• Andrea McGlashan of McGlashans

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Q&A: Andrea McGlashan

The senior partner of McGlashans talks Americans, champagne parties and timeless elegance

Interview: Stevie Martin
Image: Joseph Fox

What’s your background?
It’s actually in the hotel industry. I ran a business of serviced apartments, and we had a contract with the US government. A lot of Americans used to come here to work for the US navy and in the US embassy on Grosvenor Square. They would stay in short term accommodation while looking for something more long term. They’d spend a day viewing properties and return disillusioned.

In America, you go out with one estate agent and see everything. Here, you go to one agent to see a property, then a different agent to see the next one, so you’re exhausted at the end of it all. I had a core business of Americans, so I started thinking about doing long term housing as well as short term. I set up the McGlashans lettings business to fill that niche. 

How did the McGlashans Interiors element of the business start?
A lot of our American clients initially brought furniture with them, but then corporations changed their policies and started giving them higher budgets, so when they arrived they wanted to hire furniture.

We weren’t geared up for it at first—we had top execs coming in wanting beautiful furniture in their rental homes, but there wasn’t anything affordable on offer. My mum joined the firm and her background was in furnishings, so we opened a furniture shop and started hiring furniture to our tenants. It seems to have taken off!

How do you go about designing a client’s room?
The most important thing to do is establish exactly what the customer wants and what their taste is. We do free home visits so we can offer advice as to how we think the room should be furnished, but the style of the furniture is always very personal. Often the wife and husband have very different ideas, so we have to be careful to take both of their tastes into consideration and find a happy compromise.

Andrea McGlashan

How would you describe the McGlashans Interiors style?
I think our style is ‘timeless elegance’—I love using natural linens and textured, pale woods with unique accessories to create a very peaceful room where I can be confident anyone would be happy. I like to mix contemporary upholstery with classic pieces of furniture that will never date.

It is easy to add splashes of colour with flowers and cushions so that you never tire of them, and they can be changed seasonally. I love lime greens in the spring, orange in the autumn and deep reds for Christmas, but my favourite of all is green and white flowers when I want a calm peaceful look.

What’s the best part of the job?
Everybody looks at the new shops and says, “Oh, furniture is your passion, I can see you love that!” and yes, we do a lot of staging so I love to go in and have a vision about how I think something should be furnished. But I also love finding someone a special home to rent, and that side is really exciting.

Luckily I can juggle between the two—one day I’ll be out furnishing a house in Twickenham for a movie star, the next I’ll be in central London trying to find a little American family a home for three years. That’s my favourite bit, getting to know the people I’m working with.

Do you mainly work with high-end clients?
In general, yes, but I still like to deal with clients across the board. I like the variety. There is still a strong American base—we have got a niche in that market because they’re very loyal. When you find them a home, every single person they speak to they’re like, “Oh you gotta ring McGlashans!”

Are American clients different to UK clients?
The Americans are very demanding. They want to go out early in the morning, late at night, and they want to find a property quickly. Everything is immediate. But while they expect a high standard of service—because of their jobs and the fact they want to just get on with it—they are incredibly loyal once you’ve gained their trust.

What’s the most exciting milestone McGlashans has reached?
Last August, when we opened our showrooms! We’d bought two buildings at 107 and 108 Crawford Street. I decided I wanted to have the shop open in time for my birthday, and have a champagne party. So we worked around the clock for 48 hours, lorries going in and out, shipping everything, staging it and setting up—and we did it in just two days! It was amazing.

Why Marylebone?
I moved to Marylebone in 1971 from Wiltshire, where it’s pretty beautiful but quite boring, and found this mews house on Devonshire Place. It was £25 a week which I thought was outrageously expensive, but I loved it. Marylebone is like a village; there’s a bakers, butchers, fish shop—I fell in love within a week of being here.

Recently Morgan Stanley rented a house in Devonshire Place. They wanted me to help furnish it so I went round—and it was my old mews house! I was so excited. Of course it’s now £1,500 a week with an extra floor, but still just one bedroom. I love Marylebone. All the new shops have come in, but it hasn’t changed much. In its heart, it’s the same as it was in the seventies.