They were symbols of London’s post-Millennium property heyday and proof that when it comes to designing homes for foreign oligarchs, nothing succeeds like excess.
But what happened to Nick and Christian Candy, the Brothers Bling who spent £6,000 on their first property development in 1995 and went on to sell apartments at £150m-plus and own a yacht with the quietly-understated moniker Catch Me If You Candy?
The reality is that after a series of high profile and high flying developments – notably One Hyde Park, NoHo Square and Chelsea Barracks in London, and an ill-fated Beverly Hills project in California which ended in financial disarray – little has been heard of the brothers since 2010, the start of the UK’s long period of austerity.
Little, that is, aside from a lengthy and bitter court case over a £132m damages claim by a former associate, which happened to spill the beans on the brothers’ labyrinthine financial, tax and property dealings, and even their respective marriage ceremonies. Now they are working separately, mostly under the radar, with Nick diversifying into a portfolio of tech start-up investments unrelated to property.
So what is the brothers’ legacy? Is their Noughties product fit for purpose in today’s more discreet world? And what do industry figures wish the Candys would do as we contemplate a less flamboyant social, property and financial landscape of the 2020s?
“A Candy & Candy property has glitz and glitter in all the right places”Trevor Abrahmsohn
Trevor Abrahmsohn, founder and chief executive of Glentree Estates, 2018 winner of Spear’s and LonRes’ Lifetime Achievement Awards: “A Candy & Candy property has glitz and glitter in all the right places. Classic, modern design hardly dates over time but I question whether their décor, which is typical of its era, will stand the test of time.
The durability of their product is not yet tried and tested and this remains to be seen. When you go to Universal Studios and see a street scene for a film it looks very real but when you open a door it’s only a façade – this is my concern.”
Henry Pryor, TV property commentator and London buying agent: “Their strengths include determination, vision, single-mindedness and self-belief that others mistook for arrogance. Their weaknesses might include a reluctance to laugh at themselves – It’s not easy to be successful if you take yourself too seriously. I worry they may have lost touch with the real world if not future clients.
Their ability to get things done marks them out as people who could make a huge difference to the design and supply of new homes for more ordinary people. If we are ever going to build enough of the right sort of houses in the right place we need energy, vision and purpose – something the Candy brothers have by the gallon.”
“I worry they may have lost touch with the real world if not future clients.”Henry Pryor
Ben Taylor, managing director of Keller Williams UK: “They’ve made a considerable contribution at the very pinnacle of luxury and that must have been a tremendous risk for which they should be applauded. However, many buyers have come from overseas and One Hyde Park is frequently under-occupied.
As property entrepreneurs it would be good to see them turning their hand to projects that might attract more domestic buyers and could help generate some presently unfashionable districts – and not necessarily all in London.”
Alisa Zotimova, founder of London buying agency AZ Real Estate: “They dared to go bigger, bolder and more lavish than what had come before them, which deservedly helped carve out a name that is synonymous with luxury.
As with any big personalities and the insatiable tabloid hunger for gossip, their private lives have come under the spotlight. Perhaps they don’t actually mind this themselves – but I would argue that it hasn’t helped their reputation and has diverted attention away from their projects which should be doing the talking.”
Simon Barnes, owner of H Barnes & Co buying agency: “They set the tone and elevated the market to a new level, choosing brilliant locations, creating a luxury finish that exceeded buyers expectations and delivering a super prime product to the new build market place. They firmly believed that in what they set out to design and create.
Their view was that if you built at this level you could, and would, attract a new raft of super buyers. At the time they started out, nothing at this level existed and they tapped into a market, where Russians were keen to purchase prime new developments with a rather ‘flashy’ style with no expense spared at any price and they did.”
“Candy and Candy are still well known for exceptional high quality but are no longer head and shoulders above the rest”Sara Ransom
Marc Schneiderman, director at Arlington Residential: “They’ve become market leaders creating a world class brand synonymous with a standard of finish that rivals any other developer. We would be pleased to see them develop a high end block of flats in St John’s Wood or Hampstead – Nick and Christian, we have buyers waiting!”
Sara Ransom, London director of Stacks Property Search: “Their rise coincided with the rush of overseas buyers: today, London buyers’ expectations are more in line with those of overseas buyers and other developers have upped their game – Candy and Candy are still well known for exceptional high quality but are no longer head and shoulders above the rest.
It would be great to see them bring something different to the development party which has become a little prescriptive – traditional English with modern twists would be an interesting direction.”
Saul Empson, director of Haringtons buying agency: “Candy & Candy appeal to those looking for instant gratification – instant design and lifestyle to those prepared to pay a premium. [But] I would hazard a guess that most canny search agents would be able to source similar sized properties in the same postcode for circa £3,000 per square foot rather than £5,000 psf.”
“Many of their buyers have come from overseas and One Hyde Park is frequently under-occupied”Ben Taylor
There’s a clear trend here – Candy & Candy were remarkable in their innovation but were of their time. Even if their excess drew wry smirks (they once installed into some apartments video mirrors with delayed replay allowing users to see how they looked from behind) their product quality remains a benchmark today, almost 20 years on.
There’s one other legacy: they are amongst the few accurately described as celebrity property designers, encompassing architecture and interiors. Some say developers like Northacre or Finchatton have done more for central London – but who knows the people behind them?
Only Candy & Candy are remembered by their human names.
Yet celebrity is, almost always, fleeting and the pair have chosen not to try to replicate their past glories.
Catch Me If You Candy? As Bling has turned into Brexit, time has caught up with the brothers who raised the uber-luxury bar to stellar heights.