Case study: The art of design
Multi-disciplinary practice Rolfe Judd suggests its USP is not just in architecture and interiors but in the art and craft it can bring to each project
by Rebecca Hoh-Hale
“This space is about marrying three principles – architecture, interiors and works of art,” describes Euan MacGillivray, director of architecture at Rolfe Judd. Five period buildings have been transformed by the practice into one 13-apartment block behind four different facades for its client developers Dukelease. “Of course it is standard to put the first two together, but the third element is where we find our USP and often the USP for each project.”
The aim of this new residential project, entitled Artisan, was to pay homage to, and stay sensitive to, both the artistic heritage of this area – London’s Fitzrovia – and its current status as a growing hub of inspiring lifestyle stores and creative and media agencies, as well as the stomping ground for students of the local arts colleges. A close-to-perfect creative cycle has been created as a result of the project, with Rolfe Judd focusing on a craft angle for both the interior design and exterior appearance of the building. As a result, the practice commissioned work from London’s high-end makers, with the help of The New Craftsmen and Luminaire Arts organisations. This in turn has pushed the design and bespoke leanings of Fitzrovia further into the limelight, to cultivate a new local art scene. ‘‘Although speculative, it could not be boring,’ asserts MacGillivray. “We don’t do boring, and the area does not deserve boring. With the 2018 opening of Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road, this end of ‘Central’ is softening and a more green, residential feel is emerging, alongside an innovative regeneration,” says MacGillivray. “Artisan is not only part of, but a forerunner in, that.”
Shown here is one of three penthouse apartments, styled to appeal to design-savvy cosmopoitan clients. “With the penthouses our target clients was probably were a mixture of young professionals and older downsizers,” adds MacGillivray. “But yes, definitely with a love of design over bling!”
On entering the apartment you are struck by the vast double-height space and the light that floods through the arched windows. These sit behind the Victorian-style facade created by Rolfe Judd who worked closely with Camden Conservation to put together a sensitive exterior scheme. The entrance halls of all the apartments are purposely darker: snug and formal, with charcoal grey fabric walls or lacquered panels, exactly as intended by Katherine Neathercoat, head of interiors at Rolfe Judd. Not only because the client is a fan of proper entrance halls, but also because these details emphasise the impressive wow-factor of volume and light once you emerge out the other side. The open, white, contemporary shell of the home has been softened with organic, curved shaping to interior walls and most markedly a beautiful winding staircase which leads to the mezzanine, with its rounded bleached oak handrail and treads, built by Signature Stairs. Spheres and circles take centre stage with large Lee Broom Crescent orb pendant lights hanging in the stairwell, and a giant ceramic piece of wall art by Wimbledon-based artist Vaughn Horsman. This hangs over the inky black sideboard by Punt, with its gold finish aluminium top, one of many metallic accents in the scheme.
The architectural starting point has led to a warm minimalism, and a pared-back palette that has been layered with texture upon texture: the chunky quilted upholstery of the Tacchini Jacket armchairs; tactile, striated rain tiles in the walk-in double showers; the brushed aluminium units of the Modulanova kitchen from DesignSpace London, and antiqued mirrored glass walls in the dining space by Chelsea Glass.
“We wanted to put together a scheme that is both refreshing and eclectic. We love the hunt to find new and exciting artisans to work with, it keeps us and the projects on our toes and for the background of this location, it was a great pairing. This was a project where corners could not be cut: it is driven by the small things, the finishes, and touches that go that extra mile, like shadow gaps rather than skirting, pocket doors that slide into the wall. We maintain that attention to detail was one of the biggest challenges, with the biggest reward.”
The scheme also champions a flexible way of living. The clever use of suede patinated folding doors by Tag Joinery allows areas to be sealed off, so the dining room can become a third bedroom, and the master suite can be shut off from the adjoining party space and terrace, further partitioned by a bio-fuel fireplace. The glass wall of the mezzanine that backs onto the master dressing room can go from transparent to opaque with one press of a button thanks to the KNX system which also controls the lighting, heating and blinds.
As with the bustling location and building that form Artisan’s exterior, a healthy chunk of history and interest collides with the contemporary inside its walls too, all defined by a nod to the crafters and bespoke makers of both the past, present and future.
rj-i.co.uk / rolfe-judd.co.uk