Henley Festival
Henley Festival

Meet our Partner : Robert Walker AJI Founder

Meet the Managing Director of Alexander James Interiors & Alexander James International, Robert Walker, one of the leading Interior Design houses in the UK. https://www.aji.co.uk/about-aji/

Celebrating 10 years of partnership with The Henley Festival Patrons’ Club, styling our Patrons Lounge, Star Artist Dressing Rooms and the Festival Office.

Q :   Tell us about yourself and why you launched Alexander James

My career  started in property.  I wanted to be a Chartered Surveyor so went to the College of Estate Management.  Turned out I wasn’t cut out to be a Chartered Surveyor so the partner at the time suggested I work in the front office selling houses .  That led me into a path of property.  After 5 years I worked for an American property company who  dealt with Boeing and Euro Disney .  Our job was to find and furnish houses for their executives in England and France.   I met a guy who I bought a lot of furniture from and through that I became interested in the interiors business.  The 1989/90 recession came along and sadly the company I worked for didn’t survive but the guy I bought the furniture from offered me a job to set up an interior design business for him within a very famous old company called Maples situated at the top of Tottenham Court Road.  I started an interior design department for them and worked for Maples for 2 years before deciding I could do it for myself.

I was travelling a lot and my  eldest son was born in 1993 , and that is  Alexander James who the company is named after. My wife is from Hong Kong and she was left alone to raise a new born baby and I was working 10/12 hours a day so  I decided to take a leap of faith and start Alexander James as we know it now. We are in our 30th year and long may it continue


Q:  What are the main services you provide

Alexander James are a residential interior design practice. We evolved into doing show houses for property developers which became the bread and butter of our business,  then started doing hotels commercial projects & retirement homes.  This took us into Europe and  the old Eastern Block countries, we started doing small hotels and  ended up working with Marriot and Hilton in Belarus. This was an exciting time and I  bought in a team of 5 interior architects which started our interior architectural business whilst still running our FFE side.

FFE  (Fixtures, Fitting & Equipment) is the traditional side of furniture, furnishings, curtains, lighting, decoration etc.  I describe FFE as imagine  if you could turn a house upside down what would fall out is FFE and what would  would stick is interior architecture ie doors, floors , kitchens, wardrobes.


Q: Alexander James has recently launched ‘Shop the Look’, what was the idea behind that

When we were doing showhouses we would get a lot of phone calls from customers asking where they could buy a particular cushion , vase or picture.  People go in to showhouses to get inspiration.  I  feel sorry for builders as  90%   of their footfall is actually  people being nosy and getting ideas and we decided to take advantage of that so we  launched ‘Shop  the Look ‘.  People can visit our dedicated website and instagram , we also dress showrooms which we style using items from Shop the Look, the items have QR codes on so people can buy directly.  https://www.shopthelookbyaji.co.uk/


Q: Alexander James is one of the leading Interior Design houses in the UK, recognised in the World’s Top 100 –  What  are your top tips to sustaining success

I think it was Jack  Nicklaus who said ‘ the harder I practice the luckier I get’.

There is a lot of luck involved, being in the right place at right time.  It was just me when I started out,  I was lucky I had the property backgound and knew a lot of people and I networked.  I brought in small contracts , my first  major project  was a retirement development in Chorley Wood for a company which has gone on to be Retirement Villages PLC.  That was a great 2 and half year project and got me started. We now have 50 people in the company and we are very much focused on the private client side of the business.  Individuals, like your Patrons and the audience who come to Henley Festival who have their own house and decide they want to refurbish or freshen up the look They will call us and we go in and work our magic


Q: We are celebrating 10 years of our partnership with Henley Festival, what inspired you to partner with The Henley Festival Patrons’ Club and for Alexander James to design our VIP Patrons’ Lounge

Well 10 years ago Henley Festival was very much a phenomenon, there was a  big buzz around it and we felt the profile of the Patrons and the people who go to Festival were very much the same profile as our customers.  Being a local business,  we wanted to give back and be part of something that has a very  exciting  vibe. I can’t believe that 10 years has gone by .


Q: What do you enjoy about Henley Festival

The part I enjoy is what everyone enjoys,  dressing up and taking my wife,  friends and clients along.  You do such a wonderful job in hosting us and it’s a wonderful event to look forward to .  Literally from the moment you walk out of the gates you look forward to next year.  The way you go about launching the next years artists makes it very exciting


Q:  What some of our audience probably don’t know is that Alexander James Interiors also dress our start artist dressing rooms,  from Elton John, Grace Jones, Madness, Paloma Faith have all set on your sofas.  I believe we have the best dressed dressing rooms of any Festival

I know! And some of the artists have expressed surprise about these beautiful dressing rooms.  It’s amazing feedback and lovely to think we’re adding value and making the experience nice for your artists as well as your Patrons.


Q: You’ve been coming to Festival for many years.  Is there a particular artist you would like to see perform on our Floating stage

If I could choose anybody , I would choose George Michael but of course now that is not going to be.

Sometimes you go along and see somebody that you may not necessarily know and you have the most fantastic evening.  So it’s good to be open minded about who we want to see.


Q: What are your hopes for the future

My hope for the future is to retire and travel the world.  We’re a huge travelling family and I’m coming up to the age where I’m looking to take a step back from the business.  Our youngest son Julian who is 26 is coming in and will eventually take the business over which is a bit ironic really as his older brother is Alexander James and he will be running the business.


Q: I’m sure he will make his mark on the business

Absolutely.  The technology and design now available compared to what we had when I started is incredible.  It’s a young persons business, the software used now can really paint a picture.  I always say to anyone coming into the business, we are first and foremost a  service provider and the service is interior design.

We want the clients to enjoy the experience to achieve what they want.   Many interior design companies have a house style and some people like that, but many people don’t so when we meet with a client we aim to deliver what they are looking for.  This modern technology helps us to do that.  We can show someone what effectively looks like a photograph of their room finished before we’ve even started which provides great comfort.


Q: You’re fulfilling people’s dreams

I absolutely love it !  When you get invited back to a clients home when the project is completed, it’s a fantastic compliment.

Congratulations Robert and Thank you for your support and partnership with Henley Festival over the last 10 years.


Fun Facts about Robert

  • Film Pretty Woman
  • Music Anything from the 80’s
  • Sports or teams Football/Chelsea FC Season Ticket Holder
  • Book Non Fiction Only – Richard Branson Autobiography
  • Drink Caol Ila Malt Whisky
  • Food Asian Fusion and Peruvian
  • Gadget My iPhone!
  • Last holiday Marbella (pretty much every year since 1983!) where we have a home



There’s so much to experience at the Festival it’s worth being ready to go when the gates open at 5pm.


You can never be overdressed at Henley!



Head to the Moet Champagne lawn for a glass of fizz and an amazing view of the river.


All our non-bookable restaurants are open throughout the evening and are less busy during the floating stage concert.



The Festival has a black tie dress code.


The car park opens at 4pm, Festival gates open at 5pm.


Wristbands will be given out at the Festival gates upon presentation of a valid ticket.