Last week Construction Network Ireland sat down with Joanne Reilly, Design Manager at Total Fitout, to discuss the business and the unique service the company offers its clients.
Total Fitout is no newcomer to the market and has been operating since 2012, building up experience and customers when times were decidedly less busy.
Reilly has been Design Manager in Total Fit Out for the last two years and has built an impressive resume over the past decade, following a Masters degree in Professional Design Practice and a Bachelor’s degree in Interior and Furniture Design.
We began by talking about the busy start to the company’s year, with projects in the student accommodation, hotel and residential market.
“We’ve had to hit the ground running from January 4th when we came back to the office, there was no easing ourselves in. The number of show houses that we are working on has increased dramatically compared to this time last year and a lot of the housing schemes that commenced last year are coming on-stream now and will be coming to the market in the next couple of months”, Reilly told us.
Housing is just the tip of the iceberg for Total Fitout at the moment. One key area which has been keeping Total Fitout busy over the last 18 months is the student accommodation market, and it poses unique challenges – for a start, the sort of furniture and fit out for purpose built student accommodation are very specialist and not readily available.
“It’s a niche market and something we are set up to do – the design and fit out is very different than you would see in a private development or even in a hotel”, Reilly explains. “The key to the student accommodation market is durability and multi-functionality and you can’t serve that market with regular furniture”.
“A lot of the pieces we design and fit for these units are purpose built, beds with desks built in and so on – pieces that are easy to clean and maintain, are sturdy and durable, but also that look visually appealing and that students will want to live in, so it needs to look trendy and not be too clinical”, she said.
Another significant growth market for Total Fitout over the past few years has been refitting and refurbishing hotel rooms – an area that was badly neglected by many hotel companies for more than a decade.
“In the hotel market, there was a long period where room rates were at historic lows, and as a result there was very little in terms of investment in hotels for almost a decade. That has changed now, and we are getting a lot of work where we refurbish rooms on a floor by floor basis and completely refit them from floor to ceiling”, she says.
Total Fitout has worked with clients including City North Hotel and Dalata Hotel Group to mention just two, and Reilly knows exactly what hotel managers and clients want when a floor of bedrooms are being refurbished – speed.
Residential is the final part of Total Fitout’s trinity of business interests at present. Reilly and the team of project managers are well versed in all sizes of developments, from projects ranging in size from 2-3 apartments to projects involving hundreds of properties.
“Total Fitout specialise in residential fit outs and we have the capability to do very large scale developments down to much smaller projects – everything from flooring, to furniture, even down to soft furnishing and staging for show houses”, Reilly said.
Although Total Fitout has a reputation for giving big developments a bespoke feel on time and on budget, the company has experience working with smaller residential projects. What doesn’t change in either scenario, is the speed with which they can turn projects around.
“Our warehouse is in Dublin and we keep a lot of our product in stock. If a client calls us in the morning and tells us they need an apartment fitted out tomorrow we have the capability of having it in delivered the next day. Time is of the essence when it comes to apartment rental, particularly given current rental income”, she said.
“We can go into as much detail as the client wants and we have the capability to get projects turned around very quickly – we have worked on projects ranging in size from three apartments up to 270 apartments, and because we have such a large quantity of stock to hand, our turnaround times are much quicker than most”, Reilly said. “Wyckham Point is one such development in south Dublin where we did 213 turnkey apartment fit out’s for the rental market. This bespoke fitout was designed for the family market and achieved excellent reviews. Another project consisted of over 200 turnkey fit out’s for the rental market which was completed and delivered in 60 days”
With the face of the landlord market changing, and with increasing investment in the market for Private Landlords, including REIT’s, the market for the sort of service that Total Fitout provides is bound to grow.
The thread through the lunchtime conversation, whether we are talking about turnaround time in hotel bedrooms, fitting large developments of apartments or dressing a show house for a client, is design. It is clear that good design that fits the clients brief is at the core of what the company do.
“Our designs are very much built around what our client target market is – the design aesthetic on a first-time buyer apartment will be different to a house aimed at the older market who are trading up. There are common trends of course – at the higher end it is very much taking from the ‘Hamptons’ look, but a lot edgier than it might have been a few years ago, and also an industrial look with an upmarket feel”, she says.
“We are just back from a design show in the UK and the large variety of suppliers coming into the market is very exciting to see. For a long time a lot of companies have just been sourcing from the same few suppliers, which leads to a very ‘samey’ feel to the market. We have always sourced from a wide variety of suppliers to give a wider offering for our clients, but we now have an even wider pool to draw from” Reilly says.