Do Interior Designers Register and Charge VAT?

widget_fashion[1]If you are a small Interior Design practice selling your services to the public then it will not have escaped your notice that if you register for VAT then you immediately become 20% more expensive to your retail clients.

IE you have to charge your clients for your design services AND the products you re-sell to them with an additional 20% on top. It is unlikely that your retail/public client will be able to recoup any of that cost.

Of course most of your larger competitors will be in the same boat.

If you sell your services solely to other, larger businesses then they will almost certainly be themselves VAT registered and the VAT you charge to them is irrelevant – as those clients of yours can reclaim ALL the VAT back.

But of course if you DO register then immediately all the VAT you are charged by your suppliers can be reclaimed ie the stuff you buy will be cheaper.

What are the options?

  1. If your turnover (broadly) is £82,000.00 then you MUST register for VAT and charge it to your clients.
  2. As a small company you can get your client to purchase products directly from suppliers. Most companies, like us (KOTHEA), will do this if we know that we are supporting how the designer wants to bill the project.  Whilst your client will still have to pay VAT for these goods you may be able to avoid charging them VAT on your interior design services.
    • One problem with this is that you have to chase and manage your client’s payment for goods.
  3. Working on a cash basis with no documentation is illegal. You will eventually get found out and fined…a lot. Putting illegality to one side, you place yourself at greater risk with unscrupulous clients.
  4. If you are VAT registered and you export from the EU, with proof of export, then (broadly) no VAT is chargeable.
  5. If you are VAT registered and your client is based in the EU but not in the UK then you will (broadly) not charge them VAT if
    • Delivery is to a non-UK address in the EU (YOU must organise the shipping to make the proof easier, if the client organises shipping then you must charge VAT and then refund it once proof of export is provided to you)
    • The client can supply you with a valid EU VAT registration number – which you must validate.
  6. Register for VAT if you sell your services/products mostly to other organisations. You can recoup the VAT costs from ALL the things you buy for your business.


A Great Interior Designer’s Profile Would …

What Makes A Great Interior Designer Profile?

I would argue that an image is the basis of a great profile for an interior designer.

Something to WOW me and to attract me all within a second. Something that tells me more about you than perhaps words could do succinctly.

Then you’ve hooked me I might read on a bit further.

Then you would need to tell your client what kind of projects and people you work with and perhaps also how you engage and work. You might NOT even need a killer headline “Best Interior Designer In London” or you might.

What do you think?

But of course you already have done such a profile on your web site 😉

We are happy to host (no strings or ropes attached) a brief profile of your INTERIOR DESIGN or ARCHITECTURE business on this blog ( with a link back to your site. Nada. Nothing Rien. No cost. Your benefit is free advertising to subscribers to and readers of this blog and a reputable backlink to boost your site’s visibility even further.

What do we get out of it? One day you’ll buy some fabrics or cashmere throws from us. Maybe. Perhaps. Hopefully 🙂

To be clear: This is for interior designers and architects and NOT their suppliers.

Interior Designers: use pinterest more to generate interest

English: Red Pinterest logo
English: Red Pinterest logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interior designers are a visual bunch. At least they deal with stuff that is inherently visual, with the end product being an eminently visual thing.

Clients, too, are fundamentally concerned about the aesthetics of what they are buying.

So, anyway, it seems strange to me that many of us in the industry have a rather limited portfolio of images of ‘the stuff we do’. Maybe you have parts of your portfolio on your web site or Houzz or somewhere else.

Yet there is probably more we can do with imagery to generate some ‘buzz’ around our services (or products in our case).

Let me talk a LITTLE about pinterest for those of you who don’t already know. Basically pinterest is a way to ‘copy’ images from most websites and put them onto boards that YOU create for yourself within the pinterest website. You can keep those boards secret OR you can share with the wider world AND you can let other people add to your boards if you want to. You can put your own images there too.

Here are some examples of what we use pinterest for.

