Dynamic and driven

Tara de Linde and Angie Pool tell Eileen Leahy why their boutique architecture practice Atelier de Linde is committed to delivering projects that are environmentally friendly, energy efficient, unique and beautifully designed


Atelier de Linde is an award-winning RIBA chartered architecture practice which was established in August 2022 by Tunbridge Wells residents Tara de Linde and Angie Pool.

Between them the pair have decades of experience, both here in the UK, as well as South Africa, where Angie is from, and also in Europe, on both residential and commercial projects.

They decided to join forces last year after spotting a gap in the market for an architecture practice that offers a totally bespoke and unique approach to every project, with sustainability at the core of everything they do.

“We aim to be the go-to-name for high-end architecture,” asserts Tara, who established her own RIBA-certified practice De Linde Architects in 2012 before merging with Angie’s high-end design consultancy Atelier last summer.

“Our mission is to provide our clients with a focused service, combining high-quality design with environmental principles. “We have lots of experience and have won many industry awards over the course of our careers. We are also both British Homes Awards judges and working mothers and therefore we feel that we can see the whole picture for our clients.

“We understand what our clients want in terms of the perfectly-designed house. We both have three children and are only too familiar with what it’s like to manage a household and run your own business. We understand all the dynamics involved.

“Where we add value is in listening and understanding the requirements of each member of the family and then translating these into something that is truly beautiful. With both our life experience and expert knowledge we ensure we deliver for our clients.”

I’m interviewing Tara and Angie at their Sevenoaks branch, which is located at the stylish Lime Tree Work Shop in the town. It’s a relatively new co-working space that offers private office hire opportunities alongside long and short-term hot desking facilities.

“We are currently seeking a new office space in Tunbridge Wells, but we want something that is customer facing, not a hidden office, so people can pass by us on the street and say ‘Oh that’s Atelier de Linde’,” smiles Angie.

“To have offices in both Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks suits us as we have clients all over the South East, and are a train ride away from our London based projects,” adds Tara.

They tell me their typical client at the moment is a mix of both commercial and residential. They are currently working on school developments as well as private properties, but they say ultimately they want clients that ‘wish to improve their lifestyles through thoughtful architecture’.

“We are a high-end boutique practice that specialises in quality and personalised service,” continues Tara. “We work on new builds as well as period properties. Sustainability is very important to us, too and it weaves its way through all our work. For so long people have seen eco credentials as a ‘tick box’ but we have always prioritised it.

“There is a massive market in Tunbridge Wells for period refurbishments given all the Victorian and Georgian houses that are no longer fit for purpose. They leak energy and so cost a fortune to run but we have been actively researching ways to convert them into greener, more affordable homes.

“This recently resulted in our appointment to a full retrofit of a Victorian terrace into a passive home of the future.

“For so long the industry has seen the issue of sustainability as a ‘bolt-on’,” explains Angie. “At Atelier de Linde we have always wanted to reflect this in our work. For example, utilising the spoil from foundations

to avoid it being removed from the site, or working out ways to make historic properties as energy efficient as possible.”

Angie and Tara tell me that every day is a school day running their business. “We are continually educating ourselves – whether that’s on the latest technology or environmental issues. And the green experts we work with can advise our clients directly about certain issues. This is a level of service we are able to offer which many other firms can’t.

“Architecture is a slow profession to learn. We are still learning every day and would never want to stop educating ourselves – that’s what we love about what we do. It drives us. We all have to do Continual Professional Development which keeps us up to speed on regulations as well as new products coming on the market – whether that’s VAT on new builds or a new piece of environmental legislation.”

On that subject, Tara adds that one of Atelier de Linde’s big passions is passive houses.

“Designing and building sustainability is a core value for us. Passive houses, which are buildings created to rigorous energy design regulations, are the gold standard. They are being embraced more and more due to us having to navigate a climate emergency and a volatile energy landscape.

“What’s been lagging behind is planning policy but we have been early adopters of this development concept, supporting the drive for Net Zero in local architecture. We have also signed up to The 2030 Challenge, so we have been waiting for this policy to come into effect.

“We are one step ahead of the game and that’s what sets us apart. With considered design and the latest technology we help clients towards living a greener way of life. The developers we work with are now obliged to meet those eco standards by law – which up until recently were only voluntary. But it’s about time they became essential.”

“When I worked in South Africa we were big on sustainability and using materials from the surrounding area to create everything from bush lodges and safari parks to boutique hotels. I have always been keen on using elements of our natural environment in our houses,” states Angie.

Although they have clients scattered around swathes of the South East, the duo tell me their ‘Golden Triangle’ is Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks and London.

“We focus on the Golden Triangle as we’ve secured a network of reliable and trustworthy consultants and suppliers with whom we have a strong working relationship. This enables us to deliver turnkey projects that we oversee seamlessly from the design stage, through planning and on to construction.”

Angie says that another thing that drives them – in addition to being dynamic, passionate and overdelivering for clients – is striking a positive balance between working and home life.

“That really is the holy grail. We love what we do but we love our families, too! That’s why we have a policy of being totally flexible and not being of the 9 to 5 mindset. If you have to drop everything to pick up a sick child you can carry on with your work later. That thinking applies to all seven of our in-house staff too. As long as everyone meets their deadlines we can be flexible.”

Tara says that the pandemic has helped in terms of hybrid and remote working. “Now people think nothing of jumping online on a Zoom or Teams call, whereas in the past you would have had to catch a train or drive to a meeting to be there in person. People like that we can conduct a lot of business virtually if needed. It has also opened up the employment market and made projects and life in general so much easier.

