Kunal Trehan - founder of Touched Interiors
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 November 2019
Kunal Trehan followed his heart and founded a luxe interior design business that takes him around the world.
Growing up, Kunal Trehan would spend hours rearranging his parents' furniture, devising ever-more creative ways to style their home. However, while his heart lay in interior design, his head told him that a career in law was the sensible option, so that is what he first pursued.
'I studied Law at university, but right from the start new it wasn't for me. I stuck with it however and after graduation started a role in a mentorship programme with the Crown Prosecution Service, with a barrister. But, I genuinely just felt it wasn't suited to myself - I think you've got to follow a career you love and while that would be fantastic job, it wasn't something I loved. I moved into recruitment and learned a lot from it and was very successful at it, but then the recession hit, the business closed down and I had to re-think what I wanted to do - and interior design was just one of those things I had to re-consider. There comes a time in your life that you have to reconsider where you want to be, and for me that was interior design. So I started back down the educational route; it was scary; very, very scary - I was used to having a good income and had bills to pay!
'The moment I was ready, I put up a website and very quickly got my first client. When we met I was very honest about what my experience was, but they loved what I brought to the table and took me on. I made a success of it and from that they gave me a city centre apartment to do too, and then it kind of went from there!'
Kunal has a reputation for creating the highest of high-end interiors. His style is irrefutably luxe, but this is a descriptor that has a wide arc - from Swarovski and crushed velvet to something far more subtly luxurious. I wonder, was his taking this direction his own decision, or by the request of his first clients?
'It didn't exist!' Kunal says. 'I would be designing these very high-end, distinctive interiors and I knew the kind of furniture I wanted, the shape of it, but the products just didn't exist, so I would have to go off-the-shelf a lot of the time and this is where I really found the gap in the market for luxury interiors - the demand was there, but the fulfilment was lacking.
'I started researching where these interiors were available and there wasn't much in the UK, it was all in Europe - Spain, Italy and Portugal. I started finding suppliers there I could work with - and for me there was one distinctive thing I was looking for, the facility to customise. I started building relationships up and this led to Touched being launched. I re-branded very early on, and I knew exactly the types of interiors these suppliers would be suited to and my skill-set, my vision, would be suited to.
'The business was an extension, very much, of my personality - bridging the gap of what I thought was beautiful and what the client wanted. And we've not looked back since. Within two years I went from purely interior design projects into branching out into retail, from working at home to a Manchester office and to here.'
By "here", Kunal means his showroom on Blackfriars Street, in Manchester, which is offers a fabulous insight into how luxe interiors can look and feel when given the Touched treatment. It's glorious - all velvet and silk, crystal, glass and leather, rich woods and burnished metals and one-off pieces of furniture that are quite startlingly beautiful and original. Just spending a short time there with Kunal is a treat: he is funny and sweet, passionate about his work and takes huge pleasure and pride in showing you the various pieces he has chosen to display there.
'We did online sales only at first and it was doing really well, but I was repeatedly asked, "do you have a showroom?" and I realised we were losing business! I have over 4,000 pieces online, only a fraction of which I can show here, of course.'
As Kunal's key draw to clients is that he can create unique, one-off or customised furniture for the home, it's impossible to really express this in a showroom, so the main pieces he has there enable clients to do the look and feel we all love to do and then to discover how he can take it to the next level in their home.
'Very much today I am doing the kind of projects that I dreamed of,' he says. 'Not just high budget - it is very important to have that budget, as then I can create a really amazing space - but also I am working with fantastic clients, who want the smallest details looked at too. My clients aren't the sort to say "do what you want", they have a very strong idea of what they want. They have travelled, they've seen all the beautiful things, they know what's available - they want something that no-one else has, but that at the same time looks understated, speaks volumes itself, rather than be distasteful and just shouting that it's very expensive. They want something beautiful and they want it to last.
'I want to be proud of every design I put out there - and will easily say no, I am not the right person for you. Touched Interiors will never buy off-the-shelf. Every piece is a work of art, unique, bespoke. My clients deserve this.'
Oh, lucky clients to have found this passionate, creative and just absolutely lovely man.