Our art gallery client we'd worked for previously to refurbish his existing Mayfair space, was coming to the end of his lease. He had however spotted a potentially suitable property a few doors down and asked us to take a look.
While in dire need of a refurbish, we could all see the potential - assuming the landlord would agree.
After a year of negotiations, the deal was signed and work commenced.
The brief was to carve out gallery space, working space and lettable further office space, while creating a 'presence' that would impress visiting clients.
This required a bottom up rethink; from infrastructure such as heating, cooling and services, to common areas to include the entrance, kitchens and bathrooms - while keeping the Conservation Officer and Westminster City Council on board for this important Grade II Listed building.
The first hurdle was the unsightly, utilitarian and very tired lift, which had cut through the main staircase and lowered the tone of the whole building.
With it removed, we could see that it would transform not just the connections between the floors, but also the main entrance to the building - but what form should it take?
With some local snooping and peering through other neighbouring building entrances, we determined a local vernacular that would make sure our client's building would be in keeping with the neighbourhood, but also create a unique statement.
By clearing out and then hiding what was left of the usual building entrance clutter, we enhanced the historical details, installed a flexible lighting system and tied it all together with a simple but elegant floor and soft white paint - the building suddenly took on a new presence.
You were now led to the new staircase which spirals and draws you upwards to your destination and the newly opened up spaces.
Being within the Mayfair Conservation Area and a Grade II Listed building, the building still retained a wealth of historical detail and interest - with some of it in poor condition or hidden within false ceilings and partitions.
The art was to enhance what was there and make it special without being intimidating or off-putting. Our task we determined, was to source off-the-shelf products such as doors where possible and to spend a little extra where it showed the most.
It was a matter of sourcing wisely; standard panel fire doors painted in a soft white eggshell and standard, but quality door furniture and hinges, rather than the usual flat office doors with utilitarian door furniture. Kitchens were fitted as opposed to the common office 'mini-kitchen' unit, with careful but inexpensive tiling and contrasting grout. Similarly the loos were kept simple, but tasteful - with decent fittings, panelling to provide variation and built-in vanity units rather than the usual white tile and surface-mounted basins and urinals that disgrace most offices.
Little things, but we've discovered that they subconsciously raise the tone of the whole building and make for better working environments - something that is vital in today's quest for the work-life balance. The office now needs to be a destination rather than a drudge and offer the same-if-not-better than what's available at home to most staff - or they'll simply question the need to commute.
With these criteria firmly in mind, we set about transforming our client's new space. If his staff's comments about 'what a great place it is to come in to in the morning' are anything to go by, we have achieved our client's and our goals and realised the building's potential.