Best Practice Representative

Best Practice Representative | Published September 12 2017

Argent Design

Argent Design has more than 20 years of experience creating many of the world’s most desirable, luxurious and innovative interiors, employing imagination, market know-how and commercial acumen to add tangible value to already super-prime properties. Argent’s founder, Nicola Fontanella, rejects the ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to interior architecture and design, which replicates one style repeatedly. ‘I think of myself as an explorer’, she says, ‘What really counts is getting out there and finding the unique and the special.’ If there is a signature Argent look, it is a 21st-century take on Hollywood Regency. She channels the same vibe in her personal style, although she is used to swapping five-inch heels for hard hat and high-vis jacket when on site. 

Don’t let appearances deceive though. Over two decades, Argent has proved that outstanding design is crucial to maximising the value of high-end real estate, both in London and internationally, playing an instrumental role in extending and upgrading its clients’ property portfolios. 

The Story So Far

Fontanella founded Argent in 1995 at the age of 27, working as a one-woman band out of a basement in central London. She originally trained at Harrods’ interior design studio and later for a company called Instant Design, which honed her commercial sense. Today, she heads a team of 30 from the studio in Marylebone, routinely running client budgets of many millions. 

The current portfolio of projects includes private residential, hospitality, superyachts, aviation and commercial developments across the globe, including multi-unit residences in Beijing. Argent is actively involved in international property hotspots, such as New York, St Petersburg, St Tropez, Shanghai, Verbier and Miami – serving a sophisticated, international client base. 

Argent recently opened a studio in Miami, where its work has been in demand for more than a decade. 

Developers there are hungry to benefit from the comprehensive design service that has made Argent one of the premier go-to studios for added-value design in London and Europe. No other interior design company in Miami (and few in the USA as a whole) delivers the full package of design services that it does, giving it a definitive advantage in a highly competitive market. This international presence is key to exporting ‘The British Look’ worldwide. Fontanella explains, ‘As with fashion, Britain is known the world over for creating a style that is glamorous and elegant, but never dull or predictable’. It is evident in her own Belgravia home, with its Deco-inspired white onyx staircase, shagreen walls, Lalique wall lights, jade ornaments and bold, contemporary art. 

Rooted In Heritage 

While expanding its international client base is key to the Argent strategy over the next few years, it remains true to its London roots – in particular with regard to the many listed buildings it is asked to renovate and refurbish. Fontanella and her team have worked hard to build positive relations with all of the planning departments within London’s boroughs. As 70% of Argent’s London work is within the heritage sector, it often plays the lead role in transforming historic, listed buildings. 

This in turn means calling on its own Black Book of highly talented professionals and artists, who have the skills needed to restore heritage buildings with care and sensitivity, while also guaranteeing they feature 21st-century technology. In addition, Fontanella travels the world in search of the very best materials and expertise to bring to each project. 

Benefiting The Bottom Line

While all of Argent’s work is highly creative and superbly executed, its ethic is also unashamedly business-orientated. Interior design solutions enhance the retail value of each property – so optimising the entire property portfolio of a client. This focus on maximising real estate values applies both to private and commercial clients, including developers, property agents, international property funds and joint venture partners. 

The Argent client base is broad, which means the interior design projects are equally diverse, from offices and luxury, multi-occupancy complexes to single homes of great prestige. Argent does not champion one style aesthetic, instead designing according to client, architecture, location and brief. Currently, its projects include Spire London, the tallest residential building in western Europe to date; an 11,000 sq ft Mayfair mansion; a 20,000 sq ft lateral waterfront development in Miami; a private members’ club in St Petersburg; 89 apartments for a development in Chelsea; a 60,000 sq ft development in Hampstead, and a prestigious villa close to St James’s Park. 

Private clients have included many world-famous names from popular culture, but Argent is equally proud of the many publicly listed companies with whom it has collaborated, including Capco and Berkeley Homes, and the privately owned property companies it counts as clients, such as Galliard, Residential Land and Cain Hoy. With Capco, for example, it helped deliver a new vision for Covent Garden and doubled the value of residential property prices in the process. As Fontanella says, ‘Of course it is fantastic to travel the globe transforming the homes of some of the world’s most incredible people, but I am also proud of the fact that we can deliver luxury, multi-unit developments that rise in value because of our creative vision ‘. 

Where Next

One of the biggest challenges Argent has faced in recent years has been a rapid expansion overseas, fuelled by client demand. The solution has been to establish a presence in Miami in 2017. Argent plans to grow its business in Miami to be 50/50 with London by 2020. Already it has achieved the highest price per square foot in Miami on La Gorce Island, which set a new benchmark for property in the area in 2015. 

Argent’s plan is to open more studios over the next five years, most notably in Asia. 

The Team

Argent is passionate about flying the flag for superb interior design, both in London and abroad, so it is natural that some of the keenest talent in the industry should gravitate to its studio. By fostering high team morale, excellent communication, exemplary technical knowledge and rigorous attention to detailing, Argent aims to surpass expectations with every interior design project it undertakes (