer that in that experience arena, they know what they're doing. They know what the numbers are. And it's all about time as well, that makes such a, you know, big fundamental difference.

So if an end user comes to you, talk us through the support system that they'll experience here. So where would it start? What's what's what's stage stage one?

So stage one is basically talk about the sort of brief, you know, what do you want to achieve? Get some inspiration in terms of like, what are you trying to achieve in terms of look, feel, will take them to the workshop, they can come in, I mean, to the showroom, where they can come to the workshop. And we do a lot of like, experimenting with like different types of products finishes. And then sort of take the next step is the design. So we'll you know, once you've got a concept design, we'll start developing that to make sure it's fit for purpose. It's what the client wants. And usually, during that process, there might have an interior designer or, you know, something that we can also do in house as well. So, either one, we just, again, we work very collaboratively. So working together as a big ethos, ethos of ours. So working together, we'll get to that stage where once we've gotten a concept design, we'll do like an actual technical drawing, which is for manufacture, and then throughout the whole process, you know, the client will be kept informed. So that at no point do they feel as though the project's lost or is it you know, what direction are we going? We're very focused in that sense. And then once we're in the manufacturing, in the workshop, we give a timeframe in terms of like, this is gonna be four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, depending on the product that product is. And then we take it to completion where we also do our own installations, we have our own installation team. So everything from start to finish is coordinated in house. And it's basically a seamless, you know, project for the client.

farnaz Fazaipour  10:14  
So they can go religiously from having their house build to being handed the keys over by you and everything in between, you can do in house, or you can collaborate with their preferred designers or interior architects or what have you.

Pritesh Lad  10:27  
Yeah, definitely. I mean, for us working relationships is a big thing. So working with new designers or existing, you know, we can we can put a whole team together for a client, if they wanted to, like architect, interior designer, engineer, a cost consultant, we can put the whole project together for them, or, you know, we're happy to work with a design team that the client will put together, this just, you know,

farnaz Fazaipour  10:50  
And you know, sometimes people think, Oh, if I go down that route, it's gonna be a lot more expensive. But actually, if you pay more money, but you get the job done on time, you're actually also saving money.

Pritesh Lad  11:01  
Definitely. I mean, we found that, you know, time is, you know, big cost. Also having the right advice, you know, if you get the project right, from day one, you're not, you know, it's not two steps forward, and three steps back, it's always, you know, one step forward, one step forward, two steps forward. So it's always moving in the right direction. And having the right team involved in right people professionally, the people who know the industry, inside out, like, especially like an interior designer, they would actually ultimately save the client money through their time. Because, you know, having to source all the materials, and also, you know, with the sort of trade discounts that they'll be getting with suppliers. And also with us, as a contractor, we have a full time buyer, helping, you know, making ensuring that we're always getting the best deals, in terms of material product, and also the newest materials as well, I think technology is constantly changing, which is important to client now with sustainability, a big factor, which drives people's decision making. So we'll always on top of those new developments within construction and furniture,

farnaz Fazaipour  12:05  
And have you noticed, you know, over the since you set up St James's, have you noticed a kind of trend towards something, or we talked a little bit about the developers now also wanting to have things that a designer, more more kind of USB ish, but I suppose, you know, the demand from the end user is that they kind of want a lifestyle, they don't just want a home. So is there anything else that you've noticed?

Pritesh Lad  12:30  
So sustainability is a very important issue for us nowadays, it's driving future trends. So you know, the clients will ask us where the wood is coming from, to ensure it is from a sustainable source, we're using non chemical paints, we reuse a lot of our material. So any waste we get, you know, we, we reuse that to make smaller pieces of furniture. So nothing is wasted in this workshop, you know, where wherever there's new machinery, we're getting a lot we just invested in new electrical forklift. So it's just things that that things like material, new materials that we're sort of working with. Like I mentioned before, we have a buyer who's always looking for the latest trends in material, and how we can incorporate that into new furniture and new interior design sort of joinery. Also, as part of our sustainable drive, it's something that is actually part of our ethos, as well. And it's something that we installed on day one, when we built our factory, is we have wood burning system, this system essentially creates heat, through Steam, using all the off cuts and sawdust in our workshop, it also helped us reduce our carbon footprint, because we don't have to have so many skipped deliveries of taking away our waste. So it's been useful, been useful in that sense as well.

farnaz Fazaipour  13:58  
Everybody is experiencing delays in the supply chain. And, you know, we all have ideas about what's causing it. But can you tell us from practical experience that you're having? What's that been like? And you know, how quickly are you finding that the quotes you give are no longer valid?