  1. – This shows some standard product photos of ours. If you click on an image it shows you a slightly larger image and gives you the opportunity to add comments or questions. Nothing too amazing there (other than the product of course 😉 ).
  2. – This is a bit different. Here we have used some visually compelling images to draw your attention to the text below which describes some content on our blog which you might be interested in (or not).
  3. – Here we have some visual resources that we have gathered from elsewhere on the internet. We have themed images by colour. This might be of interest to an interior designer putting together a mood board. You could do a similar thing with other colours/textures/shapes/designs or whatever. I guess the marketing idea here is that we would provide this sort of resource so you keep coming back to it and that might help raise the awareness of our brand in our target market. I suspect the reality is that the resource (the colours) would need to be updated much more often than we have the time to so do.
  4. – So here is an alternative. Rather than colours we have “WOW architecture or Interiors” you can put your images here. You might do that to generate more interest in what you do; we let you do it because it saves us time whilst providing a useful and changing resource in a part of the internet that we (kind of) control and have our brand linked to.

So that’s how we have used it. As an interior designer, however, you might use it for these purposes:

  1. Use a secret board to keep track of your competition. IF your local competitors or industry competitors produce lots of images then pinterest is a great place for you to keep tracks of them.
  2. For market research: If you are researching a specific product you could gather images from diferent potential suppliers. You can also pin any old image that link to content elsewhere -for example pinning an image from this post will add a link back to this post if you find this content useful.
  3. Understand your customers. Probably better for those of you who target commercial customers.
  4. Client collaboration. You could create a secret board which you give your client access to – you can both post or comment on images that may or may not provide useful info to your project.
  5. As an alternative to Houzz to organize your visual content – you have more control of how to categorise your content whereas Houzz tends to want you to use their classifications. A downside of this compared to Houzz would be that you would get more people who are not interested in your services (yes EVEN more than on Houzz!).
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

So those are some ideas of what you might use pinterest for. Now here are some of the technical ways of making this happen. To make them work properly you will need to convert your pinterest account to a free business account. Then use the tools that you can access through the pinterest menu at the top left hand corner of the screen.

1) Pin It Button

You will see at the end of each of the posts on this blog there is a pinterest icon. You click it to save to your pinterest board

2) Follow Button

follow-us-on-pinterest[1]Invite people to follow you on Pinterest from your site like this:

3) Widgets: Pins, Profiles & Boards

You can then use the pinterest website to get ‘widgets’ (bits of html code) that you can put on your site so that a nice image is displayed and that images links to either: a specific pin; a specific board; or to your profile. If. for example, any of those change (eg you add a new image to a board) then the image that you put on your wessite will be automatically updated. So it could, for example, display your 30 latest project images.



I’m very nervous about using third part site like Houzz or Pinterest to store content. Their whole raison d’etre is to get traffic on THEIR site not yours. So by incorporating their functionality on your web site your risk a potential client clicking away from your site and going onto pinterest. So be nervous about that.

On the other hand it would be a great way to share images with clients or for research or personal storage type applications for your business ie ones that are not involved in (pre-) sales & marketing.

Who is the best interior designer in London?

London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I was wondering just “Who is the best interior designer in London?”. I recently wrote about who was the best interior designer in the world and got some rather unexpected results.

You could, and of course, probably did, do that same Google search to find London’s “best interior designer”, just like you’ve probably also googled your own name at some point.

And yet here you are.

Maybe you are one of those top interior designers wondering why your name didn’t appear on Google’s first page like Blanchard, Helen Green, Tollgard and Robin Moore Ede did?

Is it really important? For example, I’m writing this in 2013 and Victoria and David Beckham have just, apparently, commissioned Kelly Hoppen to do their London pad. Do you think they did that Google search? Probably not, in fact certainly not, as I am sure they were influenced by many other factors. So even if you target ‘rich people’ then you might argue that your target market will never make that search.


Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

I bet some of them do though. I bet some of those responsible for recent influxes of property investment in recent years do as they are based out of London. Perhaps they did have one or two recommendations but perhaps they also wanted a few new faces to present fresh ideas. & you weren’t on that list!

So how do you get on that list? Well, this blog page probably did get on or near the top of that list. So you might wonder why? Well if you look at the first paragraph you will see that I use ‘who is the best interior designer in London’ near the start of my article (google likes that) Oooh and look I’ve just included it again in the previous sentence. Google likes that too. But I will stop putting it in as if you do it too many times Google does NOT like that. & now take a look at the title, the name of the page and the excerpt…do you see a pattern emerging? 🙂

So the lesson is that you actually have to put the words into your website that people might type (keywords). That’s an art in itself. Covered elsewhere on this blog. Of course, now you know the trick you will all do it and I will get bumped further and further down the listing…giving me a reason/excuse for not being on the first page when you finally get around to reading this!

