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Working from home can be good for the company

Interior designer Gregory Nelmes has gone back to the future — in more ways than one.

Enterprising Mr Nelmes has created a combined home and studio in St George's — harking back to the days when Bermuda merchants lived over their warehouses.

He said: “Basically, it's a unique concept — it's a live-work concept. I live here and have an office and there's a showroom.

“It's a boutique setting and I offer product sales off the floor, as well as a design consultancy service if people want that.

“It's a way to diversify — to have a consultant is a big step for a lot of people, but at the same time, they want to walk out with that chair.

“This way, someone will buy that chair or a couch or place a special order for a bed. If you can get consultancy business out of that as well, that's great.”

And Mr Nelmes' talents have already been recognised — he was named Best Interior Designer in this year's Best of Bermuda awards.

A mainstay of his unique take on interior design is remodelling classic furniture, producing unique pieces that combine the old and the new, as well as selling modern pieces and offering a drawings-to-completion consultancy.

Mr Nelmes — who has spent 20 years in the business, in Bermuda and overseas — said that, despite a decline in the fortunes of the Old Town, it was a good time to set up in the east, where he has been operating for almost a year.

He added: “It's a place of opportunity, especially for small businesspeople. There's property available for rent and it's more reasonable and affordable than Hamilton. For certain types of retailers, it makes sense.

“It's a destination location. People have to seek it out. And they come here with a purpose. It's not an impulse buy. And it's like finding a little gem in St George's, which a lot of the businesses here are.”

Mr Nelmes, 42, who worked for island architectural and design firms before moving to Atlanta, where he created the interiors of large office spaces for news station CNN and associate firm Turner Properties for five years, before returning to the island in 2009, was speaking in the retail space adjoining his apartment on Duke of York Street.

Surrounded by white walls, with black accented domestic-style windows, the retail and showroom space offers a home-type environment to display his wares.

They include recycled Georgian style chairs, once varnished brown with lurid green and banana seat covers, transformed with black paint and cool geometric covers in black and white linen.

Another signature piece is a 1960s chest of drawers, brought back to life with white paint, accented with silver-grey stripes down the front.

Mr Nelmes said: “There is a whole low-key, understated look and that's what we're trying to do here. It's a Bermuda thing. I don't think they're interested in flash. It's classic, but with a contemporary note to make it relevant.

“People want something that will last, rather than something that is a flash in the pan.”

He added that — although large-scale office developments and new-build homes were thin on the ground — the recession meant that people were perhaps remodelling their existing home, rather than moving, or downsizing, meaning they needed to cut down on furniture or buy smaller pieces.

But he said that — although people were still spending — they were more than ever focused on value for money and service.

Mr Nelmes explained: “People are just much more selective — and much more informed. The recession has made everybody a better consumer. People are looking at different options and you have to be competitive and interesting.”

On the consultancy side, he is well-qualified to tackle everything from a large office to a kitchen, bathroom, or entire house for those without the time or inclination to do it themselves.

Mr Nelmes said: “The whole live-work concept was part of the business model. To do that, keeping the overhead low was crucial. I had to eliminate one of my big expenses and that was rent for somewhere to live. Now I have a business and a home at very reasonable cost.”

But he added that — although the UNESCO heritage site that is St George's is full of buildings with a long history of being both homes and warehouses — it took a year to get approval for his plan.

Mr Nelmes said: “In these crunch economic times, committees and government departments have to look at the economy and how things can be speeded up to help people start businesses, while keeping within the law. A lot of people would have given up, but we persevered and got the approval. And hopefully, it's a model for other people.”

Mr Nelmes, based at 8 Duke of York Street, St George's, and operates Gregory Nelmes Home for retail and Gregory Nelmes Interior Design for bespoke consultancy work.

He can be contacted on 704 7740 or at gnelmes@gregorynelmes.com. His website can be found at gregory.vpweb.com.

Photo by Nike Bada

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Published October 08, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 08, 2013 at 1:03 pm)

Working from home can be good for the company

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