Logo

Meet Radhika Seth, the CEO designing dream homes for the one per cent

PUBLISHED: 18:00 10 August 2017

Radhika Seth, CEO and founder of SEQUOIA London, interior design and lifestyle architecture consultancy to UHNWIs

Radhika Seth, CEO and founder of SEQUOIA London, interior design and lifestyle architecture consultancy to UHNWIs

SEQUOIA London

Meet the woman bringing the wildest interior design and lifestyle architecture dreams of the world’s wealthiest people to life

Seth's clients are intensely private, so the only images she can use for press are of interiors she's worked on for commercial developments Seth's clients are intensely private, so the only images she can use for press are of interiors she's worked on for commercial developments

Pinning Radhika Seth down is tricky. When you’re CEO of a company catering to the design needs of Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs) you have to be prepared to move fast and adapt your schedule.

“They’re getting richer, they’re getting busier, and time is a luxury for everybody,” she tells me. “Being able to fit clients in at short notice when they’re here for just the day is why they pay such a premium.”

Her clients are the globetrotting elite – “literally, it’s like a Forbes Rich List” – and her company caters to their interior design and lifestyle architecture needs. Seth has lived and breathed the luxury industry for two decades now. She started working for the family business, NARR International, in 1994, sourcing decorative accessories, art and antiques for the global elite. In 2007 she branched out with a luxury interior design, and again in 2014 when she added project management as well as art and lifestyle services.

Consolidating the various businesses under one umbrella she chose the name SEQUOIA, after the giant redwood trees, evergreens that live for well over a thousand years. These behemoths grow fast and far, reaching up to over 300 ft with roots spreading down almost another 30 ft. It’s a fitting name for a far reaching company that sprouted from a family business.

Luxury today means imitating the world's top hotels, with rich fabrics in sumptuous textures Luxury today means imitating the world's top hotels, with rich fabrics in sumptuous textures

“It has the thickest bark of any tree,” explains Seth. “When you deal with UHNWIs you need thick skin. You have to be focused and get on with it. I liked the idea that [the tree] protects itself by being thick skinned.”

Seth’s clients are some of the most demanding in the world. After all, you don’t become a billionaire without breaking a few eggs. But the rewards are rich, and not just financially. “Working with these people is amazing. They travel a lot, their friends are vey wealthy, they’re surrounded by luxury all the time. They’re clever, they bring us new things all the time,” she says.

“They’re very good at saying to their friends ‘Call Radhika up, we had a great experience with her and her team’. As much money as I can spend marketing and PR on, someone giving a personal recommendation is the best business development model.”

When a new client comes on board Seth and her team put together an incredibly detailed profile of their lifestyle in order to anticipate their every need when it comes to designing their home. Once they’ve worked on one property, they often get called in to do others.

Clients often need their reception areas to be formal and particularly impressive for when they entertain clients at home Clients often need their reception areas to be formal and particularly impressive for when they entertain clients at home

“A lot of clients now will have multiple homes. They spend 90 days or less in each for different reasons, so they have four or five main residences,” Seth explains. “Sometimes we’ll do up a house for them in London and they’ll call and say ‘I’ve just bought a house in Dubai, can you just do that because you know me and my taste?’ or, ‘We’ve bought a penthouse in Manhattan, can you sort that out for us?’”

Always adaptable, SEQUOIA can work anywhere in the world, offering lifestyle architecture, interior design, and sourcing furniture from their network of over 2,000 hand picked suppliers. London, ever the alpha city, is always the hub, and here they can offer the full turnkey package, from finding a property through to the completed home.

“London is the centre of the universe for most of our clients,” she says. “They always travel through here so it’s very convenient for them.” Seth has worked on homes in Hampstead and up on the Bishops Avenue and Winnington Road, as well as the prime central areas such as St John’s Wood, Mayfair and Belgravia.

Once a client is with SEQUOIA they rarely leave. Seth has up to three generations of the same family employing her services at the same time, from a 90 year old grandfather to his newly married granddaughter.

UHNWIs increasingly request seperate sleeping and bathing quarters so one doesn't disturb the other leaving for work UHNWIs increasingly request seperate sleeping and bathing quarters so one doesn't disturb the other leaving for work

Trust is important. Seth has been admitted into the inner circle of some of the wealthiest and most private people on the planet. You’re not going to see their homes splashed across magazine pages. Security plays a big part in this; when you have so much wealth the last thing you want is your floor plan available on the internet. Seth’s clients are often intensely private.

“Their public lives are so public that when they come home that front door is like their barrier,” she explains. “Whether they’re a celebrity, a royal, or a UHNWI, every time they walk out their front door they’re pretty much fair game for everybody.” More frivolously, they also don’t want anyone imitating their style. “The big thing amongst the UHNW is they don’t want their house to look like everybody else’s, they don’t want anyone else’s to look like theirs. It’s all about exclusiveness.”

