Amir Kamiabi on…


This company was set up on January 22, 2008 – the start of the recession. I love recessions. I love any uncertainty because that gives you time to overtake your competitors. As soon as they start getting scared and retracting, I think, ‘right let’s pile it all in’. Nothing will change, nothing ever changes, does it? I’ve got no plan. I don’t plan for disaster. If something comes up, we’ll deal with it. If there are supply delays, people will just have to wait longer. Other people’s fear has put us where we are. It’ll be no problem, whether it’s deal or no-deal.

I’d call myself a visionary. If I get something in my head, I’ll follow it to the bitter end. I love creating something that other people can’t

The early days Everything was a battle with our furniture supplier. We were getting doors, but the most expensive kitchen was only 12 grand. That’s all people want to spend on that kind of kitchen, but there’s no money in it. How can you compete with Howdens and B&Q? You simply can’t.

Strategy We spend between eight and 20 hours of design work on a customer. The majority of what we do is new-builds, self-builds and off-plan extensions. We hardly ever just take one out and put one in. We do the whole space and that’s why we brought the tiles side in. It makes all the difference.


I’m going to sell to footballers’ wives. I say it’s expensive, they ask how much

and I say ‘extortionate.’ We know they’ll pay the money for it.


colour, but ours is a blank canvas. We’re saying, ‘this is what can be done’. That’s why we’re putting tiles on the outside of the building; it’s a crazy thing to do and we like it. It’s Louis Vuitton meets Middlesbrough.” But he laughs when I ask if his research included a look at Wigmore Street studios. “I’ve never been to Wigmore Street,” he admits. “Are they any good?” Having the new InHouse store, which retails and distributes his brands, just up the road also helps: “I love it,” he says. “It sets the bar. I could expand the business if

I wanted. If I want to go

and sell a bedroom to a client, I’ll just take them up there. It gives me a bit more exclusivity.”

Famous What’s previously made Haus of Design “famous” in the local area, Kamiabi believes, is its glass kitchens. “We had a lot of them. We saw that as something unique. But now it’s all about textures. We know that a glass worktop doesn’t work. We wanted stainless steel, but they scratch. But then Franke brought their stuff out and it’s absolutely unbelievable. We knew we had to have them. They’ve really put their money where their mouth is. We’re one of the fi rst in the country to have them.” Average order values fall into different bands – £15-25k, £25-50k and £60k plus. Anything less than £15k is seen as too much of a compromise to their philosophy. “We sold a £70,000 kitchen yesterday,” Kamiabi tells me, “but they can go up to £200k for an Aster. Someone came in recently and will be spending around £130,000 with us. We’ve done at least fi ve


houses worth over a million in Teesside. Two of them are worth over £2m.” However, he claims making big margins isn’t behind the decision to target the top end: “We’re not too bothered about margin, we just want the job. We’re here for the fun of the game.” The change in strategy seems straightforward enough and gives the studio a real point of difference. So why have some of his competitors not followed suit? Why do they blindly continue to rely on the budget end when he’s cornering the local market higher up? Surely he must regret not making the switch sooner?

“No, because I didn’t know who I was then,” he explains. “You have to build up to this. You have to build up your clientele. You have to get someone to trust you, bring something in, assess the demand. We’ve worked with three or four special people in our journey and each one has taken us that next step.” He concludes by warning those who might be tempted to follow his lead that they’d need a completely different business model. “People don’t like change and this is scary stuff.

You don’t know what’s going to happen. The way we do it, you won’t get the money for months. Sometimes you might be waiting for a year-and-a-half before you see any money.

“People have taken our ideas, but you’ve got to put your hand in your pocket if you want to do that. You’ve got to know what you’re doing and have customers who believe in you. “We’re not a kitchen retailer as such, not a quick- plan, we’re a design company. We like to think we’re something completely different.”

I’m starting to understand that living space is the big thing. We caught on to it early – the idea of a kitchen, dining, living space… the holy trinity.

Products We’re now kitchens, tiles and worktops. We try to get products other people

haven’t got. Don’t worry about the money, just put the best things in there: Franke, Bora, Küppersbusch, Miele…

Charging for design We don’t release the plans until they give us a deposit.

Installation We’ve got our own teams we have subcontracted but working solely for us.

Marketing We do a lot through Facebook. You can’t get across what we are on radio. Do some awesome jobs and get people to talk about them. We’ve got 3,500 followers. It’s enough for this area and it works.


The majority is people building their own. We don’t work with the big developers. We take all our money up front, the full kitchen on order. And we pay that to Germany. We don’t want to be left in a position where someone cancels and we can’t pay the suppliers.

kbbr kbbreview · June 2019

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