The Stormont Gate House is stylish and ornate. There is, perhaps, no more fitting place to locate a showroom for a professional interior design practice that services clients with taste and, it needs to be added, sufficient disposable wealth.
JTPY Design has occupied the Stormont Gate House for just over a year, taking advantage of the symbolism of the grand surroundings. “It was derelict for a few years,” explains John Timoney, managing director of JTPY. “It is ideal for what we do.”
What JTPY does is to provide complete design and refurbishment services to clients. Those services range from freshening up a restaurant or hotel, to overseeing the stripping out, redecorating and refitting of a prime home.
In fact, for one client in Holywood, JTPY is going even further and is in charge of the construction of a new home. “We are overseeing it from the design point of view, rather than from the architectural,” says John. “Then you get the budget right.”
Too often, Timoney explains, too much money is spent on constructing the home, leaving nothing for the style and design the buyer wants inside. “If you focus on the building you can end up with a beautiful property, but have to move all your old tat back in,” he stresses. His firm’s oversight enables a buyer to be “more realistic about what they can afford”, he says.
It might seem surprising that JTPY can successfully launch a business targeting prime customers in a recession – it started trading at the beginning of last year. But, says John, his company has exceeded its revenue and profit targets for 2009. Business is going so well that it now has its sights beyond its initial operating area of Belfast and County Down, and is working also in London, Dublin and Edinburgh.
Even in the Republic, there remains demand for high quality design. “In the South of Ireland there are still people who are spending money,” he says. That money, though, goes further when taking advantage of the weak pound and giving JTPY a surprising source of clientele.
But it would be wrong to assume that all JTPY’s clients are multi-millionaires. Some customers drop in to spend a few hundred pounds on new blinds, while others may spend hundreds of thousands to fit out their home, hotel or restaurant. At present, about 70% of the company’s revenues come from residential clients, with the rest commercial – but Timoney believes that as the economy recovers there will be increasing demand from the commercial sector.
Originally John wrote two business plans. The other was for a property renovation company based in London. Now that he looks back he is very happy that the figures suggested Belfast was the more lucrative option – the London proposal would probably have been disastrous. “I worked with Ulster Bank and my accountant and ran a 20% cut to all my figures to see if the plan was still viable – and it was,” recalls Timoney.
But despite the strong trading situation, it is hard work, he insists. “We are coping in two ways,” says John. “We work very hard and six days a week. We have a team of five people and the clients love them.”