"One day, the Queen’s curators just walked in..."

Turning dreams into reality is what So Chic Interior Design Consultancy is all about, but when Andrew Polycarpou founded the company, little did he know his own dream would come true with a Royal seal of approval. “I used to collect antiques, and first started by buying a flat and doing it up, discovering that making it a show home and staging it beautifully with those pieces, you could make more money,” he recalls. Turning this interior design into a business idea, “in 2004 we opened our first store in Windsor. From there we took on another store in North London, and we’ve had that for seventeen years now. It’s just gone from strength to strength.”

One day, the Queen’s curators just walked into the So Chic Windsor store, “and they liked a lot of the products. Twice a year they used to come and buy.” You must supply the Queen for a minimum of five years before they ask you to apply for a warrant, apparently, “so following our invite, that’s what we did. Only thirty percent of those who are eligible and apply get that warrant. Luckily, she liked a lot of our products and the curators had bought for the Queen and for her majesty to give as gifts, and we were offered the royal warrant. So, we’ve been supplying her majesty for twelve years now. It’s a real privilege – such an honour – and of course it’s a big pull, because leading from that we’ve worked with the royal family of Abu Dhabi, the King of Malaysia, the Sultan of Brunei.” It’s quite a client list, and it doesn’t stop there, because, as Andy explains, they’ve also built up a loyal celebrity clientele, including “…several of the Arsenal footballers, professional boxers, golfers, TV stars. Some very well-known names indeed. And no, he can’t tell us. We asked, but he’s sworn to secrecy.

A lot of us are desperately wanting to change-up our homes (having spent so much time in them recently), but how does an interior design company go about working with a client? “What we do is go to the property and measure the rooms, see what the space is, first. From that, we take their brief, present them with some designs and listen to their feedback and show them some products. We can pretty much get our hands on anything because we work very closely with our factories who can make bespoke pieces. If a client wants a 6-metre sofa, we can make that happen. From there it’s the colour scheme that must be decided – the most important thing is the flooring. Whatever the client has chosen, we take a sample of and ensure the scheme works around it. It’s something so many people forget, and the entire room flows from the flooring and the colours that works with. Fifty percent of our business is kitchen and bathroom tiles, and again that’s the starting point for an entire design, because they really change the feel of a space.”

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Andy has always known scented candles were important to help set the tone for interior design. “I sold them in my shops long before we had our own,” he says, “we’ve stocked Creed and Parks candles, several luxury brands, and we found there was a huge demand for them, especially around Windsor. Many of our clients began asking if we had our own candles. I happened to know Carol and Sidney, the founders of Parks, quite well, because I used to see him in the trade shows in Paris, we used to stay in the same hotel actually. So, one night over dinner and a conversation, we decided it would be a good idea to produce a candle” he says. “I had to get special permission from the Royal Warrant Association, and they don’t usually do that. But after they’d sampled the prototypes they granted it.”

As much thought is put into suggesting the right candle for the right space as with any other part of the interior design process, and again, as Andy points out, “it depends entirely on the environment it’s going to live in, and who’s living there.” Having accessed the colours and tones, the fabric choices of the client, it’s also the client’s personal fragrance preferences that come into play. “I have some clients who love Oud, and they’ve loved having that in a large lounge area because it’s really opulent and scents bigger spaces so well. But in the bedroom, we might suggest Vetiver because that’s a softer feel, more comforting. We never pre-suppose what a client will love best, though we might have some ideas, because you just never know for sure. We’ll line up our six candles and see which ones they’re most naturally drawn to. It always has to be down to their personal taste.” When asked which of the collection he’s most drawn to, Andy replies: “Ohh, Woodsmoke & Vetiver. They’re my favourites for sure. I love the woody scents. We burn those together in the stores all year ‘round – they’re not a seasonal scent for me – and that’s the scent clients associate with us, it makes them feel immediately at home, so they burn them in their own homes too. We have people ringing up and saying “can you please send me six candles of whatever that was burning in your showroom, please?” It’s become our signature scent I suppose.” Customers certainly trust Andy and indeed, that’s the way their business has thrived. “We develop a really great relationship with many of our clients, so I see something or have a new product and I just know they’ll love it. It becomes a sixth sense, but it’s based on years of getting to know them. It’s all about trust. There are clients we’ve had who first came to us ten years ago, who’ve recommended us to their friends and so on. I don’t advertise, I don’t do much on social media, it’s all word of mouth. That’s the best feeling.”

It’s obvious that trust is a two-way street in Andy’s world, because he makes sure to listen to the customers, too. The question they’re asking? “When are you doing more candles? So many people have asked when we’re doing other scents and, going back to the heart of what drives the business, they also want matching products like soaps and other beautifully fragranced products to tie in with their bathroom schemes. I love the originals we did, but the market for home fragrance has just expanded so much since we introduced them, especially since the pandemic, that people want more and more options.” Chuckling wryly, he adds “I guess I’ll need to have another conversation with Sidney…” Before our interview ended, we had to find out what’s the biggest mistake that people make when trying refresh the style of their homes? “I think it’s a matter of people sticking together random bits and bobs, when what you really need to do is step back and access it with fresh eyes, which is obviously easier to do as an interior designer going into someone else’s home. So, start with the flooring or a dominant colour, and let everything flow from there.” And once you’ve settled on the feeling you want to create, why not make your own dreams a reality by allowing your personality to flow through the scented candles you choose?