Pritesh Lad  14:15  
It's been really, I mean, the last couple of years been very challenging in terms of just I mean, first of all, is getting the getting the materials now it's just increased cost. For example, we use MDF, or a lot and the price of MDF has doubled within six months. And it was unheard of in in our industry. So for us, pricing jobs is very difficult. For clients, this unfortunately means their budgets become you know, higher. So it's it's we're finding that throughout the whole supply chain of not just in the furniture side, but also in construction as well. Where we're doing concrete frames and the price of steel, you know, they're not even holding it for a week, which is crazy. So you know We price we'll be working on a project and within, you know, weeks time the price of steel has gone up. So it's a very challenging and challenging time. And we're hoping within the sort of next six months, things will settle down. It did settle down, but obviously, the war in Ukraine, which is really unfortunate, everybody has had an impact again. But, you know, hopefully a resolution can be found there. And, you know, things can settle down again.

farnaz Fazaipour  15:26  
And what in your view is causing all of these uncertainties and price changes?

Pritesh Lad  15:32  
Is, is going to be all the factors surrounding like, shipping costs, uncertainty about what is actually going to happen? Russia and fuel shortages, I think people are very uncertain, we don't know. So people can not make any sort of plans in terms of like, this is what we're doing. We're talking to some developers who are, you know, they've obviously bought sites maybe 12 months ago, on certain budgets of construction, but you know, those, those prices have now changed. So their end figures have change, their financing has been impacted. So there's major things throughout the whole industry, which not just, you know, from construction, or construction impacts the furniture, and the joinery side. So, yeah, I think it's going to still take a bit of time for things to sort of settle down and see, see what happens in terms of that market.

farnaz Fazaipour  16:25  
So I mean, you know, being an expert with experience, and, you know, a solid foundation is actually really crucial. To try and keep things as stable as possible in this industry coming into the construction industry or the design world, fresh, will be very difficult for somebody at this point in time. And that experience is really vital.

Pritesh Lad  16:48  
So we are very lean as part of the very lean teams are very, very efficient in terms of what we do so that in terms of like, our contract managers will do lots of different facets, not just contract managing our site manager on site, we'll be doing actual site manager, but he will also get his hands be hands on as well, when we when we need to be the guys in the workshop, you know, they can do different facets of joinery, so they can go into high end finishing, but then they can go on to, you know, if they need to go sand something or spray something in the workshop, they're willing to do that as well. And that, that keeps us very sort of lean during difficult times. And at the same time, we were proactive. So that's one of our ethos is just to be, you know, think ahead, you know, you can see now we can see that material prices are what's happening with, you know, scarcity and scarcity of materials price increases. So just being aware of those things, and being, you know, being quite small, small tight operation, we can be fluid with the tires, which makes us for us a really good selling point, because, you know, if our client situation changes, we can adapt with them as well. So it gives them a bit of comfort to have someone like us on board. Basically St James interiors is a one stop shop for a client. So we do everything from initial concept design, working with the designer, to doing the technical designs, pricing, manufacture, and then installation. Sure, that's basically for client, it should be a dream in the sense that from the moment you appoint us or get in contact with us, it's a seamless process from start to finish. And having all of those trades in house as well. And having our own machinery being in central London, close to where all of our projects are going to be gives the client a sense of comfort that, you know, they don't have to worry about anything. And that is our I would say is our USP.

farnaz Fazaipour  18:43  
And obviously the proof is in the pudding. You've won some awards for your work. So tell us about those awards. And tell us about what's what's next.

Pritesh Lad  18:51  
In 2020, we won an award for the Vittal Jessie desk, which was a crisscross table, which we made with our CNC. That was for the design et al awards with Yacht & Aviation. And in 2021, for the Dan desk, we won an award for the furniture range. So that was a great surprise for us as well. So we're really happy with that. It's given us a it's given us more exposure. It's given us more name within the industry, which is what we've been looking to do since we started. And in terms of next steps, we're looking to build projects, we build bigger relationships with interior designers, architects, take the company to a slightly larger size, and also maybe launch our own furniture range as well because we've had such good reactions to the pieces that we've created. Even some of the pieces which we've done as gifts for clients, they've been so well received that, you know, it's given us the competence to, you know, maybe pursue that avenue moving forward.

farnaz Fazaipour  19:53  
Well, I don't blame you winning two awards already for two pieces of furniture would give me a lot of confidence as well. Thank you for talking to us today and sharing your insights and educating some of our listeners in the ins and outs of Construction and Design.

Pritesh Lad  20:06  
Thank you Farnaz. It was really lovely having you here today and we hope it was really interesting for people to learn and if anybody wants any more information than welcome to come contact us.

farnaz Fazaipour  20:17  
Thank you for listening to our podcasts. If you're an expert and have a story to share and specialise in something that services the super prime London market, please get in touch.

Unknown Speaker  20:28  
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