Managing Director Ariane Steinbeck shares the RPW design philosophy and just how the same ethos can be successfully applied to the buy-to-let market. 


The buy-to-let market is booming in London. With ever more people renting to avoid ever-rising property prices, it makes sense that people who can afford to buy look to increase their property portfolio. You’ve bought the space – now how does one go about making a multiple-occupancy premise a home? RPW Design is one of the leading studios in hotel design, a sector that faces many of the same challenges as buy-to-let property. We sat down with Ariane Steinbeck, the Managing Director of RPW, to find out what she felt were the factors that contribute to the success of their interiors, and what buy-to-let investors can do to achieve a similar result.


Founded by Jan Wilson 25 years ago, RPW offers high-end solutions for the hospitality industry, focusing not only on the design, but the functionality of their projects. A small firm, with every employee involved intensely in the design process, they combine luxurious, timeless design with strategic thinking. Analysis of the entire space and location (including the existing business plan) is carried out before the design process begins, promising to be efficient in expenditure in order to create the maximum amount of profit for owners.



What does this expertise have to do with buy-to-let property? Property owned and inhabited by one individual for multiple years warrants a personality, and owners will inevitably inject character into the décor, no matter what the price – or the time invested. Buy-to-let properties are similar to hotels, spaces that are inhabited by different people, many times over. “Both industries face similar regulations; we have to take the same things into consideration when thinking about our end user,” Ariane Steinbeck said.


  1. Each person that moves into the property will want to make it their own home.


“It can’t feel commercial or institutionalised, despite needing to appeal to all,” explains Steinbeck. “As a base it needs to be neutral but still has to have the comfortable warmth you’d associate with a home. It is a lot more worthwhile to spend money on a good quality marble finish in a bathroom, than a extensive mosaic design that will look dated in a few years. It also needs to be easy to pair the space with any personal items that tenants might want to add. People will make a space their own through personal touches, and it’s best to give them a blank canvas that most things will go with.”

2.Furnishings in the property will be treated differently to the ones tenants own outright choose these furnishings wisely.


“Try not to buy anything too delicate. Spend a good amount of money on sofas and chairs, but don’t go overboard – soft leather and easily damaged fabrics just aren’t practical in this context. Cassina and B&B Italia both offer extremely well made products that get better with age. I’m also not opposed to working with IKEA, you just have to choose the right product; hack IKEA and use different slip covers, for example.”


3.There are two main areas that make or break a design: The bedroom and the bathroom


“Spend money where the tenant will actually feel it. For me, this is the bedroom and the bathroom. These are the places that people come into physical contact with the most. Save money renovating the kitchen by taking off cabinet doors and painting them – there is no need to install all new cabinetry in most instances. New handles also create a huge impact. A good quality carpet or flooring is also very important, choose something light and the wear will be much more visible, spend too little and the carpet will look dated before its time. Remember, it’s what you touch and feel that leaves a lasting impression.”


These three lessons may seem simple but they are often overlooked. “If you take all three of these factors into account, it results in a much more effective use of your time and resources. Clients come to RPW not only for our designs, but also for our ability to execute strategic business plans. Every design decision has a purpose – if you take on this ethos, you will see the difference in the long term.” If you’re thinking about going into the buy-to-let business, or even if you are a veteran of the trade, take a step back and consider Steinbeck’s tips. With the success that RPW has enjoyed, and with more great things to come in the pipeline, it’s clear that these are wise words.

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