Sian Disson of strategic communications company FTI Consulting, talks to Lisa Hollands, Managing Director for Residential at CBRE. Lisa runs a team of over 110 residential property experts; she is a specialist in development consultancy advice, interior design consultancy, space capitalisation, and maximising value for clients.

How did you come to know about the WIN Awards and what made you want to become involved?

We have been aware of World Interiors News and the WIN Awards for many years and as an international business we are constantly looking at global examples of design excellence. WIN provides a fantastic showcase of what ‘world class’ looks like.

CBRE has recruited a team that are experts in design as well as sales so the connection between us and WIN is perfect in that respect because the publication very much meets the way we are giving advice to our clients, ensuring that we are delivering a very fashionable product for the market.

If we’re meeting a new client we will draw on global examples of high quality design; we’re constantly advising clients to look beyond London for case studies and WIN is a key source of inspiration.

What qualities and features will you be looking for in this year’s submissions to the Residential Development category?

For me, the winning development has to be something different. There’s a repeat look in residential development which is quite simple to follow and it’s very easy to look at a scheme that’s sold well and use that as a design concept.

I don’t feel that this is an authentic way to deal with a building so I’ll be looking to see how the interior talks to the exterior, how it interacts with its location, how it sits in the market and whether the designer has really thought about how the interiors will work for the residents. For me, it is not simply about aesthetics but about the impact on the end user.

CBRE Residential has shown remarkable growth in recent years, following a subtle rebrand. What was the reasoning behind this rebrand and what has the response been from your clients?

When CBRE Residential started here we were leveraging off a very strong CBRE brand that was globally recognised, but recognised in a B2B market. This is brilliant for business but for the residential side it needs to speak clearly to the consumer market.

We needed a brand that looked and felt the way that we advise clients so our internal team worked with Wink Creative to tailor the branding slightly to suit the consumer market, ensuring that they didn’t feel afraid to approach us. We now have a softer style which is more sophisticated and consumer friendly.

Internally and externally the response has been amazing and other global offices at CBRE are now looking at using the branding too.

CBRE Residential is a leading force in the London property market, operating a wide portfolio of residential schemes and undertaking multiple research projects. What are you working on at the moment?

The general diversity of developments that we are working on at the moment is fantastic. What Dara Huang has achieved at the South Bank Tower (above) is absolutely stunning; the Greenwich Peninsula development with Tom Dixon is revolutionary for that market – you can buy a flat for £650 per sq m and still have a Tom Dixon association; Gatti House has a very quirky design where there are four or five different palettes; and Queen’s Wharf in Hammersmith (below) is very appropriate for its market and the market has responded so well to the product.

In what ways can CBRE Residential add value to its clients’ developments?

We take a very holistic approach to our clients’ developments and start from the ground up. The ground floor could be a very wide expanse as we’ll also look at the surrounding area, including the retail and F&B offering, what the general environment is like, whether our client can change this for the better, and so on. We look to see whether our clients can add value outside the residential offering.

CBRE also looks at the public domain; can this be improved by adding more green space or water features, does it need street furniture, and again, can we create a sense of environment? We don’t get stuck into the residential until we’ve really explored the environment and how far we can push that.

On the residential side, firstly we’d look to ensure that the client has designed the most appropriate product for the target market and how we can create something that doesn’t already exist. We’re big champions of guiding our clients to create something completely different; something that stands on its own two feet.

How do you select the architects and interior designers that you work with?

This depends on whether the development is a new build or conversion. It also depends on how much volume is needed in terms of the gravitas of the architect or interior designer. On some buildings you can introduce a new designer to the market and make it fresh and new as something that people haven’t seen before. Equally, if it’s a building that needs global recognition in order to achieve maximum sales, then having a well-known architect or designer helps give confidence to that market.

We will have a deep understanding of the project and the target market, and we tend to know from experience what an architect or designer’s work is like. In most cases we’ll get three or four designers to pitch for work then we help on the selection based upon these pitches.

What interior design trends or themes have you noticed in London over the past year?

For me, trends and themes in London correlate with retail fashion trends. It seems that whatever is happening in the fashion world actually happens in property, so at the moment it’s that bohemian look, quite ethnic. And in property, that’s what we’re seeing as well.

Six months ago it was the 70s vibe, then before that it was 50s retro. If you took a fashion magazine and placed it alongside a new interiors magazine, you’d see the trends are really similar.

Later this year, CBRE Residential and WIN will be hosting an event on refreshing residential design in London. Please can you explain the thinking behind this event and what CBRE is looking to achieve?

We want architects and interior designers to know that as agents we really recognise the importance of constantly providing the London sales market with different stock. As with fashion where each designer has their own style and take on the product, we want to see that in property.

We want people to go and buy an apartment because it was designed by Tom Dixon, Johnson Naylor, or whoever they connect with; we want them to know that it is an investment. They’re buying into that designer and that brand.

CBRE wants to work in collaboration with architects and interior designers so that they understand the value of their brands to us and that we can pass on information about their companies to buyers, demonstrating that they are purchasing something collectable; a piece of history, not just bricks and mortar.

What is the benefit of knowledge sharing events such as this to CBRE and the London design community as a whole?

We all see things from different angles and probably approach projects with different priorities so we’re looking to bring together these alternative lines of vision to that we can gain an equal understanding of what our challenges are. Hopefully then we can come up with an offering that works to everyone’s benefit.

I feel that architects and interior designers sometimes have to second guess what’s going on in the market. CBRE is there at the absolute forefront. We are talking to new buyers every day who may have different requirements or trends in terms of what they’re looking for and we want to pass on that information to designers and developers so that they can create what’s most appropriate for the people that are going to live there.

What makes the London residential scene so special?

The diversity! You have towering structures, bridges, old next to new, so many cultural venues… We are so lucky here in London. I had dinner at The Shard last week and looking out over London you can see it’s just the most incredible city. Sometimes you need those moments to sit and reflect on what makes London so special.

London has been developed extremely carefully in a very controlled way and that is of huge benefit to the market. On our Earls Court development where there’s roughly 80 acres, we have advised the client that they don’t just have shiny new buildings. It’s so important to have buildings that incorporate reclaimed materials, old warehouse designs, lofts, charming 18th century buildings; not pastiches but following the architectural language of the area.

If you are interested in attending the event on residential design in London that Lisa mentions in her interview, then email me at and we will contact you with more details nearer the event.