We kicked off 2021 with another one of our brilliant Brunch Guest Speakers – Carl Ferri, of C Ferri Interiors, who joined us at our virtual brunch event to tell us all about the transformative and versatile qualities of plasterwork. We all take plaster for granted as a wall covering, but Carl has taken it up a level, offering highly polished and decorative finishes to projects. Working with tadelakt, microcement and polished plaster, Carl showed that there is more to plaster than meets the eye.
Getting to know your business….
How did C Ferri Interiors come about and how long ago? How did you get started?
C Ferri Interiors evolved from my old business name: C Ferri Decorating & Plastering Services. My surname ‘Ferri’ has always been part of my company brand ever since running my own business some 24 years ago. I left a building company I was working for at the time, took the plunge and never looked back!
Who forms part of your team?
At the moment, it’s myself and my wonderful son, Alex, who is on his gap year before heading off to Uni; we also get extra hands in from time to time, if it’s a larger project.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations or influences within your own business?
Every time I visit Italy, I get inspired by the stucco work on the buildings and the Italian craftsmanship; that’s what really inspired me to follow my dreams and specialise in a niche craft.
With all your knowledge about wall surfaces what top 3 tips would you offer a designer just starting out in the Interior Design industry, who knows absolutely nothing about microcement, polished plaster or tadelakt and is keen to specify it for the first time?
1: Read up on the product you are offering. People can get put off by the cost of installing any of the above products if they do not realise the cost of the materials and the skill/labour time involved. Not all techniques are suitable for certain surfaces: tadelakt on a shower floor for example.
2: Always check with the applicator if the surface or substrate is suitable for the product you are offering; a good applicator must have knowledge of substrates.
3: Make it clear to your client that it’s a decorative product and it will not look flat like a painted wall. You must explain there may be a colour discrepancy of around 5-10%, it’s a decorative hand-crafted skill and no install will look exactly the same… that’s the beauty of this craft!
Who is your main customer type and which service do you sell the most of?
I would say it’s mainly a mix of interior designers and direct homeowners but also throw in some builders and architects. Currently, microcement seems to be the most popular install for me; the industrial look is well-embedded and microcement works really well for that particular design. Having said that, tadelakt is growing in popularity and I’m doing more and more work with tadelakt this year.
What hand tools/ or even software do you find indispensable in your day to day work?
My trowels. I have quite a collection of trowels imported from Italy; different sizes, shapes and angles used for various different materials. I tend to take my whole range of about 15 trowels to every project but only end up using 2 or 3 of my faves.
What is still your biggest challenge within your own business?
Knowing there are applicators out there that do not know their substrates they are working on or who offer cheap products and the system fails: it gives us all a bad name and seems to happen regularly.
How do you choose your suppliers/products?
It took a while for me to find suppliers that I am happy to stay loyal to and use. Good suppliers should not only offer excellent products and service but also give excellent technical advice. Both my current polished plaster and microcement suppliers do this.
What was your lightbulb moment? OR What has been your most successful milestone to date?
Turning away my regular long-term clients decorating and plastering work to go full-time in what I now offer. It was a bit scary at first, but I have never looked back.
Do you work globally? If so, how do you achieve this?
I have worked in parts of Europe and Australia in the past, but these days I like to stay in London and the surrounding areas or occasionally other parts of the UK for my work. Having said that, I’d happily still work in someone’s nice second home in Provence if I was invited.
What has been your most tricky and satisfying installation?
Probably Mr Bao‘s restaurant in Peckham. We were already up against it with loads of different trades working around us, over us, under us! causing dust and mess which is something not recommended when working with microcement.
At one point during the day, I tripped and fell off a ledge I was working on and landed on my right thumb which is the hand I hold my trowel in. I carried on for the rest of the long day grinding my teeth in agony. A visit to the hospital two weeks later (yes, I know) resulted in x-rays confirming a double fracture. The large arch I worked on turned out fab and is now a centrepiece of this very popular restaurant.
Have you been able to continue doing your wall surfaces installation through the Covid pandemic? Have you had to adapt working on site protocols at all?
We have been very fortunate to be able to work in empty properties or arrange for a room to be cleared for us with no close contact with anyone else. We always wear masks when working in close proximity with other contractors or clients. To date we have only had one cancellation and three postponements since the pandemic started.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It’s a cliche but ‘follow your dreams!’
Did you enjoy your guest speaker appearance at Metier Rendezvous recently? What did you bring away with you from that?
Very much so. Guest speaking doesn’t come naturally to me as I do it so little in my life, so it’s really important for me to keep on my toes and challenge myself from time to time. It made me realise that there is so much to educate about in the polished plaster world as it’s still relatively unknown.
What are the key benefits for Interior Designers to be working with C Ferri Interiors?
You will be working with someone who has experience in the building industry for over 30 years, someone who is knowledgeable of his craft, very honest and approachable.
What is next for you / your business?
During these uncertain times, I am not thinking too far ahead: I’m just focusing on building my network of new contacts and keeping my business ticking over. I believe in growing my business organically: when I get larger projects and a heavier workload, I will then think about growing my staff, but it will be baby steps. I will continue to learn and progress in my craft. There is so much more to offer in the polished plaster world and I’m learning new things all the time.
Getting to know you…scratching beneath the surface of the business, we discover Carl himself. So, what makes Carl tick?
Did your upbringing inspire you to become a wall surface specialist?
My mother has always had a creative flair so I guess I grew up with creativity around me. I have been to Italy and other parts of the world and have always been inspired by architecture and different types of interiors. Perhaps the Italian side of me wants to plaster marmorino everywhere!
Tell us about your own home… or perhaps about your favourite room in your home. What type of property do you live in?
We live in a late 60’s 4-bedroom terraced house. I recently converted the loft to make it our master bedroom/ensuite; it’s my favourite room. I also covered the last-minute panic buy shower room tiles with tadelakt.
How would you describe your own interior style?
We tend not to follow trends and just buy a vintage piece here and there. That could be mid-century, Edwardian or Art Deco.
Tell us about a recent buy for the home …
It’s not a particularly recent buy but it’s still one of my faves…our wood burner. It’s been a godsend throughout the current winter lockdown.
What has been your biggest home extravagance?
The loft conversion: it’s made our lives feel far less cramped with two teens in the house.
And what is on your coffee table?
We currently have an old wooden chest for a coffee table that a client kindly gave to us, it has a few candles and in about 1 hour’s time, a glass of vino.
Who inspires you on the design front?
All of you at Metier Rendezvous of course!
Lastly, if you had a blank cheque, what would you be splashing out on for your own home?
I would love to indulge in a huge summerhouse where I could create all of my sample boards and concrete furniture. It would house all of my work equipment, bikes etc. I would also have a dedicated yoga room with a sauna plastered with tadelakt in there. I wouldn’t have a garden left but it would be fun.
It was an absolute pleasure to have Carl Ferri join us for Brunch, and very revealing and informative. Thank you, Carl, for taking time to join us – very much appreciated. So whether it is entire rooms, a feature wall, or even just a splashback, consider using decorative plasterwork as a solution. If you would like to learn more about the finishes, products and services Carl’s business can provide or simply would like some advice, please contact Carl via his website C Ferri Interiors.
M: 07930 316291
If you are inclined to reach out on Social Media then you can find Carl here:
If you would like to join us in a webinar and have the opportunity to listen to some engaging speakers, like Carl, over a delightful brunch, and discover new products and techniques then sign up for membership now at https://metier-rendezvous.com/