Felix Warley, UK

March 29, 2019

DesignLSM and Into Lighting turn a previously disjointed, uninspired building into a subaquatic styled intimate dining space.

Felix Warley in Brentwood, Essex, is the latest seafood grill restaurant from chef Stephen Li. Having worked with the DesignLSM team on the first Felix location in Billericay, Essex, in 2015, Li was keen to work with the design studio once more for this next venture. With an ambition to be the best in Essex, the client put his complete trust in them.

The site, formerly known as ‘Headley Spice’, was a tired, disjointed, uninspired building full of frustrating quirks and inadequate services. The brief given to the Design LSM team was to turn this ‘sows ear’ into the proverbial illusive silk purse! Sally Williams, DesignLSM’s Associate Director and Lead Designer on Felix Warley, talks darc through the lighting scheme employed at the project: “Decorative lighting always brings life to any project. We worked closely with Into Lighting to find a family of fittings for each of the three main areas, which includes the entrance atrium, the ground floor restaurant and the first floor lounge. Each area needed its own identity but to flow seamlessly into the next.”

The entrance to the restaurant has been relocated into a new, double height, glazed atrium and the building’s exterior has been enveloped in traditional black shiplap cladding.

Dining is experienced on the ground floor amongst a gentle palette of marine green, blues and stunning textures, the dark ceiling is clad with playful waved fins that alter the customers’ perception as their journey unfolds. Brass nets drop through the waves to enclose three round booth seats.

A sculptural helical staircase crowned with a beautiful chandelier, takes the customer to the first floor where breakfast and brunch is served in the daytime. Light from the windows floods through, illuminating the enormous copper clad oval bar and gantry.

In the evening this space is transformed with moody lighting into a sumptuous relaxed bar offering speciality spirits, Sake and cocktails; these coupled with the ‘dusk sky’ ceiling, rich materials and beautiful art installations make for an intoxicating experience.

The biggest challenge of the project was the site itself, as Williams explains: “As the layers of the building peeled back, more and more structural works were required and for a long time it was difficult to see the new form of the building. Most of the build time was allocated to structural works ripping the guts of the building out, which required a huge amount of propping. Until the props came down it was difficult to know if the design would work as we hoped.

“On the first floor the main ceiling came down, creating a huge vaulted space with steel bisecting the void. It wasn’t really possible to design this space until it was uncovered and as such, detailing was ongoing throughout the latter stages of the project.

“One of the dominant design interventions was to create a subaquatic feel to the ground floor and atrium. The two styles of glass pendants above the booth seating have bioluminescent jelly qualities, while the spikey walnut pendants in the brass fishnet booths are more akin to urchins. In the atrium there is a sculptural installation reminiscent of a jellyfish fluther, the forms are knitted from Zinc wire, which bounces the light out giving them an ethereal luminescence. These were a bespoke commission by Brighton-based artists Steven and Amanda Follen.

“We have been so pleased with the outcome of Felix Warley. Both design and execution were of the highest standard. The team were all so excited about this project and there was a huge sense of pride at handover.

“The stand out feature for me was the relationship between the client and design team. Having worked with Stephen previously, we knew he would ultimately be supportive of our design proposals – but the trust and partnership we enjoyed was so important. It took a huge leap of faith to sign up to our vision and our intentions were never questioned. I have so many ‘favourites’ at Felix, but for me, the zinc wire chandelier is really a stand out piece and beautiful.”

Darren Orrow of Into Lighting adds: “With Felix being a large restaurant and bar venue spread across two floors, the client and DesignLSM understood the need to integrate and layer the architectural lighting throughout the interior scheme to help create theatre and intimacy. The focus was to ensure the spaces were well lit for daytime dining and had a magical moody ambience post dusk. The architectural lighting complements and acts as a back drop to the decorative lighting selection, highlighting the beautiful finishes and textures DesignLSM has specified throughout the venue.”