The Loft is a luxury penthouse apartment in the center of London. Located next to Tower Bridge, on the Thames. The apartment comes with stunning views of the Shard, the Gherkin, and several other iconic London skyscrapers.
When searching for the right team to take on this project the owner realised that she needed something in-between or a combination of, an architect and an interior designer. It was upon realising this that the owner began her search for an interior architect, which lead her to us.
Since being developed in to a residential unit in the 1980’s The Loft had been deteriorating and was in desperate need of modernisation and TLC. More than just general repairs, the layout of the original apartment was poorly conceived and did nothing to take advantage of The Loft’s immense character and enviable location.
The first time that we visited The Loft our clients expressed their frustration with the impractical layout of the space. Of the 180m² of internal floor area much of the space was un-used, un-usable or thoughtlessly allocated. The previous owners of the property had built a large conservatory on the roof terrace which had been transformed in to a dumping ground, due to the lack of temperature control and the roof terrace itself – which came with outstanding views over the London skyline – served as little more than a bike store. It was clear to all of us that The Loft had the potential to become something special. What it needed was a design team with the right amount knowledge and creativity to guide the project, and an owner with the courage and determination to see it through.
From the outset it was clear that The Loft would come with complications. The apartment is located on the 4th and 5th floors of a converted biscuit factory which was originally built in the early 1900’s. The character of the building is deemed significant enough to form part of the St Savoir Dock’s conservation area. Add to this that the only access to this central London site is via a very busy single track one-way road, which leads in to a courtyard through a low archway, and it was clear that significant planning and consideration would need to go in to this project to ensure a successful outcome.
As the project planning got underway in earnest we soon learned that there was a further layer of complexity which we had not been aware of from our initial assessment. Within the development there was a split management structure which included a residential property manager, a commercial property manager and the freeholder’s property manager. Of course, for us our client’s needs and wants are always priority, and following them the freeholder’s of the building has the most influence over the works. After that however, the power was evenly split between the commercial and residential management companies, who’s priorities were opposite to each other on every practical issue.
This structure meant that all significant decisions needed to be signed off by all, or some combination of: our client, the planning officer, the conservation officer, the building control department, the free holder, the residential property manager and the commercial property manager before being actionable.
What an exciting project!
Our client was in the entertainment industry and regularly practised voice and piano exercises. The sound insulation between the living area and the offices below was not preventing the sound from travelling. This was an issues we needed to address.
In response to our client’s brief we completely stripped the ground floor level of the apartment, including ripping up the floor and pulling down almost all the separating walls. We began by installing sound insulation between the now exposed floor joists. Next, we replaced all of the dated electrics and plumbing, as historically the client had constant problems with leaking pipework and we were about to install a sealed sound insulation system a decision was taken to install continuous run pipework for all plumbing runs. After the new services came the new floorplan which provided an additional bedroom, a piano rehearsal room, a family bathroom, a utility room and a steam room over and above the rooms which had existed in the original layout.
On the first floor we completely removed the roof of the extension and raised it up by just over half a meter. This additional height, together with the small roof terrace extension (Approximately 3m x 3m) allowed us to relocate the kitchen to take advantage of the stunning views out over the London skyline.
Our client enjoyed entertaining and the two main focuses of the kitchen were entertainment and views. The new roof included a series of eight integra velux roof windows, which allowed the client to control the temperature of the space either remotely or with pre-set temperature controls. One velux window was placed based on the view from the head of the dining table position to allow a framed view of the Shard whilst dining. Another window was placed in the wall next to the fridge and was wine bottle sized in order to allow the free flow of party spirit out to the terrace during the clients’ gatherings.
We specified simple glass balustrade to the stair from the kitchen/dining area in order to allow the light to filter from the light flooded dining area down onto the living space. There was such beautiful detail in the building with the exposed structure and the constant change of ceiling heights and pitches that glass was chosen to expose the beauty and to ensure no other lines of material interrupted the view of the space.
New solid oak floor, skirting, architrave, doors and staircase were installed, a stain was chosen for all by using the tones from the original structural beams. This took a few attempts to get the correct look. The very skilled decorator used a process of rubbing on and wiping off to achieve the end result.
The decoration and soft furnishings were all chosen to display the character of the building and allow the eye to focus on the building and some small supporting details. For example, the entire penthouse was one colour to the plastered walls to focus on the historic brickwork and window shapes. We used simple designs and neutral tones in the window dressings and the light fixtures were either understated downlighters or very simple concrete designed light fittings, which looked back to the industrial past of buildings previous use.
Through great team work, an amazing amount of patience, cooperation and good will from all of the involved parties we were able to transform The Loft it in to the property it was capable of becoming.
I would be lying if I wrote that this project has been easy, and I would be lying again if I told you that the end was always clear or that morale was always high. However, just like The Loft’s awkwardly shaped roof, difficult to use corners and unusual set of levels, the challenges that we faced and overcame during the design and build phase are what gave this project its character, and are what have made this project one of the most memorable that I have ever had the good fortune to work on.