Residential Project, UK

May 3, 2017

With a wealth of experience transforming historical properties, Staffan Tollgård was approached by a leading property developer to fully design a listed Georgian property as part of a wholesale refurbishment.

A mammoth project, that took four years to complete, the company worked closely with the project team and PEEK Architecture + Design to bring the property into the present.

“The client understood the importance of being respectful of the building’s history, but also needed the property to work as a 21st Century family home,” Staffan Tollgård, Creative Director of the Design Group, tells darc. The team modernised the property both functionally and stylistically, without losing the building’s history and original architectural detailing. “It was a very tricky space to make sense of: five floors, two staircases, a modern rear extension and traditional entertaining and living spaces combined in a tightly interlocking footprint,” he says.

To combat this, a consistent palette of materials were used to eliminate the thresholds between the old and new parts of the house. Natural stones and woods in subtle tones are combined with a richer, more textured palette of leather and wall coverings to create calm, timeless spaces while warm bronze is a theme repeated within the interior. used on lighting, joinery, ironmongery and in the furniture. This speaks to both the historic and contemporary elements within the property.

For Tollgård, lighting was a key element that bridged old and new, and for this reason the design team carefully curated decorative lighting pieces that had a modern take on more traditional forms.

Simple lanterns illuminate the halls and landings whilst chandeliers dominate the main living spaces. During the day the lights double as sculptures, contrasted against the historic architectural detailing and the bamboo grove on the ground floor.

“These sculptural pieces evoke craft traditions of the past with their fine workmanship and use of hand crafted materials and techniques,” explains Rosalind Calow-Harris, the lead designer on the project and Residential Design Director. “Our choice of predominantly American suppliers taps into a new wave of new industrial/artisanal manufacturing in New York, North Carolina and Charleston. Suppliers like Roll and Hill, Kevin Reilly, Apparatus and Urban Electric use traditional manufacturing processes and solid, honest materials, offering a counter point to the more luxurious materials and soft furnishings throughout the house.”

On the ground floor, the dining room is walled in a hand-painted de Gournay silk bamboo glade. The angularity of wall and chandelier lights from Roll and Hill add a modern edge and energy.

In the adjoining drawing room another Roll and Hill pendant picks up the bronze detailing and splayed shapes in a softer configuration, while a Bocci chandelier provides sculptural interest over the masculine lines of the kitchen. The clarity and scale of the Bocci 28 Series work perfectly with the contemporary lines and rich materials of the Eggersmann kitchen.

“We like to choose the decorative light fittings ourselves, but find it helpful to work with a lighting designer on larger projects to help with load schedules and Part L compliance,” says Calow-Harris.

For this particular project the team worked with London based architectural lighting designers Light Vanguard.

“Lighting is such a specialist subject, with advances in technology coming almost daily. We enjoy working with lighting specialists in order to make sure we have properly understood all the options available to us as interior designers.”

The original townhouse follows a classic Georgian structure with two well-proportioned rooms on each floor, though extensions over time have incorporated a garage within the rear mews and further spaces at half landings and different levels. A new sub-basement wellness area and gym were also planned to further enhance the living space.

The integration of these spaces into a cohesive whole presented a challenge for the interior designers and PEEK Architecture + Design.

“We had to realise a spatial arrangement that would flow through the building whilst accommodating the constraints imposed by both the structure and the listed status,” continues Calow-Harris. “Our client’s desire for a contemporary interior had to be worked around the existing period features such as intricate cornices, stone fireplaces, panelled wall mouldings, skirting, doors and original staircase. We preserved these, and chose classic contemporary furnishings, finishes and colours to complement and bring this period property into the present day.

“Working with the small proportions of the room meant we had to choose our furniture and lighting pieces carefully.”

Due to the Grade II listing of the property architectural lighting was restricted and the designers were not permitted to alter many of the ceilings in the key rooms.

For Calow-Harris the restrictions of the listed nature of the building felt at first like a compromise, now she says: “They made us think harder about how light works and without the ubiquitous spot light we became more creative, and in turn the house became more beautiful.

“We used a combination of ceiling pendants, wall lights, picture lights, joinery lighting and lamps on a Lutron system, and chose statement pieces – or functional sculptures – that would provide illumination and dramatic focal points in each of the important rooms.”

The architect’s remodelling of the internal (and external) spaces has created a unique home with some standout features. PEEK Architecture + Design created a central light well and courtyard garden, which is enclosed by a four-storey green wall, a vertical axis connecting all the interior and exterior spaces, forming a hidden oasis where glimpses of the greenery can be enjoyed from almost every room.

Bringing natural light into the heart of the house fundamentally changed the property – another example of how modern technology has sympathetically revolutionised how the house is experienced today.

Naturally there were many changes over the four-year project, as Calow-Harris explains: “When you specify finishes, furniture and lighting so far in advance of the construction period, you know that certain things will no longer be available when the time comes to procure them, or the client’s idea of the market will have changed.”

Staffan Tollgård’s understanding of what he calls the ‘red thread’ – the core DNA of the design – remained resolute despite the long programme.

“The design existed in our heads and on paper for longer than on most projects. Thus when it was finally brought together and the builders finally left, our sense of it was overwhelmingly, (almost emotionally) positive.”