Then, of course, you actually have to have a good website and I ‘m sure you’ll agree that those companies that come up do have amazing looking websites. We deal with some of them and they certainly ARE at least amongst the very best designers in Europe, let alone London. And yet if you have the time to check their technical google ranking or ‘pagerank’ (I’ve done it for you!) you will find that most are 3 or 4; which is not so great. Certainly no higher than this blog. So you DON’T have to have a really high pageranking to get on that first page. You have to have the right content (as well as an OK pagerank).

Now here’s how you can cheat. Search instead for a generic “interior designer in London“. Different results. And you will see that maybe your adwords advert for those keywords appears on the right-hand side (you don’t use adwords? why not?). You will maybe also see that you need to have a google business/places listing to get put there as well a perhaps a listing in Yell.

So you can cheat by paying for a position on the ads on the right-hand side. It might cost you a bit though. And if you get a lot of ad clicks then google will promote you to the ads at the top of the search (because your ad generates more revenue for them). And you will see that those ads at the top don’t always look like ads and then kind of blend into the normal search results. And people kind of think that they are the first results of the search…and click them. Good clicks if you can get them maybe?

Maybe a listing in Yell is a good idea and getting a Google Places/Business listing IS DEFINITELY a good idea.

So who is the Best Interior Designer in London? Well Google’s first page for that search shows and their listing says that are the best designers…so it must be true.

Design Revolution 2013: Interior Designers Work Smart

Source: Marketo

2013: Finally it’s here. Will it be a lucky year or an unlucky 13-based year?

I suspect that the number of the year will make zero difference to how well you do. You might get a stroke or two of good luck but I would strongly suspect that your actions might put you in better positions where ‘luck’ is more likely to go your way.

Being MORE creative might make you luckier. I also suspect that the creativity you already have is a ‘given’ amount. So what we need to do is work a bit smarter to get that darned creativity out of you.

On the right is a neat infographic from a company called Marketo (click the image to enlarge it). It’s tongue-in-cheek and gives 7 ways for you to waste time. Just in case you are having a sense of humour crisis today…YOU NEED TO DO THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THE DIAGRAM SAYS 🙂

Going through some of their points

  1. Set your email to only check for new emails every hour not every 5 minutes. Better still just only manually send and receive emails.
  2. Tidy desk = tidy mind (note to self: work required here!)
  3. Get a comfy chair and work in front of you not at an angle. Sit properly.
  4. Multi-tasking is the art of doing more than one thing BADLY. Men and women both think they are brilliant if they are multi-taskers. Hint: you’re not. Do one thing, do it well and move on.
  5. Turn off electronic alerts that distract you (similar to #1)
  6. Be unsociable and get back to work!
  7. Put ‘rationalise to-do list’ as first thing on ‘to-do’ list

good luck

Interior Designers: Must Blog Better – But How?

Content Mix: Content Marketing Institute
Content Mix: Content Marketing Institute

The content Marketing Institute created that nice little image up there that  shows what a content mix might be.

This image has been bandied about on various websites as THE correct mix. It isn’t THE correct mix but it’s a good starter to make you think. It might make you think you are entertaining your potential clients too much or it might make you think you are being a bit boring talking about kitchen worksurfaces a little too much.

Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

For a start it’s saying that you should blog 6 times a week or at least create content 6 times a week. For small businesses that just ain’t gonna happen in the real world.

However it certainly DOES give you ideas about what to write next.

Provide relevant information: Perhaps contribute to a thread somewhere telling people about some of the great things you learnt with a particular product on your last project.

Teach: Show you really know what you are talking about. Share some knowledge in an authoritative way on how you do your job.

Start a conversation: Perhaps on a LinkedIn group or your Facebook business page.

Inspire: others to do better. This could be on a forum or your could write something.

Entertain: Never hurts to make someone laugh.

Interior Designers – Where are my customers?

English: Interior designer J.C. Hryb of Style ...
English: Interior designer J.C. Hryb of Style de Vie and Twenty Gauge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you mean “you have no back-links“. You must have back-links. Everyone should have back-links. Shouldn’t they?

Aren’t they really important?

Can my blog/website survive without them?

Let’s see shall we? Read on…

Some Interior Designers will use their blog or website as a means of lead generation and then of course that leads to REVENUE. To such people, where their website/blog appears in search results WILL affect how many leads they get. If you are one of those designers whose website is a branding statement or a follow-up to a business card or a place to get directions to your office, then maybe where your blog/website appears in Google searches is not so relevant. IE IF the target person for your company knows the name of your company then they are going to type in that name and, more often than not, you’ll pop up pretty soon…unless you are called BBC Interior Design or CNN Designers or something along those lines! You get the drift?

