The Loft is a luxury penthouse apartment in the centre 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 both architectural and interior design input from whichever firm she appointed. After coming to that conclusion she 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 client 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, 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 of knowledge and creativity to guide the project, and an owner with the courage and determination to see it through.
From the outset we knew that this project 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 and is 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 project planning got underway in earnest we discovered there was another layer of complexity to work with. Within the development there was a split management structure which included a residential property manager, a commercial property manager and another property manager working directly for the Freeholder. Of course, for us our client’s needs always come first - but between the property managers, the planning officer, the conservation officer and the building control department there were so many parties holding veto’s over the work that a significant amount of politics and diplomacy were required to keep everybody on side.
Our client is in the entertainment industry and regularly practises voice and piano exercises. The sound insulation between the apartment and the offices on the floor below was not preventing the sound from travelling. In response to this we completely stripped the ground floor level of the apartment, including ripping up the floor and pulling down almost all the separating walls. Once the strip out was completed we installed sound insulation between the now exposed floor joists.
Next we replaced all of the dated electrics and plumbing. Because the sound insulation was to be a sealed system the decision was taken to install all of the plumbing using continuous run pipework.
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 without losing out on any of the rooms which had been part of the original layout.
On the first floor we stripped off the roof from the extension and raised it up by just over half a meter. This additional height, together with the small roof terrace extension (roughly 3m x 3m) allowed us to relocate the kitchen and take advantage of the stunning views out over London.
Our client enjoyed entertaining guests and the two main design focuses for 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. The location for one velux window was chosen based on the line of sight from the head of the dining table, which created a framed view of the Shard whilst dining. Another window was placed in the wall beside the fridge and was designed based on the size of a wine bottle, allowing the free flow of party spirit out on to the terrace during gatherings.
We specified simple glass balustrading to the stairs down from the kitchen/dining area to allow natural light to flood down from the bright dining area into the living space. There was such beautiful detail in the building’s exposed structure and the constant changing of ceiling heights and pitches that glass was chosen to expose the beauty and ensure no new lines of material interrupted the view of the space.
New solid oak flooring, skirting, architraves, doors and staircases were installed. The stain was selected to pick out the tones from the original structural beams. This took a few attempts to get right. A process which involved rubbing the stain on and then wiping it back off again before it was fully absorbed eventually gave us the perfect result.
The decoration and soft furnishings were chosen to highlight the character of the building and allow the eye to focus on the structure’s details. For example, rather than using a bright paint scheme for the new plastered walls a neutral colour was used throughout which allowed the historic brickwork and interesting window shapes to stand out instead. We used simple designs and tones for the window dressings, and the light fixtures were either understated downlighters or very simple concrete fittings which linked back to the industrial history of the building.
Through great team work, patience, cooperation and good will from all of the parties involved we were able to take The Loft and transform it in to the central London penthouse 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 sets 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.