A new home for Russell Simpson marks a new chapter for the family business
An interview with Alan Russell, the agency’s founder, on their new Chelsea offices and other changes within the business over 44 years.
Sydney Street is home to several well-known Chelsea landmarks, like the Royal Brompton Hospital, St Luke’s Church, and the Chelsea Gardener. Recently they were joined by another local institution: the new office for Russell Simpson. It was the agency’s first move in 37 years, and soon after they were settled, the company’s founder Alan explained why it was time for a change.
History of Russell Simpson at Anderson Street
Russell Simpson was founded in 1979 when Alan Russell and Lynn Simpson – former colleagues at Aylesford International – joined forces to sell properties in London and the Turks and Caicos Islands. After three years, Lynn decided to relocate to the West Indies, so Alan bought her out to become the sole owner of the company. Then, in October 1985, he signed the lease on No.5 Anderson Street.
For almost four decades Russell Simpson was based at the address. An early Victorian townhouse built from London brick, it gave the agency a historic and homely feel. That said, it was a long way from the company’s Kensington, Holland Park and Notting Hill properties, meaning the journey there and back could take as much an hour. Four years ago, Russell Simpson decided to open a second office on Holland Street, but the company has kept expanding, thanks largely to the success of the Kensington branch. Eventually it became clear that Anderson Street was too small.
The new office sits on the top floor of a building at the corner of Sydney Street and the King’s Road, opposite the Chelsea Library and the Old Town Hall.
This building was once part of the Brompton Hospital estate, but it’s now occupied by a number of businesses, including the only antiques arcade left in Chelsea. However, once you’ve climbed three storeys to reach Russell Simpson, you leave behind the busy streets and enter a large, high-ceilinged room. There’s space for twenty-five people to work, as well as smaller meeting rooms round the sides. There’s also abstract art on the walls and large windows looking out on the Chelsea rooftops.
Alan likes to joke about his reluctance to leave in Anderson Street: ‘I’d been there for 37 years, I don’t really like change, I thought, “Oh God, this is dreadful.” But what I’ve found extraordinary about being here is it feels a much calmer, nicer place to work.’
Having everybody around means you can always talk to someone or hear the conversations going on.
Atmosphere at the new office
In fact, calmness was one of the priorities for Bianca Martinelli, the interior designer. She made sure the office contained furniture in neutral tones and walls painted a soft blush colour.
Also, given that the main room has more than a dozen windows, allowing for plenty of natural light, Bianca took advantage by filling the space with plants. At the same time, the storage was moved out of sight where possible and the office clutter kept to a minimum.
That sense of calm convinced Alan that he’d made the right decision, as well as the fact that an open-plan office makes communication much easier. Anderson Street had all the comfort of a house, but it also meant that people kept having to go up and down the stairs to speak with each other. But now, ‘having everybody around means you can always talk to someone or hear the conversations going on.’
The growth of Russell Simpson
The same was true for the company’s rebranding. To begin with, Alan didn’t see the need, but it was his children who encouraged him to give the agency a more contemporary look.
Four of the children are now directors at Russell Simpson – Bertie, Jake, Leo and Hermione – and whereas Alan’s priority was always selling houses, these four bring a different set of skills: in the likes of marketing, business development, and managing the company’s growth.
What’s more, Alan claims, they’ve never had an argument, and increasingly they drive the direction of Russell Simpson, with the help of the hard-working team around them.
If that’s one reason for Russell Simpson’s success, the other is brand loyalty. Alan remembers almost every house he has ever sold: the date, the value, and the client too. Many of those clients have become friends, and whenever they decide to resell their houses, they inevitably come back to Russell Simpson. Of course, this time round they may be dealing with one of Alan’s children, and rather than operating from the little house in Anderson Street, they’re now based in the beautiful offices on the top floor of Sydney Street.