Getting business of interior design down to a fine art

Future Proof: Carol Bellamy of Carol Bellamy Collections

Carol Bellamy: “People are now taking a more cautious approach when spending large sums on their interiors, an approach that sits very well with me”

Carol Bellamy: “People are now taking a more cautious approach when spending large sums on their interiors, an approach that sits very well with me”

 

When Carol Bellamy started her own business in 2001, it was mainly valuations-based. The economy was growing and those who had invested in Irish art and antiques in the 1980s saw huge returns on their investment as demand fuelled record prices in the arts and antiques market.

Bellamy is now engaged in the investment side of the business, helping individuals and businesses to create design-led interiors, either at home or in the corporate environment, with one eye on design and the other on the investment potential and return of the piece of art or antique.

Bellamy has been in the business for over 20 years. Having studied interior design at college, she says she wanted to live and work in Ireland. Ironically then, the new direction for her business in the past few years has taken her all over Europe, where the art market is thriving and where she faces stiff competition from buyers from the Middle East and Russia.

Her experience, however, allows her to take a broader view: “Having done my research and set my price to what I consider a reasonable amount to pay, I console myself when I lose out that they paid too much and let them have it.”

Bellamy says traditionally Irish buyers favoured names and scenes they could relate to but when demand outstripped supply at the height of the boom, a new opportunity arose for Irish contemporary artists who “enjoyed a golden period right up to the recession”.

Contemporary art

“When markets dropped, the art world was no exception and many investors were left with paintings they could not move on. Similarly, private buyers found themselves in a situation where they could not even realise their original investment, let alone net a profit.

“Many mistakes were made but two that stand out were the lack of diversification and buyers not taking professional advice.”

Bellamy says it is folly for businesspeople, happy to take advice on stocks and shares, to believe they can invest in art and antiques without expert opinion and guidance.

“Few could have foreseen what was to happen but limiting their collections to Irish art, which is a tiny market on the world scale, left them open when the market crashed,” she says. “Thankfully there are good signs of recovery, particularly for the industry stalwarts but contemporary art is taking its time in the fight back.”

Bellamy says over the past 20 years she has carried out hundreds of private valuations, but can “count on one hand” the number of people who have taken a diversified approach to collecting art.

“Interestingly, these collectors do not limit themselves to art only but also take an international approach to furnishings, be that antique or modern. So you have Irish art and design sitting comfortably with English, French, German, Italian and American pieces.”

Recovery

“In order to survive, like many others, I’ve had to evolve professionally,” says Bellamy. “When I was approached by a client to assist with the furnishing of his Dublin home, I combined my experience as a valuer with my previous study in interior design to create Carol Bellamy Collections, where I offer both residential and corporate services.”

The main aim of Carol Bellamy Collections is to create functional, high end-led interiors whereby Bellamy selects items that appeal to the owner but that will retain their value.

“One of the hard-learnt lessons of the recession was the value of equity. People are now taking a more cautious approach when spending large sums on their interiors, an approach that sits very well with me.”

Bellamy invests in collectable names for clients: designers, manufacturing companies and artists that have established names that can outlast the vagaries of the art market.

To progress this side of her business, as well as operating similarly in Dublin, Bellamy is a frequent visitor to London where she gives presentations to estate agencies, private bankers and specialist lenders. She says banks are increasingly open to people borrowing on the back of their art collections again.

“The last groups have a strategic interest due to the growing market of art-secured lending against high-value collections where both recourse and non-recourse loans are now attainable on both art and design collections,” she says.

Corporately, Bellamy has gone after larger projects, where, in addition to carrying out valuations, she offers advice on display, restoration, and reframing of existing collections. She feels that with the upturn in the market, the influx of international companies and the focus on design due to the Irish Design 2015 initiative, the next few years look favourable.

Bellamy is looking at original Irish and European design rather than reproductions for spaces such as executive suites, boardrooms and foyers. “This makes sense in terms of equity for the client but also acts as a platform for Irish design.” carolbellamycollections.com

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