5 Minutes With Alex Holden

By Oliver Burns

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August 18, 2017|Guest Editorials

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  • e sit down for 5 minutes with our Managing Director, Alex Holden, to find out what it's like working with developers, the best thing about the design industry and the far flung place at the top of his bucket list....

What is the best thing about working within the design industry?

 There are two very cool things about working in the design industry. Firstly you get to partner with some of the most incredibly skilled craftsmen, their skillset is as rare as that of an elite athlete or skilled lawyer.  Some of the pieces they are able to create are just mind blowing. Secondly, you get to take your clients on an awesome journey of discovery and work with them on one of the most significant and intimate projects they will ever undertake.

Where/what is at the top of your bucket list?

I can’t help but find the natural world we live in incredibly inspiring. I have always wanted to take a trip through Alaska and Canada during the summer months – hopefully get close but not too close to bears fishing for salmon! Not only is there incredible wildlife but also the most magnificent natural scenery.

What is the most-read book on your book shelf?

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini or The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. Both of these were books I first read 15 years ago, however, both have such compelling story lines. The Kite Runner is both thrilling and moving at the same time and eventually good overcomes evil against all the odds. Where as Ondaajje’s writing in the English Patient is so rich that every time I read it I imagine something differently .



What do you consider the ultimate inspiration?

Living in London we are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by cutting edge buildings that are built with the most modern technologies, materials and machinery. However, on the same street there might also be an architectural masterpiece that has been there for hundreds of years – built almost entirely by hand over a 25 year period. Doing what I do I get to travel fairly extensively and I’m always inspired by some of the incredible feats of engineering and architecture that have stood the test of time. I recently viewed a potential project in Italy and the core of the house was built nearly 1,000 years ago.


What piece of advice would you give for those looking to enter a career in design?

I don’t think I could limit it to one piece of advice. Young designers need to build a varied experience, many of the CVs I see have no differentiation between them.  I am looking for something that stands out, a personality that will add to the creative environment in the studio. I think you also need to be prepared to take a risk and work hard. There are huge numbers of people wanting to work in the industry and you need to set yourself apart.

Image via Oliver Burns

What is the best design tip you have picked up along the way?

 Invest in timeless, quality pieces that will stand the test of time, and save on accessories which change seasonally.

My most treasured item is…

 A Mont Blanc watch that I was given to me as a gift by my first boss.


If I had a free day in London, I’d…

 I’m currently training for a 100km run so the day would start either with a long run on the Thames path or a swim in Brockwell Lido. I love cooking and find it very relaxing so we often have friends for lunch and dinner. The afternoon might entail a walk in Battersea Park or a visit to one of the fabulous markets in London.


TED2012: Full Spectrum. February 27 - March 2, 2012. Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

What’s your favourite download/podcast at the moment?

I love Ted Talks and will often listen to a couple of those on my commute during the week. I am also a bit of a secret American Football fan, the second series of ‘All or Nothing’ has just been released on Netflix so I’m looking forward to watching that over the coming weeks.  I love seeing behind the scenes of elite performance institutions that in the UK have a much more guarded interaction with the media.


Does working with a developer require a different skillset to working with private clients?

I don’t believe they need a different skillset, but a different mindset and approach. We work extensively with both and we don’t have specialists within the team who work on just one as the two have strong influences. When working with a developer you need to be much more pragmatic over design decisions and set tastes and personality aside.  However, you also need to ensure that the whole professional team buys into and understands the creative concept and ensure that this is not compromised through the process. Working with a private client, you are designing their home which they will enjoy for years with their family. The most critical piece of the project is getting a deep understanding of what the client wants and is there alignment across the family, or do they all want different things from the project. Taking a family into their finished home can be one of the most rewarding experiences to go through when you get it right!


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