It is a fact that the more genuine links you have to your website the higher you will appear in Google searches than would otherwise be the case. Just go back and read that again and note the word GENUINE.

So what we do on this site periodically is link to the blogs and website of interior designers…new and old. Known and not known. We share our ‘likes’ indiscriminately.  IF we do that we are doing you a favour! (So kind). Yet in the process of doing that we often add a post to our blog with your information in it. Oh and that boosts the frequency of change on our site…which Google also likes and so we benefit. (Not so kind…more of selfish perhaps?..not really we ALL gain). These kind of back-links are good. They are genuine. They might help subscribers to our blog find out new interesting stuff, perhaps even from their competitors. Google kind-of recognise this and credit us both for it. Cool.

But now let’s go a little deeper and get to the home truths. Why would I link to your web site? No really … why? What is so great about it? There are a LOT of interior designers website out there (I mean a real LOT) is yours really so different? Do you copy other’s images and comment on them? That’s OK you are adding your own original content to someone else’s original image. I’d prefer to see YOUR pictures of YOUR projects and YOUR comments, that would be better but I can live with reading your thoughts and views and opinions – they are often funny and interesting.

Do you just put on pretty pictures and sleek images and have a really nice looking site. That’s potentially great. I’ll link to it once. BUT I WILL NEVER COME BACK. EVER. There you go you got me…and then you let me go.

You’ve got to have compelling, original content that changes regularly. If you have that EVERYTHING works; I come back Google thinks you’re wonderful and so on.

It’s a bit hard to do though isn’t it. Finding the time to write perhaps 2 or 3 times a week. You can be original and maybe even funny for a few months but it gets harder after that. Sorry just stating a ‘fact’ there, no magic solutions. Be creative, perhaps? That’s your job right?

Anyway. You’ve come to the point where you are running out of stuff to say and you remember that those back-links are darned good things to have. So you go with a company who you pay a bit of cash to to create links to your site from hundreds of pseudo-fake sites that they have created. This used to kind-of work. But the people at Google are clever, they constantly try to stop you cheating. SO this works much less well than it used to.

Also again think what are these companies going to be linking back to? You have to have the content.

Let’s say you do not have a blog or perhaps one that you only wrote in for a month before giving up as no-one was reading it.   So again you go down the purchased back-links route. Why? what is it going to link to? You have to have the content. & it has to change to get real people to come back.

Actually IMHO if you are a start up company with a pagerank of 1 or zero. Then I’m pretty sure that these back-links would very quickly improve your pagerank to a 2 or 3.

So what to do?

Talk and write about your creativity. Your competitors will be interested for sure. THAT won’t benefit you at all. HOWEVER there are not many interior designers doing that, so when a potential customer sees your site some of them will notice.

People in the design industry should comment and re-publicise all our work more often (that’s kind of how Houzz works in  away if you think about it). When you share, you benefit, in the eWorld of Mr Google. You are opening up your secrets maybe, but those that share and participate in the online design community will gain the most from Mr Google. If you don’t share you may well keep your methods and clients secret but you may also never appear in Mr Google’s search results.

Thoughts welcomed. Creating false back-links could backfire and could cost you money. And we ALL know it is cheating but many of us still do it to beat the system.

Interior Designers in 2012 – How Do People Find You On The Web?

English: Chester Square, Belgravia.
Image via Wikipedia

The interior design world moves on and so does the way your clients use the internet to find you. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not.

Just after we have spent ages (days! weeks! months!…years?!) trying to figure out what search terms our clients might type into Mr Google, and then incorporate that into our online presences(s), we find they are morphing how they search into something new and far more sinister.

Would you believe it? In the design world, a place based on aesthetics, those darned potential customers are using images to find us. How annoying is that? It seems like only yesterday when we ignored images because we knew that google can’t really ‘see’ them and we balanced that by putting all the right words everywhere. We even got the odd first page google listing for some odd convoluted phrase that one client a year might potentially type!!

So now it seems that we have to go back to what we naively thought was right all along. All we have to do is just put lots of pretty pictures onto our site and the whole world will come flocking to our door.

Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

Well, maybe! I’ll backtrack a little and explain where I’m coming from before everyone gets a little too excited!

