Creating opulence for royals, celebrities and billionaires with architecture
11 min read
26 May 2016
When it comes to lifestyles of the rich and famous, interior designer and architect Mathilde Allibe is well placed to know exactly what’s required, using her prized “expensive taste” to meet the opulent needs of clients who include royals, billionaires and celebrities, as revealed in our latest Business Class profile.
Allibe is the CEO and founder of Secretcape, a deluxe interior design and architecture located in the high-end London hub that is Mayfair.
Having grown up in an entrepreneurial family of innovators, it was perhaps inevitable that she would become a business owner herself. At 19 she got started in interior design and things grew from there and, while the marketplace is incredibly lucrative, Allibe is adamant her passion and love of what she does takes priority.
And while tightlipped on specifics, her clients are as prestigious as her projects, with members of the royal family, actresses and supermodels among customers.
And though Allibe enjoys leaping on “a yacht away from everything” to “disconnect from the world” from time to time, we were able to speak with the creative leader for the latest feature in our Business Class section.
(1) Were you born into wealth or has your success been self-made?
I was born into an entrepreneurial environment. I have been told that success can only be yours when you have started something and built it up from scratch.
My grandfather created the paper machines that print money and other paper products. The company is still operated by my family today, Ateliers Allibe, and provides services worldwide providing expertise in the design and fabrication of complete paper machines.
(2) How much did your first job pay?
I don’t remember my exact pay, but the most important aspect was my experience. You get out of any job what you put into it! Throughout my career I have been fortunate enough to have people around me that have supported my passions giving me the opportunity to learn and reach my full potential. I am so grateful and will never forget this.
I was also lucky to have found my way early on. I started my interior design career at just 19-years-old while living in the French West Indies with my father. He was the one who immediately put me into the ‘design’ industry, as it was obvious to him that I had a natural talent.
(3) You have achieved business success with interior design and architecture – which area has been the most lucrative for you and why?
One doesn’t go without the other. They come as a pair. It is not about lucrativeness, it is about enjoying what you do and being about to make a career out of what you are most passionate about. I love creating new spaces and imagining how my clients will live in these spaces, combining functionality with aesthetically pleasing design and personal added touches.
London is full of historical buildings that have been converted into flats. When we work on large scale projects clients often request these buildings to be converted back again to their original grandeur.
Oftentimes when working on projects, we discover hidden treasures that were not in the original architectural plans – such as antique windows, hidden columns and original flooring – and we try our best to incorporate these architectural elements into a modern contemporary home that is state-of-the-art.
(4) You have a client base of royals, billionaire entrepreneurs and celebrities – can you shed any light on who? What have been the most lavish requests?
Our knowledge and experience has been based upon the discretion and privacy we keep with each of our clients. Secretcape is about creating an ‘art of living’ retreat, while keeping it a secret.
I can just say that some of my clients have included royal family members, actresses, famous models and directors of companies known worldwide.
We respond to all inquiries, and frequently we have lavish and extravagant requests. For example, one client requested us to design a dog bedroom with a bed decorated with gold, including commissioning a painting of the dog, designing a bespoke crystal dog bowl and monograming the sheets with the dog’s name.
One client even requested us to design and install a champagne distributor in the bathroom next to the bathtub!
With our concierge service, we get extravagant last minute requests including preparing a private dinner for 30 people with just a few hours’ notice, organising yacht trips, finding seats for sold out shows or making reservations at booked restaurants.
It is very important for us to have a good address book. Our black book is sacred to us.
(5) What has business ownership taught you about money management?
It takes one penny to start with but lots of sweat, determination and hard work you can make the impossible possible. I am very passionate in my job, and lucky to have realised my dream. It was always my dream to create my own architecture and interior design company.
I always knew where I wanted to go and what I needed to do in order to reach that goal. So it gives you a clear understanding about the fact that to become who I am today savings and sacrifice was a muse in order to achieve my dream.
(6) Tell us about your smartest investments
My iPhone. It helps me stay on top of things, keep track of multiple projects and it’s important in the day-to-day of my business including all the kind of applications like voice-notes, taxis, calls, bookings, etc.
Read more about the Business Class lifestyle:
- Private jet firm founded by ex-fighter pilot wins $8m investment
- Care home developer to create luxury £10m property with cinema and salon
- Britain’s richest individuals: The battle between entrepreneurs and heirs
(7) Do you get more satisfaction from spending or saving your money?
Early on in my career and when building up my company saving was a must.
Now I am fortunate enough to be in a position to enjoy some of my success. You have to take advantage of life, for it is very beautiful and you cannot waste one moment of it. So, I would say I spend now as a lovely woman does.
(8) What are your most expensive hobbies?
Travelling. Growing up I lived in several countries and I changed schools a lot because my parents were always on the move. This is one of the reasons I have a taste for seeing the world.
Today it allows me to revitalise myself. I like to discover new cultures, landscapes, architecture, museums, food and so on. This cultural wealth inspires me in my career.
(9) Most prized possession?
My expensive taste.
(10) Do you have a favourite luxury brand?
I have a fondness for old fashioned brands which have the ‘savoir-faire’ of the past and a timeless quality. Hermes and St-Louis are some of the well-known ones. I also love fabrics, and I can reorganise very easily a nice high-quality material.
Fragrance is also another one of my hobbies, and sourcing some very old and precious smells is a guilty pleasure.
In my work I have incorporated my passion for fragrance into the design process. I work with a world-renowned perfume house in Grasse, France – the perfume capital of the world – to create signature home fragrances for each of the properties I work on, drawing inspiration from the design aesthetic of each home and my client’s taste.
(11) Where has your most luxurious holiday take you?
It is very difficult for me to take long holidays because I work a lot! I am definitely a workaholic. My best holiday is on a yacht away from everything. This complete change of scenery helps me relax and disconnect from the world.
Also, I enjoy discovering hidden and secluded places along the beautiful coasts of the Mediterranean. I love South Corsica and the surrounding areas where the colours of the sea are just pure turquoise.
(12) Excluding property, what has been your most expensive purchase?
My most expensive purchase has been creating a well-established company! Not only establishing a good commercial structure, but also a company where everyone can express themselves and feel that they are part of the success of Secretcape.
Do you enjoy getaways like Allibe? Heaven on Earth exists and it will cost visitors $10,000 a night.