This often means confidentiality and non disclosure agreements that stretch to dozens of pages, sometimes with clauses that confirm all the clichés about eccentric billionaires. One north London client was so keen to ensure that no photos existed of his home that no camera equipment was allowed onsite. “When we went for client meetings every member of our team had to check their phones in at the security office outside the main house,” Seth says. “It was like going into the FBI headquarters.”

Discretion is vital, but Seth does disclose a few eye popping anecdotes about the VIP packages she’s produced that would make an oligarch blush. There was the client that insisted on a 1,200 sq ft cellar being built into the house, only to reveal on completion that he had no wine collection, or even drank wine himself, but wanted it for his guests. Seth sprang into action.

“I like wine but I’m not a connoisseur, so we went out and found one of the best sommeliers and said, ‘okay, very strange request…’,” she laughs. “We documented the entire cellar so he could know when he was supposed to drink it, store it, what kind of food to serve it with. The client was extremely happy. He knew which ones he could gift, which ones he could serve to A, B or C List clients.”

There was a client with a vast and priceless luxury watch collection. “He asked us to create rotating watch winders, so that all of his watches would keep ticking. He only spent about a month in each of his homes.”

But surely the most lavish request was a custom dinner set with the client’s initials monogrammed in 24-karat gold on each piece, and the serving plates inlaid with real diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

Jewel-encrusted tableware aside, most of the requests are to do with optimising design for their lifestyle. “The key factor all UHNWI want in their home is functionality, mixed with luxury. It has to be the perfect balance,” Seth explains.

When you’re incredibly wealthy, you can fix the niggles that most people have to work around in their everyday lives. Take for example the recent trend for requesting separate master suites, with his ‘n’ hers bedrooms, bathrooms, dressing rooms and an office.

At first Seth assumed that some marriages were particularly rocky. But when she dug a little deeper she found that the high earning partner, unfortunately still usually the husband, was frustrated at having to try not to wake their spouse when leaving for work. You don’t get insanely wealthy without putting in long hours at the office, and often they’re leaving before their spouse wakes up, only arriving home again after they’ve gone to bed. “They say to me ‘I own a home worth £40 million and I earn X amount of money, and I’m tiptoeing around in the dark to find a sock.’”

Separate suites solve the problem when you can afford the space. Similarly, if you’ve ever been bemused by the ostentatious formality of the reception rooms of very expensive homes in estate agent photos, it’s because a lot of UHNWIs entertain their most important clients at home. Their family areas, reserved for relaxing with their children and more intimate acquaintances will be sequestered on a separate floor.

There’s been a lot of buzz in the luxury industry recently about the hot new trend for hotel style interiors. Personally I can’t imagine wanting my home to imitate a Hilton but, as Seth explains to me, the jetsetting elite find a lot of their interiors inspiration from their five star accommodation, and they’re comforted by their familiarity. “The funny thing with UHNWI is that once they find a hotel they like they will only ever stay at that hotel again,” she says. Often they’ll Whatsapp her a picture of a table or a ceiling design they want incorporated into one of their homes.

Increasingly they run their homes like hotels too. Onsite spas are de rigueur, and nowadays meditation rooms and massage tables are a must. Mindfulness is popular with the uber rich, and they all have massage therapists on speed dial. They require the room service experience at home, so rooms are wired up to summon staff for a cup of tea with the touch of a button.

“For some of the very wealthy ones who have larger spaces we’ve been putting in beauty bars and hair salons. You’ll have a barber chair for the man where he can get his shave and his hair trimmed at home. The wife will have a manicure and pedicure station,” Seth tells me.

“A lot of the very private wealthy people want people to come to their homes rather than going out. They’ll have their hairdresser come over before they hold a dinner party. It’s about the ease and use of time.”

Being very rich in 2017 sounds like a peripatetic lifestyle enacted within a luxurious fortified bubble. With so much wealth sloshing around in such an intimate setting, I wonder if it helps or hinders Seth to be a woman CEO.

“On the interior design side they completely expect you to be a woman. Especially the wife, if she’s tired you can sit in her bedroom and talk,” she explains. “On the property development/ project management side I’ve noticed more of a gender gap. If I walk into a room of ten men where they’re talking about the investment and they ask an opinion because it’s design related or about the development cost I will occasionally get an eye roll. I have to prove myself much more in that room, I have to show that I deserve to be there.”

Seth found it lonely, and was surprised that female entrepreneurs rarely helped one another. “It was always men that gave me advice. I think a lot of women are scared to promote themselves. They think if they put their head down and get on with it that’s the way to do it. Whereas men sing their own praises.” Determined to rectify this, Seth mentors and is the co-chair of Tie Women Entrepreneurs, the woman focused division of the world’s largest entrepreneur network, as well as writing on the subject for outlets such as the Huffington Post.

“I really hope that more women entrepreneurs will come forward and talk about the great things they’re doing, and mentor the next generation of women to encourage them to step up to the plate and believe that they can actually do it,” she says.