I’ll come from one simple factoid. One of my interior design industry based web sites has about 500 hits a day. Not bad, I suppose. I looked into some of the stats a bit more last week and found that by far the most number of hits came from google. Fine. About 85% of the hits in fact. Nothing new there then? No.

But; there’s always a “but”.

When I delved deeper I found that 19% of the google hits were coming from the GOOGLE IMAGES part of the google search site. IE the bit where you type in ‘mohair velvet fabric’ (or whatever) and then find you have loads of pages returned to you, so you click on the images bit on the left hand side and it only shows you (in theory) lots of pretty pictures of mohair velvet fabrics. (As well as lots of other junk of course, but on the whole it’s not too bad).

19%. that’s quite a lot.

So I looked at different time frames and, yes, that 19% was pretty consistent over at least the last 6 months. Maybe 17%, maybe 23%, it varied. That’s still enough of a trend for me to believe it and I’m sure it would hold true if I  had bothered to look further back in time.

So what’s going on here then?

Well firstly it showed that I am doing some things right. I am putting images alongside my musings. It makes it easier to read, pretty pictures – some perhaps even relevant – just like a magazine. Also for the images to have been recognised by google then I must also have tagged them (the ALT tag if you want to be more precise in HTML terms). So yes I had images in my musing and they were correctly tagged images. That is, the images had a bit of text manually put on them by me. To make matters better I had also called the images the same thing (broadly) as the tags I intended to use.

Google looks at:

1. The name of your JPEG;

2. The image size;

3. The alt tags you give to the image; and peripherally at

4. The physical colour scale of the image (it can recognise it is mostly green, for example).

The first three of these are very important the 3rd much less so.

So you’ve just done a great design job for one of your better clients. You upload some pics of the rooms to your online portfolio and voila! 100s of people will beat their way to your internet door!…er no.

Let’s say you had this great picture of the main room. So you upload img_1325.jpg to your site and you cleverly ALT-TAG it as “main-room-31-randomstreet-localtown”.

Not good. Assuming it was not a tiny thumbnail image here is something along the lines of what you should have done:

1. Called it “contemporary-modern-home-belgravia.jpg” – or something similarly appropriate; and

2. Tagged it as “contemporary, modern, home, Belgravia” – or something similarly appropriate.

You get the idea? The keywords you have already discovered that work in the text of your writings now also need to be judiciously applied to your images. Get cracking!

1. How to get links to your web site 

2. Interior Designers: Why does no-one visit your web site 

3. Interior Design Marketing Strategies 

4. Effective Ad Writing For Interior Designers on Facebook

5. Five Crucial Bits For Your Facebook Business Page

6. Seven Facebook Mistakes Interior Designers Make

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen | Channel 5

Downing Tweet Christmas receptionThe vast majority of us in the Interior Design industry are not in the position to be able to host a TV show like Kelly Hoppen‘s  “Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen | Channel 5“. Such great publicity is obviously a client-winner.

From a business angle the programme is a good watch for interior designers. Of particular interest to me is how she deals with her clients. She is very good interpersonally. But, from a creative point of view, I especially like how she and the programme address situations where the client obviously does not agree with part of her design. Kelly Hoppen is very good at politely sticking by her guns and by the correctness, if you like, of what she is proposing. She is flexible enough to  eventually succumb in but not without a gracious and often persuasive fight.

Of course this raises the perennial issue of whether or not ‘the client is king’ or ‘the client is always right’. However if the client is right and got their way, in such instances, then the client is happy! If the client is not right then at least that reinforces the correctness of the designer’s original  scheme and the parts of it that were followed.

Interior Design With Russian Oligarchs (

Interiors: The new bling

In a world far removed from cuts or recession, the super rich are spending like never before – investing their millions in mansions and art. ‘I don’t think there is a higher end,” says John Lees of his work as architect to the super rich. A distinction must be made, he says, between the merely vulgarly rich (ie, footballers of the Cheshire belt or the mere-millionaires of The Bishops Avenue) and the world of obscene wealth that Lees inhabits.

“I don’t think there is a high end”

He creates homes for the Russian oligarchs and Chinese business moguls who run the global economy and who continue to inhabit a land untouched by cuts and recession. In fact, their extreme wealth is buoying the fine-art market: Andy Warhol’s Coke Bottle sold for a record $35m in New York in November, the same month a Chinese vase sold in London for an unprecedented £48m to a Chinese businessman.

billionaires are currently spending “without restraint”

Sources in the art and property markets say these billionaires are currently spending “without restraint”. In response, developers in London are creating a new crop of luxury homes, dripping with original Picassos and swimming pools, to cater for this profligate class, including a vast development in Cornwall Terrace being sold for £29m upwards. Likewise for Lees, business is booming.

