Shaun Clarkson is best known for his eclectic interior designs for the likes of Vince Power, Oliver Peyton, Harvey Nichols and Pernod Ricard. Since crashing onto the London hospitality scene in the late eighties (his first outing for Vince Power had to be ripped out and dumped in a skip because none of it was fireproofed) he's come a long way and learned a lot. "I learned on the job basically" he says unashamedly, "I spent 5 years at art college studying fine art. My parents were horrified. They didn't think I'd have a job at the end of it."
They were almost right. "Payment for early jobs was made in beer and cocaine." Shaun tells me. It wasn't until his first major project, The Raw Club for Vince Power in 1989 that he received some level of commercial success and a thirst for his unique stylings began to take ahold of nightclub, bar and restaurant owners across the capital.
Looking back at how his career began and how quickly he he has grown his not-so-modest empire (which in addition to his interior design business includes no less than 2 "home-tels", a shop, cafe, Selfridges concession, his own range of interior products, a further wholesale range, and the 3rd series of 'Four Rooms' for Chanel 4) he says, "I could never have learned how to do all of this at university. And as a venue owner myself I'm both the client and the agency, which has been important in understanding the secrets to making that relationship work."
So dealing with difficult clients isn't a problem then? "You have to involve them, interior design is not a socialist movement. Like everything else it needs to be a democracy. A partnership. A collaboration. People always need to be involved and feel they are part of the project and different kinds of people bring different things to the party."
And what of the shop? Which seems like a departure from the tried and tested nightclubs and bars he's known for. "Good interior design is a key ingredient to building a brand and creating an identity" he informs me, "Launching Pitfield was an exercise in building a brand from nothing. Now we know we are good at creating a brand as well as providing all of the superlative services that can help a business establish a strong identity, stand out from the competition and positively impact the bottom line."
When suggested that having an interior designer is seen as elitist, he agrees "It is, but what people need to understand is that we have buying power, so if you are ready for a revamp then using us can save you money in the long run. You can also up-cycle, a lot of our clients put their old interiors, furniture, fixtures and fittings on eBay to recover some of the cost or fund the next project."
And how often do venues need a face-lift? "We'll firstly we have to remember we live in a time where we have to be conscious of what we waste or throw away, but there is a general consensus tat if your takings start to take a dip, then you need to revamp. I love antique shops and markets. It keep costs down as well as helping venues stay green while remaining current."
But it's not just the old classics that make for a successful design project, "these days you have to know your technology. Tech can be a designers friend or foe, it can empower you, but it can hold you back too - if you don't know Vector Works or Adobe Suite you might struggle." But it's not all doom and gloom, "we still use mood boards and clients still like to see swatches and samples, there's still a physical touchy feely element to interior design." Says Shaun.
But of course ultimately what we all want to know is the secret to such success. Shaun doesn't hesitate, "Clients like that we have fun and enjoy what we do. We're passionate about good design. We take risks, we' brave and daring, we always say yes and deal with the challenges if and when they come. And clients trust us." So how do you win the trust of clients? "We deliver." Comes the response.
Shaun Clarkson ID is based at Pitfield, 31-35 Pitfield Street.
Shaun Clarkson will be speaking at Clerkenwell Design Week on May 22nd from 1-2pm.