“And that’s an area where we can make a difference compared to a traditional practice. If we need to have a meeting after 5pm or at the weekend when clients are more available then we do so. We are always looking at ways of offering solutions.”

Angie adds that another USP of Atelier de Linde, which has a core team of seven and then a wider team of contractors for each project, is that it is genuinely supportive of all staff members.

“When I moved to the UK and started my Atelier design consultancy I managed all the moving parts – from the outline design all the way through to planning, building regulations, construction and then handing over the keys. But when you work for yourself you usually feel quite isolated as there is no one to lean on so this is lovely because it’s a proper partnership built on trust.

“I totally trust the decision-making Tara does and vice versa. We’ve fallen quite naturally into being partners in this business. We’re both at a point in our lives where we’re prepared to let go of the reins individually to jointly facilitate taking on larger and more exciting projects.”

Angie explains that Tara is a ‘superstar’ when it comes to planning, getting even the most unlikely of applications through. “She is well known for that! I however love internal specification and putting all the parts of that construction project together. I love delivering – it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”

“Working together we play to our strengths but the wonderful thing is because we are co-directors we can communicate effectively from both our lanes,” Tara points out. “We have arranged the practice so I tend to do more of the front end of the project – design, planning and building regs etc. Angie does the detailing, specification and delivery. We complement each other and so far it is working very well.

“When we joined forces we were excited because we could take on larger projects and do certain things we didn’t have the capacity for as individuals’.”

Both women are very keen to tell me that none of the above would work as effectively if it weren’t for Angie’s sister Dominika who manages the practice.

“She is a powerhouse,” smiles Tara. “She is very much part of our leadership team so when we are off meeting clients, she is organising everything behind the scenes. She is a crucial part that keeps everything together. She always checks that nothing has been forgotten and that is so reassuring. Dominika is quite literally our navigation system and because her background is finance, she stays focused on customer service and the smooth running of the practice.”

As well as concentrating on sustainability and exceeding clients’ expectations, Tara and Angie are advocates of seeing buildings as being an enhancement of the dweller’s mental and physical well-being and not just a box.

“I discovered a firm recently that had specifically opened their business around architecture and health. The thought that a building can directly impact on the health of an individual is something both Tara and I find incredibly interesting. That is definitely something we can build on as a new aspect to architecture and offer it to our clients.”

The fact that Atelier de Linde takes on lots of architecture students means they are constantly having discussions with the next generation, too, which they deem to be another positive in the way they do business.

“In addition to the apprentices we take on, I occasionally lecture at Cambridge University and am a governor at a school in East Sussex. So I am regularly hearing what’s preoccupying young people. It’s very useful to feed into.”

Angie agrees. saying that what also defines Atelier de Linde is that they are always looking to innovate, not imitate.

“It’s about being dynamic. If we’re going to teach our junior architects and team members anything, it’s forward-thinking. I think it’s so important.”

So how does the whole process work if a client is interested in using the services of Atelier de Linde?

“Call us and we will arrange a time to visit you,” states Tara. “Our first visit, which will usually be free of charge, is a chance for prospective clients to tell us about their ideas. Then on the back of the first meeting if they want to go ahead we will send them a letter of engagement, setting out the different stages and the fees involved.

“Again we are totally flexible as some clients only want you to quote for the first half of the job up to the planning stage, while others want you to quote for the whole thing. We don’t tie anyone in and clients can stop – or have us jump back in – at any stage.”

“What we do is incredibly special,” says Angie. “Most of our clients don’t have the time to manage things themselves so we are effectively giving them the gift of time and taking the stress away from them. Projects can be tricky and time-consuming and unless you’re in the industry yourself there are so many potential bumps in the road. But if we are instructed then clients don’t need to worry about any of it.”

She also reveals that unlike a lot of building work they believe that every problem has to have a solution.

“I say to my contractors ‘before you call with an issue, present me with a solution, then we can have a conversation’. If you can live by that in construction you will always have solutions. If you only have problems all the time that makes a building site very stressful and toxic.

“We believe that every building has a soul – whether that’s a school or a boutique residence. Every Atelier de Linde building has to be instantly recognised as one of ours.”

And although their first anniversary as a business is just a month away, Tara and Angie have big plans for the future.

“We’d love to go into boutique hotels in order to propel Atelier de Linde as a serious player in that market. Whether that’s in the UK, Europe or worldwide. Angie is Polish-born, South African-bred, while I was born in Scotland and have Danish ancestry. I was raised in Hong Kong and then France, so I’m bilingual. In terms of our backgrounds we really are global.

“We lead by example so a ‘can do’ attitude permeates through everything we do. We are always determined to exceed our clients’ expectations and ensure that our joint passion extends to all of our team members too.”

In addition to the seven people Tara and Angie employ, the pair also call on a professional CAD team to do their drawings and cast the net further afield for experts in engineering, ecologists and quantity surveyors.

“We hand-pick a team for each client and their project. Often at the beginning of a project you are looking at it lasting a reasonable amount of time so people have to get on,” reveals Angie.

“It’s not just about assigning anyone. They have to interact well. It’s about looking at their needs, their specific life situation and personality – it’s almost like matchmaking.

“For us it’s not just a contractor, client and a building project. It’s more human than that.”

“Here in the UK the modus operandi is you get the drawing for your project done, get the building regs package done and then the architects will send it out to three tenders. Three prices come back in and the architects will say ‘good luck’ and that’s it,” says Tara.

“But this is where we spotted a gap in the market and realised it’s about putting people together and devising a way of working so everyone leaves with a smile on their face.

“The human element is very important to us.”

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