“Our big-scale jobs are £40m-£125m,” he says. “I work for private individuals and I’ll be doing their country house, their London house, one in Hong Kong and another in, say, the south of France. We recently did a dacha outside Moscow for £174m, for someone who entertains Putin.”

“On our current job, the accessories budget is £2m,”


Which makes it all the stranger that Lees is sitting in the scruffy offices of Lees Associates, near Borough Market in south London. The stairs are rough concrete, the shelves dusty, but the computer screens rotate with virtual tours of excessive luxury. “On our current job, the accessories budget is £2m,” he says. “That’s teaspoons, glasses, plates. Towels and linen is a separate budget. Each bed costs £20,000. We are a very specialised market at the very highest end.”

So what does an oligarch require in his home? Not the classic markers, such as banks of TVs (“We put some televisions in, but we hide them”), gold-plated taps or swimming pools shaped like a shell. Wealth at the hard-to-imagine end of the spectrum is “subtle”. Creating a truly, deeply wealthy home becomes more about rarity and materials: imported stone, works of art, grand pianos and libraries.

At Cornwall Terrace, Lansdowne’s development of eight mansions, two show homes have just reached the market, luring the super rich with original Francis Bacons, Murano glassware and furniture from Portofino. Everything is bespoke: the paints specially mixed; the hardback books handpicked. Lees is similarly aware of the hunger for provenance. “At that level, your bathrooms will be made of heated, solid stone carved in Brac, an island off the coast of Split in Croatia, which produces a particularly white limestone.”

Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

A spokesman for Knight Frank, an agent operating at the top end of the market, says the super rich “have moved their money away from bank deposits and stock markets into alternative investments such as luxury property and art.

It is increasingly normal for Christie’s to deliver a painting to a potential buyer’s house so the owner can see it on the walls.” These gliding swans of houses, occupying only the best London addresses, have layer upon layer of service floors from the basement down. The traditional family kitchen might be above ground, for coffee or a snack, but below ground there are catering kitchens with a dozen chefs ready to entertain a party of 100. Lees says these subterranean floors “contain all sorts of service departments, catering kitchens, gymnasiums, collections of cars. We’ve made swimming pools where the floors come up to become ballrooms. There’s no noise in the pools and no smell of chlorine. We have projected dolphins on to gymnasium walls – hologram images behind glass. We put a bowling alley in one house.”

Bathrooms have become the most expensive rooms, he says, with their requisite body jet showers, warmed toilet seats and timed bathwater heaters that maintain supply at a specific temperature.

But wealth and power create problems of their own. A house full of staff means no privacy. Owning homes all over the world means a fragmented family life. Lees is asked to, if not solve these problems, then at least mitigate them. “The family kitchen is incredibly important, because they all live dissociated lives. You want to find a home, don’t you? The fundamental thing is the family.”

Children have suites, dressing rooms and all the latest toys. And Lees adds “secrets” for the children to discover: a doll’s house full of make-up or stepping stones in the garden that set off a fountain. “There is a sense of loneliness these children have, and that’s a great shame.”

Does he ever feel contaminated by these monuments to consumption? Or envious? Isn’t it odd to return to life as a working London architect? “Happiness isn’t driven by anything you’ve got. It’s inward. I’m not sure I want all those things myself. It’s the sheer hard work in having them. They need these tools in order to play the public persona. I find it’s bad enough having just one house.”

Super rich must-haves

• Direct access from road to underground parking complex, with lift directly into the residence.

• James Bond-level security including CCTV, infrared scanners, panic room, bomb-proof garage doors, bomb-resistant lift and bulletproof windows.

• A home office complete with a communications system that would please a Royal Navy destroyer.

• A master suite the size of a one-bed flat with his-and-hers ensuites, walk-in dressing rooms, day rooms, exercise area and TV lounge.

• A subterranean basement containing bar, nightclub, hairdressing salon, gymnasium, sauna, spa, swimming pool and private 3D cinema (with seats that move with the movie).

• Staff quarters, separate from the main residence.

• A show kitchen above ground and a basement industrial kitchen that can cater for up to 300.