“When you meet other female entrepreneurs it creates a network. They open up doors, they have your back, and they support you. It’s almost like the old boys’ club. We should call it the new girls’ club.”

Sequoialondon.com

Property search


e.g. Oxford or NW3
Powered by Zoopla

Other Hampstead and Highgate property news

Halloween homes: how to create spook-tacular decor for ‘fright’ night

Dip into a witch’s brew of tricks and treats

New luxury development nears completion in Hampstead

The apartments have proven popular with just a few homes left for sale

Marylebone area guide: restaurants, high street, shops and schools

Your guide to things to do in Marylebone, including the best shops, cafes, restaurants and schools. PLUS our guide to property in NW1 and W1

Open House: Take a look inside the latest Hampstead Heath homes on the market

Both houses feature a cinema room and slim line framed windows, offering enviable views of the landscaped gardens

Transform your outside space by repointing your garden path

Richard Burr reveals how in five simple steps

Top ten things renters need to know

From losing your deposit to falling foul of unprofessional landlords, make your renting experience as easy as possible by reading these top tips

Revealed: How much it costs to buy a property in Camden per square metre

Property buyers are spending more than £12,000 for just a square metre in the north London borough, figures show

Sitting pretty: Everything you need to know before choosing a new sofa

Buying a new settee can be stressful. Three experts share their top tips and trends to plump for.

Hampstead new luxury penthouses already 50% sold to mostly local buyers

71 per cent of the two to five bedroom apartments have sold to families nearby, underlining an appetite for family-sized luxury new-builds in the area

Property of the week: Guildens

A rare opportunity to purchase an unmodernised house which has been in the same ownership for nearly 60 years

Need a new front door? Here’s how to revamp your old one and save money

Refreshing your home’s entrance is a big job. Richard Burr reveals his 5 top tips for a perfect paint job

9 autumn must-buys to cosy up your home

Whether you’re styling up a snug room, or just want to something comfy to curl up in now the nights have started to draw in, now is the perfect time to ‘fall’ into something luxuriously soft and snuggly. Or, you could tap into an Alpine theme and add a touch of cosy-cabin chic.

Hampstead area guide: shops, theatre, schools and the Heath

Your guide to things to do in Hampstead, including the best shops, cafes, restaurants and schools. PLUS our guide to property in NW3

The Conservative and Labour housing policies explained

The prime minister proposed the build of 25,000 extra social homes in two years, while Corbyn announced plans to implement a cap on rent increases

Five things buy-to-let landlords need to know going into 2018

From house price and rental yield statistics to minimising voids, here’s everything you need to know

The top six things that are likely to devalue your home, according to new research

Swimming pools and solar panels are among the most undesirable property features, new research has found

North London developers prepare to unveil luxury collection in Fortis Green

The Fortis Collection has used a number of locally sourced materials and prides itself on being “incredibly energy efficient”

Choose the right tools for the great autumn tidy-up

As you begin to rake leaves, trim shrubs and shape trees in the garden in autumn, we look at essential tools to help you get the job done quickly

For sale in Tufnell Park: top three

On the market now, we’ve found apartments with green private gardens and a luxurious two bedroom new build in Tufnell Park

New eye tracking technology reveals what buyers really look at when viewing a property

Research found that only four per cent of eye movement time is dedicated to considering property layout, repairs or structural features

British-Canadian designer Patrick Cox has sold his Little Venice pad for £2.75m, before moving to Ibiza

Fashion designer Patrick Cox has found a buyer for his 1,908 sq.ft (177 sq.m) Victorian villa in Little Venice, as he prepares to move to Ibiza and start on another ‘grand designs’ style property project

Tufnell Park area guide: schools, restaurants, station and The Dome

Your guide for things to do in Tufnell Park, including the best shops, cafes, restaurants and schools.

What’s the best conifer for you?

Conifers used to be seen as dull, boring and way too tall - think Leylandii and you get my drift - but so many new varieties are now on the market that you can add colour, architecture and form to your garden when everything else has entered winter dormancy.

What to consider before buying your first property

The help available - and pitfalls to avoid - for first-time buyers

Home of the Week: Striking five storey townhouse in Hampstead Village

Denning Road, Hampstead Village, NW3

Don’t miss the last weekend of London Design Festival

The annual celebration of all things design has taken the capital by storm this September. Make sure not to miss the last weekend before the festival closes its doors on Sunday.

Top tips for first-time landlords

We discuss climbing the buy-to-rent property ladder with first-time landlords and local industry experts.

Camden mews property transformed into couple’s forever home

A 1960’s Camden property has been redesigned using a number of locally sourced materials

For sale in St John’s Wood: top three

On the market now, we’ve found apartments with great natural light and spacious entertainemnt areas in St John’s Wood

Camden homes among hardest hit as London asking prices record biggest fall of the decade

Asking prices for homes in Camden have fallen an average of seven per cent in past month.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

2017 © Archant Community Media Ltd

Terms and conditions | Cookie policy | Jobs at Archant