Patrick Dougherty, founder of the design company Ivar, is on a mission: to create luxury homes for men. It’s now cool for men to cook and the male grooming business is booming, but when it comes to interior design, “who’s looking after the guys here?” he asks. “No one is looking properly at men and what they want from their home,” says Dougherty, who set up Ivar (his middle name) four years ago when he longed to do something more creative than his career in corporate law.
Half Moon Street
Ivar – “the home of modern man” – is a team of interior architects and designers, but they do more than that. They sell a lifestyle – one with a very firm sense of identity, “like being part of a club,” say Dougherty – down to the bespoke furniture, the watch winders, the rugs designed for a specific property and even their own range of beauty products.
“I’ve just spent nine months making the prototypes for our hand soaps,” says Dougherty. “Our body stuff is entirely made from natural ingredients – essences that guys like, which are all based around the theme of wood. Wood is in Ivar’s DNA.”
Most interior designers have plenty of male clients, of course. “One of our first commissions, soon after we started in 2003, was for a Formula One photographer in his Battersea home and we have been designing for male clients ever since, mainly based in London and the Middle East,” says Alix Lawson, founder of the architecture and design house Lawson Robb.
For Ivar, however, it’s all about men. “Interior design is an industry run largely by and for women. It feels like we’re riding a new wave,” Dougherty comments. “We see lots of couples where it’s the guy who cares about the design. Men are getting married later and later, they have deep pockets and they love design, but they don’t have much time and the choice can be overbearing. They come to us and say: ‘Do Ivar, please’.”
An Ivar appartment CREDIT: RAY DOWLING
Ivar’s bread and butter is designing clients’ homes; current projects range from a Maltese villa to a 32nd-floor apartment at Centre Point in London, a bachelor pad for which Ivar’s furnishings include four-feet wide burr walnut bedside tables. Ivar also buys, renovates and sells a couple of properties a year, including Iverna Court, a two-bedroom apartment in a grand Kensington mansion block on sale for £2.35m that serves as a showcase for Ivar style.
There are lots of geometric lines – across mirrors, along the kitchen splashbacks and cupboards – and plenty of copper, walnut and mahogany. Hidden cupboards are another big part of the Ivar philosophy about what men want.
“Our style is functional; it has to work and that means lots of integrated storage. We’re also playful, so there are lots of concealed things, such as hidden doors, in our properties,” says Dougherty. There is also a “yacht-like quality” to what they do, he says, as seen in Iverna Court’s breakfast area whose seating is moulded to fit a pentagonally-shaped window space.
The flat is full of Ivar-designed objects, including a Pelham console table, with a thick glass top perched on “almost impossibly skinny” ebony Macassar legs. One of the best-sellers is also on display – a softly-lit watch box (priced at £1,025), whose lid comes adorned with a F1 race track of the buyer’s choice. “Men like the story behind it,” says Dougherty. “They like beautiful objects with feminine lines, like a 1960s Ferrari.”
Pelham coffee table
He steers well clear of the immediate associations with masculine design – “the warehouse look, battered Chesterfields and black walls,” says Dougherty. “Our style is understated and subtle. Think Savile Row.” Indeed, the Savile Row tailor Richard James recently did a photo shoot in an Ivar property, which Dougherty sees as the perfect fit.
So who is the Ivar man? “He’s urban, travels a lot, sensible, very successful and he loves good design,” says Dougherty, himself a fast-talking, boyishly young-looking 38-year-old who sleeps little, burns off nervous energy doing British Military Fitness and is soon to marry his lawyer girlfriend. He has never studied design, but it has always been a passion. “I like looking at beautiful cars, watches… I like good, authentic design, such as an Apple computer. I’m carrying that across to the home,” he says.
His clients range from “a 23-year-old tech bloke, who now wants us to do his Californian home,” to an 83-year-old gentleman who wants a fresh redesign of his Westminster home. “He could see the historical references in our style, combined with the contemporary,” says Dougherty.
Elvaston Place bathroom by Lawson Robb
He’s not the only one to feel interior design for men is an under-served market. Alix Lawson comments that “working with an interior designer has often been considered the preserve of the woman of the house, but in many international cultures now that balance has shifted. Men have a greater opportunity and interest in getting involved in design.”
The designer Maurizio Pellizzoni comments that he is seeing more and more single men enlist interior designers for their homes. “They are usually very organised and precise about what they want to achieve – and masculine design most definitely channels the homeowner’s inner Bond,” he says. “When we work for a man, we are often asked to include gadgetry and super-modern items, such as LED lights beneath a kitchen island to give the impression of floating. They always ask for the latest sound system or the largest TV and gadgets that can be controlled by iPad.”
Shoreditch loft apartment by Maurizio Pellizzoni CREDIT: JAKE FITZJONES
Ivar also go one step further to give clients the sense of belonging to a gentlemen’s club. “We’ll make adjustments after you’ve moved in, such as tweaking the door hinges, we’ll dress the apartment, help you rent it out,” says Dougherty. “We care. And we are quite confident we are doing something different.”